Hey! I’m walkin’ heeyah

We started the photowalk at the colorful Monument Au Fantome sculpture in Discovery Green Park, Houston.

Our first photowalk was last Saturday. Billed as the Houston Pro/Am, we had high hopes of a good turnout. But despite the unanimous predictions of good weather, the day dawned dismal and dull - and a very unHouston-like 36 degrees F (2C). Ouch. Folks in these parts are just not used to that. Few native Houstonians even own a heavy coat and those of us who do had to hunt to find it since it’s only needed once every couple of years.

Digital imagery - instant gratification and great for sharing

Of the 30 or so people that FBed, tweeted or emailed saying they would attend, 15 showed. I must assume these people are hard-core photo junkies. Why else would anyone leave a nice warm bed on a Saturday morning and risk having their fingers frozen to their shutter release? Lord knows if Chris and I hadn’t been the event organizers, we would have taken one look at the thermometer, grabbed an extra blanket and rolled over. But I’m so glad we donned our thermal undies and fortified with double espresso shots, headed to Discovery Green Park. Because despite the gloomy sky, the photowalk was great fun.

The Houston photowalk was just a, eh warm up, for the photowalks I'm doing (along with photo workshops) at RonCon in Vancouver and Calgary in March and the IABC World Conference in Toronto.

Seeing the same thing through the eyes of others is one of the coolest things about a photowalk. I loved watching the shooters find shots, fanning out like they were on an Easter egg hunt. It was fascinating to see how some things universally attracted their attention, and then I was totally surprised at how different the shots came out.

How I see Chris most of the time

Ever the Pollyanna, Chris kept saying things like, “at least it’s not raining”, or “this would be warmish to Canadians, eh? Hahahaha.” Nobody laughed with him. Personally, I wanted to slap him but I would have had to take my hand out of my pocket and since I didn’t have any feeling all the way up to my elbows, I would probably have missing him anyway.

Three different subjects, all within a few feet

Our route ended at a mall food court that featured a very appreciated Starbucks and free wifi. Great for warming up, uploading and photo chat. Participants were encouraged to share their shots on our photowalk flickr group site. All in all the photowalk was a very cool thing, in every sense of the word.

IABC Leader's Institute in San Diego

Drums at 8:00 in the morning? Not just a few, but nearly 200 of them??? And who says communicators don't have rhythm?

IABC Leader's Institute in San Diego - Just another reason I love this organization.

I think maybe they put something in the OJ this morning? How else do you explain this sort of behavior?

Chris and I are opting out of the popular dine-around tonight. After the heavy and yummy beef lunch, we're not hungry. Instead we are organizing a drink-around. If you are at LI, join us at the Bar at the Casual Dining Restaurant for yet another form of non-verbal communication!


Casa Giallo? What if we decide to change the color?

Our Italian friends say we should give our house a name. But what? Some suggestions from facebook friends:
Terremoto - This word has a great sound, sorta a cross between Italian and Japanese. Ahh soo, Terremoto!!! It means earthquake in Italian. Appropriate since we are technically in an earthquake zone. But I don’t think I want to wake the earthquake gods by calling their name.

Most folks suggested names that relate to our Texas origins, a good idea:
Stella Sola – Translates more or less as ‘Lone Star’, which would be good except Italians would not be familiar with the Texas flag and the significance would be lost. Besides, Stella Sola literally means Single Star, like the rating for a very low-end hotel. Hmmmm, maybe that would keep house guests at a minimum?
Sud Forchetta – South Fork, hahaha. The Dallas TV show was very popular in Italy, but I never was a fan.
Cowpoke Casa or Home off the Range – Good alliteration and clever, but I think it needs to be an Italian word.

The view of Terzo out our window is ever changing

Our car when we woke up this morning. We call her 'Ippy', short for her model name, Ypsilon, but our Italian friends think we are saying 'Hippy'!

I like the idea of something relating to photos or imagery:
Casa della camera – Sounds good, but camera in Italian is macchina fotografica and the word camara means room. So Italians would probably hear it as House of the Room.
Il Obiettivo - The Lens. Probably hard for English speakers to remember.
La Luminosa – The Luminous or Shining One

Chris heads out to document the day wearing every bit of clothes he has.

A fact of life: Vines are wonderous and beautiful things at any time of year in any weather!

Or something that relates to where the house is (on the side of a hill surrounded by vineyards):
Tra Vigne – Between the Vines
La Finestra – The Window, because of the view?
Casa Calabrone – Hornet House. Very funny inside story about our attorney getting stung on top of his bald head by a hornet whilst visiting.
Ca' dei fiori blu – Suggested by our achitecto. It’s in local dialect, which is interesting and means Home of the Blue Flowers, suggesting the Texas state flower, the bluebonnet.

