Friday, November 27, 2009

Aaron Gets HIs Blues On!

He was a cute young fresh faced kid carrying the flag in the Civil War reenactment group at Old Poway Park when I met Aaron a few months ago. I had been asked to take some photos of him, because he would soon be deploying to Afghanistan. I was more than happy to do so and you can see those photos of Aaron on my website Elizabeth Heath Photography.

As I got to know Aaron, I learned a few things about this young man that I admire so much. He was born in Burlington, Wisconsin nineteen years ago and he grew up on a dairy farm with 600 cows. He loves the smell of cows! I can't blame him. It feels or I should say smells like home for him. Aaron joined the military for a couple of reasons. For one thing it's a family tradition. Every male in his family has served in the military, and although his mom would have preferred that he join the Air Force, he decided that the Marines were for him. The second reason is that Aaron wants to be a teacher, so joining the military will help him achieve that goal. I taught school for many years and I still substitute teach, so Aaron's story really touched me. He'll make a great teacher.

In talking to Aaron I learned that he had been sick the day he was supposed to have his formal dress blues portrait taken, so he missed out. I just couldn't sit back and not do something about that, so I offered to do his dress blues photo for him. We chose Old Poway Park, since we had been there before and liked it so much. Little did we know it would be so crowded with people when we returned to do the portrait. We did manage to find an area with good light that wasn't too crowded. We enjoyed stopping each time the train came around to wave at the children. It was a fun time. Aaron was terrific. He took direction so well that it made my job that much easier. I also have to say thank you to Jerome who is part of the Civil War reenactment group and a photographer in his own right. He was a great assistant, and I could not have provided Aaron with such great portraits without his help.

I'm proud of Aaron and his willingness to put his life on the line for my freedom. As we walked back to our cars, people would stop Aaron to shake his hand and thank him for his service to our country. He will be deployed soon and my prayers will go with him for his safe return. He has my thanks and gratitude for all he is doing for his country and for me. You may see all of Aaron's dress blues portraits on my website Elizabeth Heath Photography.

Now go forth and do something for someone in the military to thank him or her for their service to our country.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Blue and The Gray

It was the deadliest war in American history with 620,000 deaths, including soldiers and civilians. The American Civil War, which began in 1861 and ended in 1865, legally abolished slavery in the United States, restored the Union, and strengthened the role of the federal government.

So why after all these years would groups of people, men and women, reenact such bloody and deadly battles? I suspect they do it for a number of reasons. Perhaps one of them is also the reason why we have ceremonies every September 11th, build memorials, and erect statues to the fallen. It is because will never and should never forget!

We as a nation honor our fallen soldiers for just that reason, so that those who died for our freedom did not die in vain. We remember because it is more than important - it is necessary. The lives of the fallen must be honored and must be held in our hearts with thanks and gratitude. What they did mattered and their lives mattered whether they died yesterday in Afghanistan or a hundred and forty years ago on a Civil War battle field.

I couldn't help but feel the pulse of a time long ago when brother fought against brother and father against son. As I walked through the encampments of the Union and Confederate Armies, I felt myself being drawn into history and a much simpler life than what I know today. The farm in Moorpark where The Blue and The Gray event was taking place is out in the country among fields ripe for harvest and horses lazily grazing in their corals.

Children played with wooden toys while mothers prepared food over open fires. No, they would not have been on the battle fields, but they added flavor to the event and brought to mind the families that waited and prayed that their husbands, sons, and brothers would soon return home.

The battles were loud and primitive in the way they were fought in comparison to how wars are fought today. But I think the most difficult thing for me to see were the young boys no more than ten or twelve years old carrying rifles nearly as big as they were. Some played the drums and fifes leading the home grown soldiers to almost certain death. Many of them died, too, never knowing life as a grown up.

