Archive for the ‘Articles’ Category

Winter is Prime Bird- Watching Season

Saturday, January 20th, 2018

A snowy egret fishes for its next meal in a marshy area in west-central Florida. Find bird-watching hotspots near you on the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail website’s interactive map at www.public.myfwc.com/maps/birdtrip.
© iStock/Jenituck

Florida is world-famous for its fishing, but it is also one of the best places in the world to view birds—lots of them.

More than 500 species of birds winter in Florida or live here year-round, which means plenty of prime bird-watching opportunities exist throughout the state.

One of the beauties of bird-watching is you don’t have to go far to engage in the activity. Birds are everywhere. Of course, certain areas provide better bird habitat than others.

To find the greatest diversity and concentrations of birds, look for the three essentials birds need: water, cover and food.

Bodies of water and coastal areas offer some of the best bird-watching opportunities. For example, birders from around the world flock to places such as St. George Island and Santa Rosa Island in the Panhandle, and the Everglades and Lake Okeechobee in South Florida.

Another advantage of bird-watching is it does not require a lot of equipment. A good pair of binoculars or spotting scope and a comprehensive birding field guide provide the basics for a gratifying outing.

App of the Month—iBird Pro Guide to Birds
Many of us loathe the idea of paying for apps. Yet sometimes an app comes along that is well worth the splurge.

iBird Pro Guide to Birds costs a relatively hefty $14.99, but is worth every penny for serious birders.

Identify birds by searching the app’s comprehensive database using one or more of 14 different attributes, such as size, color, pattern and call/song. That feature alone makes the app worth the money. In addition, it has all of the vital features and information you expect to find in a top-notch birding app.

Prevention is the Best Safeguard
The optimal fix for a stuck multi-piece fishing rod is to avoid getting it stuck in the first place. Keep ferrules clean and dry. Remove dirt and gunk inside the ferrule sleeve with a cotton swab and alcohol, and use a wipe to clean the end of the piece that fits within the sleeve. Storing rods assembled for long periods of time can increase the incidence of stuck ferrules, so make a habit of breaking down rods after each use.

What Day is It?

  • February 3, Feed the Birds Day
  • February 8, Boy Scout Day
  • February 22, Walking the Dog Day

Got a Tip or a Whopper?
Send us your favorite outdoor tip, photo or story. If selected for publication, we will send you $25 for one-time use. Tell us the story behind the picture, and remember to identify people and pets. Email your submission to info@floridacurrents.com.

Counting Birds of a Feather

Saturday, January 20th, 2018

A birdwatcher photographs his subject as another feathered creature perches on his head, curious as to what is happening.
Photo by Ann Foster

Want to be a citizen-scientist and help Florida’s birds? Take part in the Great Backyard Bird Count, www.gbbc.birdcount.org, February 16-19.

Sponsored by the Audubon Society and the Cornell University Lab of Ornithology, the annual national count—now in its 20th year—tracks bird populations to provide information about the location, population and habitats of various species.

“People can count for as little as 15 minutes and record the birds that they see anytime during the four-day period using our downloadable checklists,” says Cornell University’s Pat Leonard, who coordinates the program. “It’s easy for all ages, and there are tools that can help with identifying birds. It’s a fun way to introduce people to a new and enjoyable hobby.”

Pat suggests exploring the website and registering a week or so early to become familiar with the process. Some apps for iPhone and Android include eBird (www.ebird.org) for reporting sightings from the field, and Audubon Birds (www.audubon.org/apps) or Merlin Bird ID (www.merlin.allaboutbirds.org) that can help identify birds by certain characteristics.

“You can use your phone to take photos of the birds you see and identify them later,” Pat says. “Best of all, you can turn the GBBC into a family outing to a park or location nearby, or even count the birds in your own backyard.”

Participation is free.

Identifying Another Kind of Bird
Siri knows everything, and now you can ask her to identify planes flying overhead.

According to Johnny Jet (www.johnnyjet.com), just ask her “Siri, what plane is overhead,” and she will show a graph of nearby planes with each airplane, flight number (or tail number, if it is a private plane), plus the altitude, angle, slant distance and type of plane. You can download the FlightRadar24 app, (www.flightradar24.com) to satisfy your curiosity about nearby aircraft.

Take a Break and Relax
Fodors (www.fodors.com) has singled out Pensacola as one of the 10 most overlooked cities for domestic tourism.

“This is where you come for Southern drawls, a gentle pace, fresh seafood, and more grits and old-fashioned hospitality,” Fodors says. “When tired of white sand beaches, check out Pensacola’s Palafox Historic District—a mix of shops, art galleries and restaurants in a number of architectural influences.”

To find out more, check out www.visitpensacola.com.

Last-Minute Deals
Hankering for a cruise? Check out travel bargain sites such as Expedia (www.expedia.com), Travelzoo (www.travelzoo.com), Kayak (www.kayak.com) or others to find last-minute prices for cruises from Florida’s ports.