Chris's experiments with HDR photography make Acqui Terme look even better, if that's possible!

Nothing has struck me as perfect yet so I’m hoping for more input from you guys. Winner gets a free stay at Casa _____!


This crossword puzzle is my own creation. It’s not hard and once you figure out the overall theme it’s quite easy. Let me know if you get stuck!


Son Jeffrey baked a turkey cake. It looked so real I expected it to gobble

Another turkey has been gobbled, another Thanksgiving Day has turned into night – one that promises to be filled with extreme bloating and indigestion (did I really eat that second piece of pumpkin pie?) My laptop won’t fit on my lap. So instead of writing about Thanksgiving, I’m sending you a collection of my favorite thoughts about the day. Enjoy reading them while I head for the medicine cabinet and another round of Maalox.

I love Thanksgiving turkey. It's the only time in Los Angeles that you see natural breasts. ~Arnold Schwarzenegger

Got no check books, got no banks. Still I'd like to express my thanks - I got the sun in the morning and the moon at night. ~Irving Berlin

Thanksgiving is an emotional holiday. People travel thousands of miles to be with people they only see once a year. And then discover once a year is way too often. ~Johnny Carson

May your stuffing be tasty
May your turkey plump,
May your potatoes and gravy
Have nary a lump.
May your yams be delicious
And your pies take the prize,
And may your Thanksgiving dinner
Stay off your thighs!
~Author Unknown

The kitchen is the place to be at a Scardino gathering

The thing I'm most thankful for right now is elastic waistbands. ~Author Unknown

Happy We-Stole-Your-Land-and-Killed-Your-People Day! ~Thanksgiving toast, from the movie Sweet November

Thanksgiving dinners take eighteen hours to prepare. They are consumed in twelve minutes. Half-times take twelve minutes. This is not coincidence. ~Erma Bombeck

What did General Patton do on Thanksgiving?
He gave tanks.

And my favorite:
Vegetarian Thanksgiving Dinner Recipe
Chop up one medium sized vegetarian and place it in a pan.
Stuff with dressing if desired.
Roast in 375 degree oven for about six hours.

Thanks for reading!

First I was afraid, I was petrified.

I used to really like flying around in helicopters in the Gulf of Mexico. Then I took a helicopter underwater survival course.

Watch the video – I’M THE ONE IN BLUE OVERALLS. Then satisfy my curiosity and let me know if you would take the course.
Just keep swimming!

Chris and I have logged hundreds of helicopter hours. Mostly we fly over water but sometimes over jungles in parts of South America, Africa and Indonesia. Before the HUET course (Helicopter Underwater Escape Training) I worried more about ditching into trees than oceans. Now? I’ll take my chances with the branches. Ignorance about the danger was bliss. I want my bliss back, damn it - make me stupid again!

Before taking the HUET course I thought the most dangerous part of my job started when we got off the helicopter and onto the offshore platform. WRONG.

For the first run, the door was already open. The next time we had to punch it out while upside down underwater.

We often shoot in potentially dangerous environments. The requisite safety training without exception has been mind-numbing, and dangerously boring. Before this class I figured that boring must be a mandatory element in training, as predictable and dull as the phrase ‘Safety comes first with XYZ Company’. Yawn pie with snore sauce. It’s disappointing because life and death subjects sort of naturally fall into the attention holding if not down right exciting realm, particularly if the life in question is yours.

But no. I’ve yawned through chemical leak and refinery explosion procedures; been easily distracted by a bug on the floor during lifeboat evacuation training and actually drifted off to sleep at some point during the ‘What to do if the compound is overrun by terrorists’ video. In my defense, I had seen a slightly better terrorist attack video the month before in Nigeria and this one, seen in a stuffy unair-conditioned trailer deep in the jungles of Columbia was actually ‘En caso de ataque’, with really bad photography and fuzzy English subtitles. My personal safety plan was to be well rested so I could run fast en caso de ataque.

That’s not to say I don’t take personal safety, well, personally. Chris and I both have our own PPE (Personal Protection Equipment). I have two pair of glam steel-toed boots, and about half a dozen pairs of safety glasses. I travel with these plus my own hardhat because I can’t stand the thought of my hair being where someone else’s greasy/lousy head has been. ICK.

In other much more boring training sessions I’ve learned which way to run in a chemical leak (up wind), the highest I should climb without a harness (6ft), when I need a hot work permit (spark potential from flash units) and what to do if the compound is overrun by terrorists (pray).