For me the day was a learning experience bringing the pages of history alive. It drummed home to me how much I hate war and what it does to our young men and these days our young women too. I captured images with my camera that I know are not "real," but they remind me of a time and a place in history that was very real. I hope and pray that the war we are now fighting will end soon and that our young men and women will be able to come home and live their lives, unlike so many who lost their lives in the bloodiest war in American History.

Those that reenact the battles of the Civil War do so for many reasons, but I suspect that one of the main reasons is so that we will never forget how precious peace in our country is and the very dear price that has and is being paid for our freedom.

You can see all my photos from The Blue and The Gray event in Moorpark on my website Elizabeth Heath Photography.

Now go forth and thank a veteran for putting his or her life on the line so that you can live free.

Monday, November 9, 2009

It's Magical!

"You have to see it," she exclaimed. The tram was winging its way to Mandalay Bay and the only other people in my compartment was a nice couple eager to talk. The huge flowers on the ceiling in the lobby are all made of hand-blown glass she went on to explain. The hotel puts up displays for each season and they are just spectacular. Okay, now she was piquing my interest. I had lots of questions, but the tram was quickly reaching its destination. I decided I needed to see the Bellagio Hotel for myself.

I found some time to make my way down the Strip in Las Vegas to see flowers, which according to the nice couple were well worth my time and effort. The hotel entrance sits back from the street and after all the walking I had been doing at Photoshop World , I was really happy to be whisked along the moving sidewalks. Down one more escalator and I was finally at the entrance to the Bellagio Hotel which was quite grand. Huge lions sat on either side of the wide walkway directing guests to the lobby. No, they weren't real but stunning and proud just the same.

Fountains lined the flower beds giving that wonderful sound of lazily gurgling water that is so inviting. As I stepped into the lobby, I knew instantly what the nice couple meant when they said I had to see the flowers. Look up! Each flower was at least three feet across overlapping the others around it. It looked as if a magical flower garden had been turned upside down. Couches invited guests to sit and crane their necks for long gazes perhaps expecting crystal fairies to peek back at them from behind the massive petals. I sat and craned and gazed along with others who were as mesmerized as I was.

Further into the lobby I spied a glassed in conservatory that beckoned me to come and explore. As I entered I was greeted by raining trees sparkling like thousands of tiny diamonds as light danced on the water falling from each leaf. To my left I saw leaves that made me feel as if I'd suddenly entered the land of giants. Water slid and hopped from leaf to leaf as it made its way to the pool below. I continued to walk drawn in by the magic of this place.

Directly ahead of me a water wheel carried its cargo round and round whoosh. . . whoosh. . . whoosh. I was startled by a deep voice and as I turned I wondered if Dorothy and Toto might appear. Didn't they encounter talking trees in The Wizard of Oz? The tree delighted the children who pointed and laughed. All around the tree sat the most beautiful pumpkins of all colors and shapes. Some were as tall as me weighing hundreds of pounds.

As I rounded the corner behind the water wheel my eye caught sight of a fabulous miniature Bellagio Hotel complete with water fountains. I looked closer and discovered that the entire model was constructed of natural materials like beans, peas and bark. The roof of each little building was comprised of pieces of pine cones which from a distance looked like tiles. Tiny people made the model complete. This was by far my favorite exhibit in the entire conservatory.

Yes, indeed, the Bellagio Hotel is well worth the time and effort to discover for yourself. The grandness of it all will take you right back to your childhood when giant flowers, talking trees, and intricate models would capture your imagination for hours. Now I'm going to say to you the same thing the nice couple said to me, "You have to see this magical place!"

Now go forth and discover something magical!

(By the way, all the photos in this blog, like the two previous blogs, were taken with my cell phone camera. When it's the only camera you have, it's the best camera you have. I am pleased with most of the photos I was able to get with my three mega pixel cell phone camera. As I said in my last couple of blogs, sometimes it's about capturing the memories I don't want to lose in spite of the fact that I know I won't be getting the finest quality photos. In that case my cell phone camera will do rather than have no photos at all.)