If you haven’t been there lately, Florida’s official site (www.visitflorida.com) offers a plethora of in-state deals for residents.

Florida native Pamela A. Keene is a freelance journalist who specializes in travel, gardening, personality and feature writing. The avid traveler also is a photographer and accomplished sailor. Her website is www.pamelakeene.com.

Take Time to Design

Saturday, January 20th, 2018

Once I saw this guy putting out cushions for chairs facing the ocean at the Gulf Coast’s Perdido Beach Resort, I quickly raced in position, got low so I could see the sky and get a clean background, and waited for him to enter the frame.
© Photos by David LaBelle

In the beginning, one of the things I loved most about photography was the magic of shooting, developing and printing my images.

Each step, each action, required attention and offered a different form of craftsmanship and satisfaction.

Being a good shooter was one thing. Being a good printer was another.

I find a loss of craftsmanship evident in almost every aspect of our modern society, including photography.

With digital photography, people can inexpensively take as many pictures as their memory cards will hold.

When I taught at Western Kentucky University in the ’80s and ’90s, and students shot mostly black-and-white Tri-X film, every press of the shutter button cost about 25 cents. Most could not afford to motor drive. They needed to consider the cost at every step.

Because of the cost and manpower required to process, edit and print film, we limited students during our workshops to 10 36-exposure rolls of film. That is 360 frames during the course of three or four days.

Some “photographers” shoot that many digital frames in a 5-minute burst without changing position or lens.

With sports and nature, shooting many frames quickly is important. But shooting a thousand frames of a building that does not move makes little sense and is the opposite of mindful craftsmanship.

We shoot more now because we can easily delete unwanted frames. But even with faster motor drives and better technology, we still miss important moments between the opening and closing of the shutter.

Thankfully, there still is no substitute for intuition.

“Why get so upset?” students ask me when I critique their work. “I can Photoshop it, straighten the tilted lines and enhance the bad color.”

I think of Ansel Adams shooting two frames of his famous moonrise over Hernandez, New Mexico, with an 8×10-inch view camera. There is mindful, deliberate craftsmanship framed in an understanding of his craft and the tools used.
I am not such a craftsman, yet I aspire to be.

To encourage my students to slow down, be more deliberate and mindful, I recently showed them the award-winning 1980s documentary, “Chased by the Light,” chronicling the incredible challenge by National Geographic Photographer Jim Brandenburg to make only one picture a day for 90 days.

It is as relevant today as it was when it was made.

We can overdo anything: shop, sports, sleep, eat, even shoot pictures. Overshooting can make both you and your subjects nervous or anxious.

I know because my wife has to remind me to slow down, lest I offend her and those around me. Part of photo etiquette is knowing when and how to move and when to press the shutter—even how many frames can be fired without offense.

I catch myself overshooting when I am not engaged, not in the zone, not trusting my intuition or instincts, fearful I will miss the “moment.”

It isn’t my nature to be disciplined. I am prone to overdoing whatever I take on.

My mother use to lament that getting me to do anything was hard, but it was even harder to get me to stop once I started. I guess I am a procrastinator deluxe, with no off switch until I collapse.

In a world that feels everyday like it is speeding more out of control, it behooves us to explore techniques to slow us down so we can savor the beautiful natural gifts that surround us.

We should be grateful for the technology, but not expect it to replace our intuition.

Take on the frightening challenge to make no more than 10 pictures a day. This is a plea for craftsmanship.

 

David LaBelle is an internationally known photographer, teacher, author and lecturer. He has worked for newspapers and magazines across the United States and taught at three universities. He applies many of the lessons he learned during his magical boyhood years in rural California to photography. For more information, visit www.greatpicturehunt.com.

 

The Power of Love

Saturday, January 20th, 2018

A couple walk in the rain under an umbrella.
Fresh Stock

Experts and everyday people share transforming and inspiring stories of love, and advice for keeping love alive

Songs and sonnets, movies and books all express our timeless and deepest need to love and be loved. These loving and compassionate connections we make with others give meaning to our lives.

Like a shock absorber, love cushions life’s inevitable speed bumps, with respect, rituals and resilience helping love last a lifetime.

To Monica Burton of St. Pete Beach, love looks like her parents’ relationship.

“Last year, I got a shocking call from my dad about my mom being in the hospital and the long journey of her almost not leaving the hospital to her full recovery,” says Monica, a licensed marriage and family therapist.

She is past president of the Florida Association for Marriage and Family Therapy.

While helping her dad move her mom from the rehabilitation unit back to their house, “the most beautiful moment happened,” Monica says. “She started crying because she was in too much pain to put on her shoes, and he leaned over and kissed her and put them on her. It was so beautiful and the most kind, compassionate act of love I think I have ever witnessed.”