The morning session consisted of classroom instruction where we learned things like even if the temperature isn’t cold, get your ass out of the water asap because hyperthermia can kill even if the water is 85 degrees. But mostly I remember the helicopter crash videos. Real helicopters, real people, really terrifying, I-can’t-believe-how-fast-they-sink videos. Holy hovercraft – when helicopters get into trouble there is no glide time, they drop like stones into the water, usually while spinning like a dervish and sink IMMEDIATELY. After seeing those videos, there was no chance of anyone nodding off during the survival instruction.

The afternoon was spent in the pool where everything got very real. I made it into the life raft OK, but it wasn’t pretty (see video, I’m the one in blue overalls) and I had no problem treading water for 5 minutes or putting the life vest on while floating. Then it got crazy. We all took a turn in the individual training chair before being hauled repeatedly up into the air in the helicopter simulator. We were strapped in, dropped into the water and turned upside down. FIVE TIMES. Each time we had to 1) brace for crash landing, 2) find and open the door or window, 3) unbuckle our harness, 4) swim out the opening. Sounds easy - until that water starts rising up over your nose and you're flipped upside down.

Chris (seen inside simulator) did better than me. At least he doesn't have a huge bruise on his knee today like me.

The disorientation was shocking. Each time I swam out of the simulator I had to stop and let myself drift a second to determine which way was up. Whoa. That’s in a clear pool only a few feet underwater with divers there to help if needed. We were told that about 1 in 30 people panic underwater during the runs. When panic sets in, people start struggling and that usually results in the instructors getting kicked and hit trying to pull the person to safety. I’m soooo glad that didn’t happen to me!


Luggage - the perfect decor for me!

Chris and I regularly fly overseas into time zones 7-14 hours different from home. Almost always we walk off the plane and go immediately to work. Photography is both mentally and physically demanding – if we are not at our best, it will show up on the image. This method is a combination of tips and techniques I have picked up through the years from books, talking to fellow road warriors and personal experience. It works. I promise that if you follow these rules fatefully, you will never again sleepwalk through the first few days of your trip.

Jetlag is a combination of physical and mental conditions. This method attacks the problem on both fronts.

Two Days Before You Depart
  • Test pack your suitcase using your packing checklist (you do use a checklist, right?) Use this time to make sure you have remembered everything (floss? belt? vitamins?) and that it will fit in your bag. Keep all your designated travel clothes separate - either in your suitcase or hanging together in your closet – don’t wear any of these clothes again before you leave.
  • Move your personal watch one-hour ahead/back toward your destination time zone (make sure you go in the right direction!).
  • Adjust your sleep habits one hour - get up an hour early or go to sleep an hour later.
  • Eat your meals an hour early/later – it’s very important to get your digestive system, eh, headed in the right direction.
Paris CDG - Beautiful to look at, but hell on travelers. My fav airports? Singapore and Amsterdam - I could live there, really.

One Day Before You Depart
  • Move your personal watch another hour toward your new time zone.
  • Adjust your eating and sleeping habits another hour – you have now moved two hours (hopefully) in the right direction.
  • Go over your packing list one more time, for peace of mind. Pack and close your suitcase (mentally off your list).
  • Make a conscientious effort to schedule NOTHING of any importance at work or home on this day. This is not the day to begin a new project!
  • Make two copies of all your important travel documents including your passport ID and relevant visa pages, airline tickets, hotel reservations, vital work documents, etc. Leave one set at home and tuck one set in your luggage. God forbid something should happen to the originals, this would save you DAYS of trouble.
Departure Day
  • Have your calendar completely clear. (I know this won’t happen, but if you TRY, it won’t get as bad as usual).
  • Check to see if your plane is on time before you leave for the airport.
  • Plan on arriving at the airport at least two hours prior to depart time (no traffic related stress).
On the Plane
  • Wear as close to PJs as your sense of fashion will allow:
    Elastic waistband, long sleeves and long pants, light weight jacket, and warm fluffy socks.
  • Set your watch (and your mind) immediately to your arrival time zone.
  • Drink no alcohol and LOTS of water (scientific proof this helps).
  • My plane survival kit includes: My own bottle of water (I can refill in the galley and store in the seat pocket), my own big and soft eye mask (airline masks are skimpy and uncomfortable), earplugs (the noise will wake you before the light will) and a mild sleep aid (I use melatonin - ask your doctor).
  • You MUST sleep on the plane. Ideally, I drift off shortly after the first meal service and get at least five hours of sleep. Don’t watch the movie, it will keep you awake.
  • Do get up and walk the length of the plane several times to keep your circulation churning. When no one is looking, I do a series of stretches and simple exercises that include knee to the chest, toe lifts, neck rolls and self-hugs. These help me relax before sleeping and serve to work out the kinks when I wake up.
Upon Arrival
  • More than likely, it will be daytime – Get out in the sun! Avoid dark rooms such as theaters. Sit next to the window at meetings.
  • Mild physical activity such as walking will help - long sit-down meetings definitely will hurt.
  • Do not nap!
  • Avoid alcohol on the first day.
  • Don’t go to bed until at least 8pm.
  • Banish thoughts like ‘oh, god, it’s 3am at home’ from your mind.
  • The first night: No matter what, stay in bed with the lights out and your eyes closed (even if you’re wide awake). You may want to use a mild sleep aid the first night.

Even if you find the arrival day a little rough, by the next morning your mind and body will be fully adjusted to your new ‘home’ time zone.
Bon Voyage!
Copyright © Suzanne Salvo
All rights reserved


I'm FINALLY getting around to updating my blog and website with a list of my fall workshops and presentations. Goodness, did I really say yes to all of these?

Words are NOT Enough
Montreal, Canada
16 September 2009
Maxwell Cummings Auditorium
Contact:Yvonne Callaway Smith

Words are NOT Enough
Cleveland, OH
Cleveland Marriott Downtown at Key Center
19 October 2009
IABC Heritage Regional Conference

The Photo Whisperer
21 October 2009
IABC/Newfoundland, NL Canada
Contact:Suzanna Cohen

The Photo Whisperer
22 October 2009
Halifax, NS, Canada
Contact:Suzanna Cohen

Photo Ethics for Communicators
24 October 2009
J.W. Marriott, Galleria
IABC Southern Regional Conference

Photo Ethics for Communicators
2 November 2009
London, ON, Canada
Contact:Suzanna Cohen

The Photo Whisperer
3 November 2009
IABC Grand Valley
Kitchener, ON, Canada
Contact:Suzanna Cohen

Words are NOT Enough
4 November 2009
Hamilton, ON, Canada
IABC Golden Horseshoe
IABC/Grand Valley
Contact:Suzanna Cohen


Lance Armstrong (center) finished a respectable 3rd in The Tour, but is now coming under considerable criticism for his arrogant behavior and non support of teammate/race winner Alberto Contador.

It was a crush behind the barricades as the final stage of the Tour de France made eight laps around the Arc de Triumpe down the Champs Elysees. What a sight! IT WAS CROWDED. And many were drunk. Unfortunately I was not one of them. I’ll know better next time…

Where in world is Suzanne Salvo? I’m in this picture at the spot we watched the race. I’m wearing a brown blouse and black pants and big sunglasses. Double check to enlarge photo and find me.

The bikers may appear fierce, but there was more ‘attacking’ happening on the other side of the barricades.

Chris and I arrived early enough to get a front row spot on the barricade. I have the bruises to prove we held off multiple 'attacks' from fans 6 rows deep.

The Official 2009 Winner of the Tour de France is Spaniard Alberto Contador, (winner in 2007, too), riding for Astana along with teammate Lance Armstrong (who finished a respectable third). At only 26, Contador is capable of beating Armstrong’s record 7 Le Tour victories. I guess that level of competition and testosterone explains the bad feelings between the two champions. CNN story: I will never admire Armstrong.
The caravan/sponsor parade begins with the iconic big yellow guy. The racers arrive about 45 minutes behind.

Some people will do anything to stay near the race action.

Interesting Tour Factoids:
  • The second Tour de France, in 1904, saw riders desperate to win cheat by using trains and cars. Some rabid fans placed nails in the road in front of rival riders.
  • In early Tours, riders were known to stop for a cigarette and whiskey in a pub to refresh themselves during a stage.
  • The only time the Tour has been cancelled was due to the World Wars.
  • In 1975, Belgian rider Eddy "The Cannibal" Merckx (considered by many to be the greatest cyclist of all time) was attacked and beaten by a French fan of a rival rider. Merckx remounted his bike and went on to finish the stage.

Contador is THE MAN! He has now won The Tour twice, plus the other Grand Tour Races - The Italian Giro and The Spanish Vuelta

What a great experience! I may even get out my old bike, the one with coaster brakes and only one gear...


The ULTIMATE French fashion statement – the coveted Tour de France jerseys

My husband Chris is an avid bicycler, so he is currently driving me crazy with nonstop Tour de France ‘thrilling’ news updates and trivia. Example: “Honey, Honey! Lance just tweeted that he had oatmeal for breakfast! Can you believe it??? Oatmeal!!!”

He’s so excited and wrapped up in Tour minutia that I feel bad about not getting pumped up over Contador’s ‘big dig’ (whatever that is) or how many chains Cadel Evans has broken.