She says love also looks like her children.

“The first time I heard my two boys cry right after they were born, my heart was so full of joy,” Monica says. “It’s a feeling that is indescribable. Love is hearing them laugh in pure joy and holding them while they cry.”

To Amy Chinea of Key Largo, love looks like Malix—a dog she rescued more than a decade ago while vacationing on the Yucatan Peninsula.

She took a lunch break from touring near Tulum, a coastal Mayan ruin site, and learned the restaurant owners rescued local dogs.

“My beloved dog Rhiannon had recently passed away due to a bacterial infection,” recalls Amy, “so my heart was looking for another dog.”

A woman from Texas was walking the newest canine adoption prospect, trying to decide whether they would be a good match. Amy went snorkeling.

“I happened to be walking back to my hotel and saw the lady with Malix, which means street dog in Mayan,” says Amy. “It was love at first sight for both of us.”

Amy and the woman chatted and agreed that if she did not take Malix, Amy would. As Amy walked away, she turned to look back at Malix.

“She didn’t want to walk with the woman anymore and was staring at me,” Amy says. “The restaurant owners brought Malix to the airport the next day. I bought her a plane ticket, and the rest is history.”

Making Love Last
As a Lutheran pastor, licensed counselor, and marriage and family therapist, Don Cole, 61, has seen countless inspiring love stories, including his own with his wife, Carrie, 59, also a counselor and therapist.

“We all need to love and be loved,” says Don. “Love is a deep basic biological need hardwired into our DNA. It goes back to being born helpless and needing to rely on parents or other adults to nurture and protect us.

“We’re creatures who depend on each other. As we move to adulthood, we naturally turn to pair bonding. The basic need for love never goes away in our lives.”

The Coles have made it their mission to teach practical and easy ways to help make love last a lifetime in relationships, whether between spouses or among families or friends.

Married in 1996 after meeting at work, the Coles founded the Center for Relationship Wellness in Houston, where they have their primary home. They also both commute to work at The Gottman Institute, established in 1996 in Seattle.

Founders and psychologists John and Julie Gottman developed ways to keep love alive in relationships, based on decades of research with thousands of couples.

At the institute, Carrie is research director, while Don is clinical director. He is a trainer for and oversees a program that certifies a network of therapists worldwide who have been trained in Gottman techniques.

The Gottmans developed a seminar, “The Art and Science of Love,” which the Coles teach in Houston.

Loving relationships have respect, rituals, resilience, empathy, creativity and humor, says Don.

For the Coles, love looks like a sitcom every morning with a humorous ritual.

“We celebrate life together starting with breakfast,” says Don. “We have a corny joke between us that I won’t repeat. I call it to her to let her know the meal is ready. She has an equally corny response.

“One morning I said my part of the joke, but she didn’t say hers. I asked if she was mad. She was upset about something I’d done, so we talked about it. Having that ritual of connection helped us get back on track.”

Don recalls how love transformed the lives of a young couple who considered divorcing and came to him for counseling.

Instead of asking about their problem, the Gottman method starts with clients telling their oral history and how they met, says Don.

“They began to make eye contact, smile and chuckle,” says Don. “That memory was the basis for a transformation in their relationship. Gradually, they realized they still loved each other, and their sense of humor and fun returned. They turned toward instead of away from each other. Love kept them together and certainly changed the course of their lives.”

Free Gifts of Love
Like Don and Carrie, Monica helps clients using methods she learned through training with the Gottman Institute.

“Dr. Gottman teaches love can be found in the small acts of kindness, compassion, empathy, appreciation or affections that we do for each other every day,” she says.

Monica says she sees all sorts of inspiring love stories.

“Love to me looks like the couple sitting in my office remembering their first date, or their first impressions of each other,” she says. “They smile or laugh, and that’s the first laughter they have experienced in quite a while.”

She advises couples to focus on the small ways to connect every day.

“It doesn’t mean we have to forget about the pain or conflict, but love allows us to heal and to forgive,” she says.

To celebrate Valentine’s Day, Don, Carrie and Monica suggest families, friends and couples give non-material gifts that nurture the relationship and create moments of priceless connections.

“Remember your first date and recreate it,” she says. “Remember your engagement or the moment you knew you were in love and write your partner the story in a beautiful journal and give it to them. Keep the journal and add new stories throughout your life together. Cut out heart-shaped paper and write notes of love starting at the beginning of February through the 14th. Instead of going out, create a fancy dinner by candlelight and play romantic music.”

“Make a coupon book for whatever matters to your loved ones,” adds Carrie. “There are so many ideas: fix a meal, give a massage, do a chore, play a game together, give a hug or kiss, clean part of the house.”

Every day, not just on Valentine’s Day, tell your partner, “This is what I love about you,” says Carrie. “Be specific and talk about what makes their personality unique.”