It’s a strange sport. The Tour is at once very straight forward – the fastest guy wins; and infuriatingly complicated – what the hell are those jerseys about? Plus the very strange, very French unofficial ‘courtesies’ observed by all but the most crass riders.

For instance, it is considered poor form (but not illegal) to attack (try to get in front) while a rider is relieving himself, which they seldom stop for (shew, watch out spectators!). Traditional race etiquette holds that when the race happens to go through the hometown of a participant, the peloton (group of riders) will graciously allow him to lead. Additionally, the peloton usually will give the lead (briefly at least) to a rider on his birthday.

The race course changes each year but always ends in Paris. It is considered extremely bad taste to attack the leader on the final stage. The ride into Paris and round and round the Champs Elysees is really just ceremonial. I’ve seen riders drink champagne as they ride!

At the end of each day of racing, called a stage, four special jerseys are awarded. To my eye, anytime you put spandex on world class athletics it’s special. But beyond being revealing and appealing, I’ve broken the code on the jersey phenomena – see below.

Based on a really complicated, impossible to understand system the French came up with to befuddle riders from other countries. It’s calculated on arbitrary ‘points’ awarded for ‘sprints’ to gain ‘time bonuses’ which are really deductions. Uh? Well YOU try and figure it out.

Polka dot
It has something to do with mountains, I’m sure about that part. But you don’t have to win a stage to get it, which seems, well just wrong. If I were racing in the Tour, I would do everything I could to avoid winning this jersey. The polka dots are just butt-ugly and sooo gay - in a bad way.

I think this originally designated virgin racers. But bike racers in Europe have mega-rock star status, including their own groupies, so virgin riders are even scarcer than riders with one testi. Nowadays the White Jersey is given to ‘Best Young Rider’, whatever that means in a sport where almost everyone is in their 20s.

The overall race leader. The guy with the lowest overall time. This is the only jersey that is easy to figure out. And the only one that means squat.

Chris and I have been lucky enough to have witnessed first hand several stages of the Tour de France and the Italian equivalent, The Giro de Italia. But by a bit of extreme good fortune we will find ourselves in Paris on the 26th of July and hopefully somewhere along the Champs Elysees along with thousands of others as Lance, et al crosses the finish line.

I have to admit, even I’m excited!


The best way to eat duck foie gras? On a quacker of course.

About a thousand years ago, some French farmers where going about their normal autumn barnyard chores, wool berets pulled low against the chilly Mistral wind. Being Frenchmen, they passed the time by affably debating current events. Shaking their heads and muttering curses, they predicted dire consequences and economic doom from the recent demise of the feudal system; they crossed themselves and appealed to heaven for the confirmation of the first ever French pope, Sylvester II; and then nearly came to blows over whether William the Conqueror (called William the Bastard by one), would prove victorious over the hated English at the upcoming Battle of Hastings (he won, by the way). All this whilst never pausing in their labor, the slaughtering and processing of farm animals to provide meat for the winter table.

Take a gander at the incredible selection! This was one shop of dozens devoted to foie gras in Sarlat.

During a prolonged discussion on whether the local Dordogne caves near Lascaux were haunted or not, by chance the farmers noticed a difference between the carcasses of a barnyard goose and the wild goose they had hunted and shot earlier. The barn fowl had that morning once again pecked a hole into the grain silo and had gorged himself on corn. Driven by instinct to fatten up for an autumn migration that for him would never be, the silly goose was deemed incoercible by the farmers. The result was his current condition as an honored (and delicious) addition to the dinner table.

"SACRE BLEU!", one farmer exclaimed, pointing at the dissected birds. Laying side by side, the liver of the gluttonous domestic bird was grossly enlarged and fatty compared to its wild cousin. The two farmers looked at each other and smiled. And thus the foie gras industry was born.

After 3 days of foie gras, I was feeling as stuffed as a goose. So when the store clerk in Le Buisson presented the check, I told him to ‘Put it on my bill.’

The weekly market in Le Bugue provided a gourmet picnic lunch for our kayak down the Vezere River including roasted chicken, wine, olives, cheese and of course pate'.

Today around 20,000 tons of foie gras (translated literally from French as "fatty liver" and pronounced 'fwah grah') are produced annually worldwide. The French are responsible for 70% of all the production but selfishly eat 85% of it, leaving little for the rest of us. Further research shows that the average Frenchman eats foie gras at least 10 times a year. I ate it that many times last week while visiting the Périgord region – ground zero for foie gras and other frenchy-french fun.

Duck, duck, goose? Does anybody but me remember this game?