Don suggests a ritual of having a beverage or taking a short walk after dinner and talking about the day.

“You’re investing time in your relationship, intentionally creating a way to turn toward each other,” he says.

Don encourages initiating contact with those you love and not taking them for granted.

“You’re saying, ‘I want to connect,’” he says.

Besides ritual, resilience is a key to keeping love alive in relationships.

“We all screw up sometimes,” says Don. “The key is how we repair relationships that have been harmed. Couples and families that stay together make repairs.” n
Florida counselors who have been trained to use Gottman techniques may be found by Googling the Gottman Referral Network.

Blazing Trails for Florida’s Heritage

Saturday, January 20th, 2018

Sam Carr shows off a bass he caught on the St. Johns River next to his backyard in San Mateo.
Photo courtesy of Sam Carr

A fishing trip with his father forever changed the focus of Sam Carr’s life

As a kid, Sam Carr and his father often drove from Alabama to Kinard’s Fishing Camp on the St. Johns River in Putnam County, exploring the tannin-colored waters for the biggest bass and bream.

“One day in 1958, he saw this property on the river south of Palatka and eventually purchased it,” Sam says. “We moved here six years later when I was in seventh grade, and together we built the house I still live in today.”

Sam’s father died when Sam was 16, but he never escaped the memories and the draw of the river.

“There’s always been that pull of the St. Johns, something that’s such a big part of my life,” Sam says.

When he retired after more than 30 years with the Ford Motor Co. as district manager, he moved back to his childhood home in San Mateo on the river beneath towering moss-draped live oaks.

Always a fisherman and advocate for the river, Sam reconnected with childhood friends, including Palatka native Dean Campbell, who at the time was a scientist with the St. Johns River Water Management District in Palatka.

For 30 years, Dean’s job was to study and protect the river. His starting point was “The Travels of William Bartram” and the journal of William’s father, John.

A naturalist, William traveled the Southeast extensively between 1773 and 1777, spending much time on the St. Johns River exploring the flora, fauna and life of the people along the river.

In 2003 and 2004, Dean and Sam recreated Bartram’s St. Johns River journey from its headwaters in South Florida to its connection with the Atlantic Ocean north of Jacksonville.

They kayaked 310 miles during three years of paddling on weekends. When they completed their journey, they came home and set their next goal.

Dean suggested they retrace Bartram’s trip up the St. Johns.
“We needed to bring people back to the river,” Sam says. “It would be good for the St. Johns and for the community.”

Florida was one of eight Southeastern states included in the Bartram Trail Conference, formed in 1976 to designate Bartram’s travels. While his land trail in Florida featured 25 markers erected by members of the Florida Federation of Garden Clubs, no sites along the St. Johns accessible by boat were officially marked.

The two launched their work to recognize the Bartram Trail in Putnam County, filling out forms, circulating petitions and exploring possible sites to mark. They lobbied for and received local and state-funded grants.

By 2014, they had placed dozens of markers with QR codes linked to websites with history, facts, figures and selected descriptions written by Bartram himself. The trail has 32 sites. Each is detailed on the group’s website at http://bartram.putnam-fl.com.

“The real accomplishment was bringing the Bartram Trail Conference to Palatka and Putnam County for the first time,” Sam says. “We had international speakers and authors for three days, and more than 200 people attended. We also introduced and hosted the first Bartram Frolic on the riverfront—a festival that celebrates living history, riverboat tours, an art show, kayaking, biking and educational activities.”

A month before the 2015 conference, Putnam organizers submitted paperwork to become designated as a National Recreation Trail.

“About nine months later, I got an email from the secretary of the interior that we had been named Florida’s only National Recreation Trail designated in 2016 and one of only six nationally recognized that year,” Sam says. “This gave us even more to celebrate. All of a sudden we were on the national radar.”

The Frolic, held each fall, has grown the past three years. It will be the weekend of September 29.

To say Sam has become immersed in the St. Johns River is an understatement.

Along with his work on the Bartram Trail, he has helped form several groups to support the St. Johns River, including Friends of Dunn’s Creek State Park, www.friendsofdunnscreek.org, and the Putnam Blueways and Trails, www.putnambluewaysandtrails.org, which sponsors regular paddles, bike rides and activities for all ages.

Sam serves on Florida Greenways and Trails Council, and is vice president of the National Bartram Conference, www.bartramtrail.org.

He works with groups of youth to introduce them to the river.

“I just turned 66 and I really enjoy what I’m doing,” Sam says. “This is where I belong. The river, its heritage and I have a great history here.”

What’s On Your List?

Wednesday, December 20th, 2017

It’s OK to dream. Dreams and aspirations are what motivate us. But if they are ever to be realized, it’s important to take the next step and act. One of my early mentors used to say the difference between dreams and reality “is doing.” So, do.
© iStock/gustavofrazao

Some people play fantasy sports. My family plays fantasy reality.

Sitting around the holiday dinner table with friends and family, the conversation almost always drifts to what I call the three Rs: resolutions, regrets and rewards.

They are not exactly bucket lists or New Year’s resolutions, more like a combination of the two. It’s an exercise in possibilities.

Here are a few tidbits we talked about the past holiday season. Maybe you can identify with or benefit from one or more of them.

  • Get out more often. Don’t just talk about it. Take time now to enjoy favorite pursuits.
  • Take that big trip. You have talked about it for years. Now it’s time to act.
  • Get organized.
  • Go someplace new.
  • Give back. Take a kid fishing, contribute to a favorite outdoor charity or mentor a Scout merit badge segment.
  • Document adventures. Never again regret not getting a picture of that trophy catch or beautiful sunset, or journaling an awesome trip.
  • Get in shape.
  • Hone crucial skills.
  • Repair, replace, replenish. Go ahead and splurge a little. Take advantage of seasonal clearance sales.
  • Don’t procrastinate. Make plans and reservations now.

Where the Fishing is Fine
Bass fishing is exceptional in Florida, even in winter. Most other states can’t say that, not to mention none can come close to Florida in terms of the number of trophy fish landed this time of year.

For best prospects, head south and look for lakes with good vegetation, such as Okeechobee, Tarpon and Istokpoga in south-central Florida. Plan to fish shallow. Target areas of vegetation or along their edges. The pros suggest using soft plastics, and topwater and swimming baits for winter success.

The 11th Essential
Unlike many people I know, a smartphone isn’t a crucial piece of my day-to-day existence. However, when it’s time for outdoor pursuits, I consider a smartphone to be the 11th essential.
A smartphone is like a digital multitool. Its main function is communications—when cell service is available—but it also supplements some of the Ten Essentials, such as navigation, first aid and even illumination in a pinch.

You can download to your phone’s memory topo maps, field guides, first-aid primers, survival tips, knot-tying demos and other useful information. Better yet, there are hundreds of apps designed to make outdoor experiences safer and more enjoyable.

What’s Special About This Month?

  • January is National Hobby Month.
  • January 5, National Bird Day.
  • January 7, Old Rock Day.
  • January 21, Squirrel Appreciation Day. ■

Many of Curtis Condon’s fondest memories involve outdoor adventures with friends and family, whether fishing with old school buddies, backpacking in the mountains of the Northwest with his sons, or bird watching along the Gulf Coast with his wife. He feels fortunate having the opportunity to write about the outdoors and other subjects for more than 30 years.

Lumbering Giants Head for Warmth

Wednesday, December 20th, 2017

When snorkeling near manatees, keep your distance. The massive marine mammals are protected by state and federal law.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Manatees have earned their designation as Florida’s state mammal. Their seasonal movements and large size make them a draw for locals and tourists. Scientifically, these marine creatures are related to elephants.

In the spring and summer, manatees live in Florida’s coastal waters, estuaries and tributaries. But when the temperatures drop into the 60s in their summer habits, they venture inland to many of Florida’s springs, which hold a constant temperature of 72 degrees.

Tourists and locals have found excellent places to view manatees in the winter.

Two host manatee festivals in January. Crystal River’s Florida Manatee Festival is January 13-14. Blue Spring State Park in Orange City hosts the Blue Spring Manatee Festival January 27-28. Both attract big crowds.

Other viewing locations include Lee County Manatee Park in Fort Myers and the Merritt Island Manatee Refuge.

The Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act, the Federal Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act protect manatees and their habitats. If you see them this winter on land or by boat, please observe the rules that include not touching or chasing them, and traveling at idle speed in your boat when in manatee-populated areas.

In 1991, former Florida Gov. Bob Graham and singer/songwriter Jimmy Buffet formed the Save the Manatee Club. For more information about manatees, visit www. savethemanatee.org.

Did You Know…
Here are some quick and surprising facts about Florida from www.StateofFlorida.com, an independent website.

  • More than 1,000 people move to Florida every day.
  • Florida has 1,800 miles of coastline and 1,200 miles of sand beaches.
  • With more than 1,250 golf courses, Florida is tops in the nation. Palm Beach County has the most of any county in the country.
  • More than 6 million people camp in Florida each year. The state has nearly 100,000 campsites at 700 campgrounds.
  • Florida has 19 commercial airports; 12 are international.
  • Florida produces nearly 70 percent of the oranges in the United States. It leads the Southeast in farm income.
  • The space industry contributes $4.1 million to the state’s economy.

Glad You Live Here?
Florida residents don’t have to travel far to enjoy all the state has to offer. From historic hotels and themed restaurants to must-try dishes and food capitals, a bit of exploring is as close as your backyard.