Foie gras – what exactly is it?
Some people are disturbed to the point of boycott and protest when they learn that geese and ducks destined for foie gras are force fed by inserting a tube down their throats. But in fact this fattening by “gavage" (as defined by French law) during the bird’s last 2 weeks of growth is by all accounts not nearly as harmful as it’s eventual slaughter (usually by electrocution). If you eat beef, pork, fish or fowl, you have to be aware and OK with your position on the food chain. Moi? I'm damn proud of it. Foie gras rightfully is one of the most popular delicacies in French cuisine. Its flavor is described as rich, buttery and delicate. I love it. In fact, it rates a spot on my All-time Greatest Food Hit Parade.

Artisan production of foie gras is hard work and involves long hours. The birds are early risers so every day starts at the quack of dawn. Buon appetito!


There is not much I can add to this photo of Le Puy, France. Click to enlarge and just enjoy – and make plans to go there yourself, pilgrim.

It was almost as random as throwing a dart at the map. That’s how Chris and I ended up in le Puy en Velay. It was sorta/kinda along the route we had chosen to get to Tremolat, home of an Italian friend we planned to visit before heading to Arles for Les Rencontres. So can I say it was fate that lead us there?

I’m not a believer in ‘signs’, but when something or somewhere keeps popping up on my radar, I do pay attention. It’s been like that with Santiago de Compostella. Seems like every month or two the city makes an appearance to me – in a book (Pillars of the Earth), on the airplane flight tracking screen, a location in a TV show and now oddly enough through a connection in a town in France we didn't have any real reason to be in - Le Puy.

You may know Le Puy only as the hometown of the famous French cat lover, Pepe, but Le Puy has been a religious mecca since the 10th century. It is known widely as the traditional starting point for a pilgrimage to – SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELLA. There it is again! A trek of around a thousand miles (sixteen hundred kilometers), a pilgrim can expect very sore feet (le pant, le ouch, le pant) along with spiritual awakening.

Me? I think I'll wait for a vision that shows me holding a first class seat on a plane to Santiago De Compostella...


Each blossom was a big as my head and there were thousands of them.

I think sunflowers are the prettiest crop on earth. They are just so darn happy looking, you can’t help but smile when you see their big round smiling yellow faces.

I'm as happy as this field of sunflowers look.

We pulled over to the side of a narrow farm road to shoot this GIANT field, leaving scarcely enough room for other vehicles to slowly pass us. They could have easily been annoyed with the inconvenience. Instead, when I smiled and waved, they all smiled back, nodding, waving and even giving us a thumbs up and/or a friendly honk. They understood.

If I stretched out my arms, I could almost touch both sides of the little French farm road.

Sunflower is girasole in Italian. That literally means turns to (gira) the sun (sole). How delightful!

Chris will do anything to get a better photo.

Lovely from any angle.


Annecy is know as the Venice of France due to its beautiful canals

Happy 4th of July, America! We are celebrating it in the country that claims to have invented democracy, diplomacy, and really tasty yet stinky cheese. That’s right, we are in FRANCE.

Nonstop gorgeous views along the lake promanade

To escape the heat we’ve headed north to the Alps and will be spending the next several days roaming around cooling Alpine lakes. AHHH, can you feel the breeze?

A truck broke down in the tunnel between Italy and France causing traffic to stack up. Our tiny FIAT, named 'Ippy' is dwarfed by the 18 wheelers waiting for the tunnel to reopen.

French guys behaving, well, like French guys.

Click to enlarge me (or any of the other photos) on the bridge in Annecy, France.

This guy was getting way to much help with his Chapeau

The chateau rises majestically over the lake and town - lovely!


One of several vases of wildflowers currently on display in our Acqui Terme, Italy house.

My hill is covered with wild flowers - so many kinds I've lost count. Every week a new variety starts to blossom before I have time to mourn the ones that fade. Many are waist high and I'm sure would be considered unwelcomed weeds to gardeners more knowledgable than I. But for a week or two, these erstwhile undesireables adore themselves in cheerful yellow, startling red and deep soulful purple - just for the sheer joy of it. I think I like the purple best of all.

The weeds, eh flowers, have gotten so tall I’m having trouble using our super energy efficient outdoor clothes dryer.

Maybe some wildflower expert could tell me what these are? Besides beautiful I mean.

Chris is threatening to mow them all down and I'm actively hating him for it. He says they hold bugs and allow animals like rabbits, rats and wild boars to get close to the house without detection. Yadda, yadda - I'm not listening. Insead I've filling, well more like stuffing, vases, glasses, jars, old shoes, etc., with the ephemeral offerings each morning. I feel like the lady of the manor roaming the hillside with a basket over my arm, pausing to collect a bloom here, a spray of greenery there, as the form and color suits my fancy. I need one of those bonnets with ribbons to complete the effect.