Built in 1857 on Amelia Island, the Florida House Inn, www.floridahouseinn.com, survived the Civil War to become a bustling center of commerce. With its wrap-around porches and private courtyards, it is among the old-est operating inns in Florida.

GoBankingRates.com ranked the Murder Mystery Dinner Train, https://semgulf.com, on the Seminole Gulf Railway in Fort Myers as the state’s coolest themed restaurant. PureWow.com named the Dixie Crossroads Restaurant, www.dixiecrossroads.com, the best place to eat Florida’s top must-try food: rock shrimp.

Wewahitchka in the state’s Panhandle has one of the largest beekeeping operations in Florida, and is known as the Tupelo Honey Capital of the World, www.visitgulf.com. The distinct seasonal honey comes from Tupelo trees.

Florida native Pamela A. Keene is a freelance journalist who specializes in travel, gardening, personality and feature writing. The avid traveler also is a photographer and accomplished sailor. Her website is www.pamelakeene.com.

 

Our Photo Roots

Wednesday, December 20th, 2017

Just as the Renaissance masters of the 15th century teach and influence contemporary painters, images by celebrated documentary photographers W. Eugene Smith and Gordon Parks subtly influence how I see. Though I never try to copy them, their images are stored deep in my mental archive, and I cannot but help see them from time to time. These images shot in Florence, Italy, in 2017 are reminiscent of the work Smith did in the 1960s. © David LaBelle

Several years back, while asking students during the first week of classes where they were from, a football player shared he was a freshman running back from Chicago.

“Wow,” I said, “from the same city where one of my favorite running backs of all time played, Gale Sayers, the Kansas Comet.”

He looked at me blankly.

I added that I photographed Sayers and Dick Butkus in the Pro Bowl once.

The class was unimpressed.

I politely asked the young man if he knew of Gale Sayers, who played for the Chicago Bears, was one of the greatest running backs ever and is in the Hall of Fame.

“No, sir,” he answered.

“You might want to look him up,” I suggested.

Though I tried not to show it, I was shocked and troubled someone from Chicago who wanted to play the same position
as Sayers didn’t know the legend. The young man had no idea of his football roots.

It would be like an African American baseball player not knowing Jackie Robinson, or a tennis phenom not knowing Bjorn Borg or Chris Everet.

I thought about how most of my photo students suffered from the same disconnect with photo history, with no idea of their photo heritage.

I gave my students a noncredit quiz to learn what they knew of pioneering photographers who shaped today’s camera-filled world.

The quiz includes brief biographies of 25 photographers, including 10 relatively contemporary ones: Matthew Brady, Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, Irving Penn, Margaret Bourke-White, Dorthea Lange, W. Eugene Smith, Gordon Parks, Richard Avedon, Sally Mann and Annie Leibovitz.

Students fill in the blank with the name of the photographer being described.

In three years of giving this quiz to about 300 students, few have identified more than three. Often, the quiz is returned empty. A couple of students got 15 names right.

I understand ours is a very different photography world than even 30 years ago, when digital photography was born.

Modern technology seduces us with the present, but has little time for the past. Most today are far more interested in how many likes they get, how many selfies they take, and what celebrities are eating or doing than learning about photographers who came from prehistoric yesterday, like, before 1990.

Genealogy is big business today. Even National Geographic offers ancestry kits to discover who you are and where you came from.

Young people are hungry to know their roots.

For the documentary photographer, or any photographer, knowing your roots feels essential. History gives us context—not to copy, but to imitate and learn from.

As has so often been said, “How can we know where we are if we don’t know where we came from?”

David LaBelle is an internationally known photographer, teacher, author and lecturer. He has worked for newspapers and magazines across the United States and taught at three universities. He applies many of the lessons he learned during his magical boyhood years in rural California to photography. For more information, visit www.greatpicturehunt.com.

Communities Lead Wellness Initiative

Wednesday, December 20th, 2017

As executive director of the Blue Zones Project in southwest Florida, Deb Logan encourages consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Live longer by applying principles shared by people who have lived to 100 years old

Some communities are engaged in intentional efforts to improve wellness. In 2015, the Blue Zones Project was launched in southwest Florida.

Executive Director Deb Logan says she has come to think of it “almost like public health on steroids.”

The initiative is designed to lead to a healthier community—whatever that means to the locale.

“The Blue Zone has a place for everyone,” says Deb. “It’s not based on ‘You can’t do this or you can’t do that.’ It truly looks at the environment where people work, play, pray—wherever it may be. The project works with worksites, schools, restaurants, grocery stores, homeowner associations, faith-based organizations as well as policy leaders. Because we are engaging all the touch points in people’s lives, we are really impacting the environment in which people live. Our goal is to help make the healthier choice an easier choice.”

The Blue Zones Project was established in 2010 and inspired by Dan Buettner, a National Geographic Fellow and New York Times best-selling author who identified five regions of the world—dubbed Blue Zones—with the highest concentration of people living to be 100 years or older.

Dan researched those regions and came up with the “Power 9”—the commonalities shared in each region.

Nick Buettner, Blue Zones Project community corporate director, describes those commonalities as places where roads and streets are built in ways that encourage natural movement; residents have a strong sense of purpose and could articulate it; they know how to downshift; they eat a healthier diet and fewer calories; they have a focus on family and a strong sense of faith, and they have supportive networks of friendships that reinforce healthy behavior.

“If your three best friends are unhappy or overweight, there’s a good chance you will be,” Nick says. “Health traits flow through a community the same way the flu does. You also need the friends you can call on a bad day.”

Two goals in Collier and Lee counties are healthier eating and more activity.

“One of the things a restaurant might do is not have automatic refills or not put salt on the table,” Deb says. “Another thing might be to make fruit the default side instead of French fries so children will grow up thinking what goes with a meal? Fruit. You can still ask for fries, but it’s not an automatic trigger.”

Since many students are dropped off at school by a parent, rather than walk to school or the bus stop, another goal is to help children get more exercise.

“When I walked to the school bus, you talked to your friends, you skipped and hopped and got a little energy out,” Deb says. “We don’t have that for the kids anymore. They basically get a quick breakfast and get dropped off at the curb. Recognizing this, we looked for ways we can add that activity back in.

“People volunteer to walk with the kids. They get dropped off and walk in together over a safe route, or they have time around the campus of the school just as if they were walking to school. We’re really trying to get that activity into their lives.”

Deb says the response from the community has been heartening. There are 400 community organizations working toward Blue Zone approval, and 124 have already accomplished the goal.

“What’s neat about Blue Zone is it really unites people around a common goal,” Deb says. “I call it a ‘we project.’ People start seeing it and they really want to come to the table and work together. You get people out of their silos and they start to work collaboratively.”

Creating a Healthy Balance

Wednesday, December 20th, 2017

The path to wellness takes more work in a world where technology distracts and disconnects us

Conventional wisdom has long held that living a healthy life means eating well and getting enough exercise. Both are true enough, but those are just two pieces of a much bigger picture.

Forty years ago, the founders of the National Wellness Institute came up with six tenets they identified as necessary to living a healthy life: physical, social, intellectual, spiritual, emotional and occupational. One is no more important than the other, according to Matt Lund, the institute’s executive director.

“Being healthy basically means that you are balanced: spirit, mind, body,” he says. “When you are balanced, you are more likely to live a longer, purposeful life.”

Hailey Shaughnessy, a mental health therapist and health and wellness coach at Saratoga’s Trillium Wellness Center, says striking that balance means being mindful of all the components that create a healthy life.

“I believe that your emotions affect your physical health, and your physical health affects your thinking,” says Hailey. “It’s not just nutrition and exercise. It’s also sleep and hydration and spiritual connection and psychological well-being. They are all intertwined.”

Autumn Pappas, a lifestyle coach and art therapy book editor, believes striking that balance means being in tune with one’s needs and wants spiritually, mentally, emotionally and physically.

“It’s important that we recognize how to fill those needs,” she says. “How we feel about ourselves is often projected with what we put out into the world, and that projection—good or bad—gets magnified by each and every one that we come into contact with.

“If we are in a positive and healthy state of mind, we will project goodwill and good health to others. Living a healthy life is about taking care of one’s self first, so then we can, in turn, take care and enrich the lives of others around us.”

Building a Healthy Body
Although four decades have passed, the six tenets identified in 1977 remain the same, though achieving them today may call for more attention than ever.

That is particularly true in staying physically healthy. It is as important as ever to keep moving, whether that means walking, yoga, kayaking or a specific sport, such as tennis or golf. But with advancements in technology, we aren’t moving nearly as much as we used to.

“The more technology that comes out, the less we do,” Matt says. “We are the generation of now. We have access to everything now. That physical aspect is getting lost more and more each day. There’s a lack of family activity, of parents getting out with kids. Even though we’ve become technologically savvy, it’s killing us health wise. We no longer ride a scooter. Now they are motorized. Nothing makes us get our heart rate up.

“We were put on this earth as hunters and gatherers. That has changed. We are missing out on the physical aspect of it.”

For Hailey, physical health begins with sleep. If you don’t get enough sleep, you will be too tired to get the exercise you need, she says.

Staying hydrated and eating “real” food as opposed to processed food is also important.

“These are not just the building blocks of nutrition for your bones, but also for your brain and emotional strength,” Hailey says.

Stress can also take a toll on our physical health.

“When you get anxious, your thoughts generate norepinephrine and adrenaline followed by cortisol, Hailey says. “Chronic anxiety results in constant high levels of cortisol, which can suppress the immune system, increase blood pressure and cause the body to store extra fat.”