I’m not the only creature enjoying the flowers. Besides a huge contingency of butterflies during the day, the swarms of fireflies at night are almost enough to read by.

In a couple of weeks the flowers will all be gone – part of their allure is their transitory nature, I think. So for now, I’ve got my basket and clippers in hand. Chris is starting to complain about there being no wine glasses in the cupboard…


Being surrounding by images of the fashion icon brings out the diva in me.

Barbara Millicent Roberts, better known as simply Barbie, is now a gal in her 50s, just like me. But that’s where the similarity ends. For one thing, I’ve successfully held the same career position for the past 25 years while Babs has changed jobs over 100 times. Barbie’s erratic career choices have included race car driver, a rapper, pet sitter, Marine Corp sergeant and who could forget “math is hard” college student Barbie. She may know how to hang onto her looks, but the girl has lost more jobs than the US economy.

And like the US economy she is looking to China to revive her sagging ratings. The new Shanghai World of Barbie store is six entire floors of Pepto-Pink madness where girls of all ages can get coiffed like their 11-1/2 inch idol, don authentic designer clothes and pose on a real runway. They can eat at the Barbie themed café and whine and pout their parents into spending zillions on Barbie clothes and an endless array of accessories – doll sized and for themselves. Clothes, shoes, make up - or how about a £10,000 Vera Wang Barbie wedding dress?

The six story Barbie Store in Shanghai features a complete spa for pint-sized Barbie wannabes who can then strut their stuff in front of cameras on the oh so fashionista Barbie runway. Question: Why are Asians so smart? Answer: No blondes.

Unlike me, Barbie’s shape has not changed in the last 50 years. If Barbie were a real person, she would be 6' 0" and weigh 100 lbs. Her measurements would be 39"/19"/33". No wonder American women look in the mirror and sigh.

I got one of the original Barbies like this one for Christmas in 1959.
My mom paid $3 for it. If I still had it, I could sell it for over $25,000.

Barbie and I may both be in our 50s now, but unlike Babs, I haven’t gone the tattoo route yet. Always riding the fashion wave, the latest Barbie incarnation is Tattoo Barbie – it comes with a tattoo gun that’s similar to a water gun, so kids can stamp (temporary) tattoos on Barbie and themselves. So can Goth pierced Barbie and beer swilling Trailer Trash Barbie be far behind? Check out Cougar Barbie video.

The spiral staircase with hundreds of Barbies in her signature pink color is a not to be missed photo op.

Hello Kitty vs. Barbie Smack Down
Who’s the bigger fashionista? Barbie’s arch rival for the Asian market is the ubiquitous Hello Kitty. This deceptively innocent looking pussycat wants to claw the face off Barbie. And though the mouthless pussycat may look innocent, the claws will be out to see who ultimately rules the multi-billion dollar doll market in Asia. Neither diva looks her age. At 40 Hello Kitty retains her innocent but somehow edgy appeal. Her 10 year age advantage and huge lead in name recognition over the more sophisticated but decidedly Western Barbie could have Hello Kittie purring sweetly and waving goodbye to Barbie in China.

But the fight has just begun so don’t count Barbie out yet. She has a decided height and reach advantage over the eastern feline and wasn’t she once a sumo wrestler?


ICONS - Few shots are more important to an assignment than that one object that represents the location and/or event. In this case an award ceremony.

A whisperer is someone who appears to have a psychic connection with something like in the movie The Horse Whisperer. In reality, a whisperer is anybody who is extremely well trained in the physical and psychological nature of their subject. Plus, a whisperer must possess true understanding, pure empathy and a keen intuition.

People shots are much more compelling if they are less staged and show action.

I have taught many non-professional photographers with varying degrees of talent a kind of photo whisperer technique. I’ve put some highlights in my recent IABC CWBulletin column, Visually Speaking.

Shhhhh - whisper this info to a colleague that needs photo help.

Thinking and Being Strategic

My buddy Patrick Grady is literally writing the book on it for communicators. We talked about how that relates to visual communications in a recent podcast. Tactical Abyss


This Rio Carnival float says it all

I love Rio! The world class beachs of Copacabana and Ipanema are beautiful and easily accessible. The unique Brazilian cuisine including the all you can eat steakhouses called Churrascarias (try to save room for the papaya cream dessert) and pay-by-the-kilo restaurants serve excellent fare and are inexpensive by North American standards. Landmarks like Sugarloaf Mountain (great gondola ride!) and Corcovada (the 90’ Christ statue that looks down on the city – great view of Rio and Guanabara Bay) are a must see. These and more are beautiful and thrilling Rio experiences. But it’s the people, who call themselves Cariocas, that will keep me coming back time and time again.

A carnivor's dream come true- A Brazilian Churrascaria

I heard an utterly riveting theory to explain the Brazilian OBCESSION with butts. Let me be clear here, there is in South America a whole nation of millions of people totally and completely preoccupied with derrières. Really, I’m being completely serious. There are butts dominantly on display everywhere you look in Brazil. They can’t be avoided. Butts obviously sell products in the advertising game; big giant hienies wink down at you from billboards all over Rio and shine edge to edge (or is it cheek to cheek?) on local TV and the covers of magazines. ‘Flossers’ are di’regir on the beaches.

Cariocas love the beach, a favorite family outing. We had this model put on more clothes for the photoshoot on Ipenema Beach. Her bathing suit was just tooo skimpy for worldwide corporate audiences.

Ah, but you’re saying ‘it’s no different from the American hang-up with large heaving breasts.’ Believe me, our ‘titilation’ is nothing next to the butt-fest going on in Brazil. In other words, our northern cleavage doesn’t begin to compare with their southern cleft.

And the Brazilian clothes! I don’t see how they stand wearing their pants so tight. It makes ME uncomfortable just to look at those skimpy panty lines disappear into the unknown. And for some rubbernecking kind of reason, I can’t help staring at those telltale panty lines. It’s weird. I keep thinking: THESE PEOPLE SPEND THEIR ENTIRE LIVES DEALING WITH THE MOTHER OF ALL WEDGIES!! And, they do it to themselves – ON PURPOSE!! Do they not feel it? Don’t they mind the icky sensation? How can that be? But it must be so, because I spent days trying to catch someone in the act of ‘digging out’ with no luck.

So photographer husband, Chris, and I met Paulo and Maria, a very nice, typical fun loving, beach worshipping, bikini undies wearing (I peeked in the laundry basket in their bathroom) Rio couple. Paulo is 48, tall by Brazilian standards and handsome. He would not be at all surprised to hear himself described this way. He has two children in college. Maria is 28, witty, blonde, and slim. When Paulo talks about Maria he refers to her always as ‘my second wife’, even in her presence.

Every beach sidewalk in Rio has it's own unique pattern.

Paulo has a theory – no it’s more all encompassing than a theory. A philosophy? A core belief? A religion? Call it what you want, it runs deep. He calls it instinct. I call it hogwash.

Paulo says humanity can be divided into two classifications: Cold climate people and hot climate people. In both types, the instinct for procreation and survival of the species is the number one drive. (So far, I’m OK with this, you too?). Centuries ago – Paulo puts it at 100 centuries – the cold climate people ‘noticed’ that babies who had plenty of food (milk) were more likely to survive the cold. Hence the cold climate males began instinctively to prefer the LARGE BREASTED females over their A cup sisters. (you’re loosing me here, Paulo - size does not matter in milk production).

Rio is a spectacular coastal city, rivaling San Francisco and the Italian Riviera in beauty. Landmark Sugarloaf dominates this view.

In the meantime, in the other half of the world - in the heat of the jungle to be exact - women giving birth were being eaten alive right and left by ferocious beasts. According to Paulo: ‘Thee wild animales sneefs the blood from the birthing and comes for to eat the babies’. Ah ha! WIDE HIPPED females, who were (naturalmente) giving birth faster, were able to get the babies away to safety sooner after dropping them, apparently unaccompanied by Daddy, on the jungle floor.

At this point Paulo slaps his thigh, smiles knowingly and spreads his arms out in a gesture that says ‘see, now even you, a cold-climate female, know how simple it is’. To make doubly sure poor simple me understands he concludes: ‘So jew see, thee males of the yungle they develope-ed una instincto por …’ at this point he searches for the right word. Finally he grabs Maria by the hips and turns her cheeks toward us. Chris, ever helpful, fills in the blank with a resounding ‘Wide Ass!’.

Si!’ say Paulo and Maria together.
Both nod and smile in approval at his ability to grasp the idea.

They all turn to me. I work hard to close my mouth, suddenly realizing my jaw had dropped to the floor some time back. I smile and reach for another bite of the wonderful marinated palmetto Maria has made for us.

So there it is, Paulo’s theory on why North Americans focus on tits while Brazilians fixate on asses. It’s a fascinating thought-train, don’t you think? I couldn’t be offended by it, though I felt somehow I should be. It was just too clever and amusing and was told with such an remarkable blend of passionate machismo and innocence.

This incident and ones like it, would never happen if Chris and I spent all our free travel time hell-bent on ‘sightseeing’. Traveling is not just learning more about historic events or seeing breathtaking natural formations. It’s about seeking contact with other people, making mental connections outside and beyond the familiar. Try it in your travels, you will cherish the memories. And send me photos of it!