Forming Meaningful Relationships
Technology also has a big impact on our social health. Instead of shopping in actual stores, it is just as easy—or easier—to shop online. Likewise, visiting with friends and family can be just a thumb stroke, a quick click or a camera chat away.

But being socially healthy means being part of the community, volunteering and otherwise being a positive contributing factor, Hailey says.

“Social health is important because it builds purpose for one to continue living a full life,” she says. “It’s not only good for your health and well-being, but it’s also good for your soul. Social interaction builds our mental capacity and has proven to help us live longer and fuller lives. When keeping our brains active, I believe it helps us work through depression, anxiety and self-destruction.”

Social health is also about building sustainable and meaningful relationships, being in a positive relationship with a life partner, strengthening your family and friends around you, and growing your positive personal network.

Being socially healthy may also mean being a bit choosy about who becomes part of your life.

“When you go out and are talking to people and meet someone for the first time, really evaluate if this person is going to be a positive impact in your life,” says Matt. “If not, it’s probably best not to create that relationship.”

Mind and Spirit Critical, Too
Intellectual health often equates to personal growth and challenging yourself to think outside your comfort zone. It is also about knowing your trigger points and understanding what makes you angry and what makes you happy.

Once you have identified the problem spots, you can work through them, and that leads to an overall happier and healthier life, Matt says.

For Hailey, staying intellectually healthy means learning.

“I do a crossword puzzle every night,” she says. “I am always taking classes and doing different things. The more you can learn, the more you can grow intellectually. It doesn’t have to be a master’s degree. It could be doing a cooking class. You find different facets to yourself when you explore education.”

Spiritual health is defined differently from one individual to another. For some, it is traditional religion with services in a church. For others, it is a walk outside in nature.

“What’s interesting is a lot people think that spiritual means you have to be religious,” Matt says. “That’s not it at all, though religion can be part of it. It’s being able to be mindful, believing there is something greater than yourself and what is around you. It’s seeking a higher spiritual connection. It’s also to be tolerant of other views and beliefs. When we are tolerant, we can better understand world views and beliefs. We can grow, flourish and thrive together.”

Emotional health is largely about working with people, says Matt. But it doesn’t mean avoiding negative situations.

“It’s OK to be angry,” he says. “It’s how we project it. If you are happy, let people know. Show it. If you are sad, ask what are ways you can work with this? If you are frustrated, how are you able to work that out? It’s being able to understand and accept your feelings and also understand someone else. It’s building trust and respect for each other, and understanding that being optimistic is better than being pessimistic.”

Hailey believes the necessary work still bears a stigma in many communities.

Because she is a therapist, she has numerous friends who are also therapists and no shortage of people to talk to when times are tough. Others are not so lucky.

“People under-utilize therapy,” she says. “There is a stigma. People are afraid to say, ‘Hey, I went in and saw a therapist.’ There are some people that have to be very brave to make that first phone call. If you are suffering emotionally, therapy is a great tool. Laughter is great, too. The more physically healthy you are, your brain benefits as well.”

Finding One’s True Calling
The tenet that may be most difficult for many people to maintain in optimum condition is occupational.

Most adults work at least 40 hours a week to support themselves and their families. When someone’s occupational health suffers, odds are good that the rest of their health does, too.

“I believe 80 percent of people in the workforce work for an organization or boss they are unhappy with,” Matt says, citing articles he has read. “Only 20 percent work in a job they are happy at.”

He says how individuals choose their jobs has changed significantly with recent generations—and for the better.

It used to be common for people to follow in a family member’s footsteps. If an individual lived in a town built around paper mills, and their father worked there, it was understood his children would likely make a living at the paper mill.

“Now people say, ‘I want to find a job I love,’” Matt says. “It’s important to find a career you are passionate about, something that aligns with your personal values. You want to look for personal growth and development, and not putting up a bunch of debt.”

Hailey agrees that doing what you love is critical to happiness. She says that quest led her on a windy path.

She wanted to be a writer, but feared she would starve to death. Instead, she pursued a degree in business management, then went to work in the computer industry—a job at which she excelled, but which required her to travel extensively.

“I loved going to the gym,” she says. “I said, ‘I am going to do that instead.’ I became a fitness instructor. It was really interesting to me. People came to me to lose weight, then they’d come in and say, ‘No, I didn’t do my workouts.’ I realized there was an emotional component, and I found that fascinating. I went and got my master’s in mental health counseling.

“Computers and teaching and yoga and fitness—these things don’t seem to go together, but they all go perfectly together for what I do. You can create your own path.”

While other wellness specialists may call for additional or different dimensions to a healthy life, it is generally agreed wellness is multidimensional and holistic, positive and affirming, encompassing lifestyle, mental and spiritual well-being and the environment, Matt says.

“Wellness is a conscious, self-directed and evolving process of achieving full potential,” he says.