LensDiaries.com, Let the Stories Be Told

In today’s world of being anyone, including a photographer, we have to constantly evaluate our situation and adapt to the changing times, so I’ve launched LensDiaries.com, my new hybrid photoblog created to spread the gospel of photography as I transition away from an exhaustive, 11-plus years of conducting over 450 photography workshops and seminars to thousands of people around the world. At LensDiaries.com you’ll find the stories and technical specifications of photos I choose for your insight in my photography. This photoblog is an extension of the five photography books I’ve published–so please help me spread the passion of photography.

With your support I will add photography tips and multimedia content along with photo critiques. For the inquiring minds that want to know, I will continue to conduct workshops and seminars, but on a very limited basis starting in the Fall of 2010. This will allow me more time to continue with my writings, future books and my photography. My focus is aimed at smaller, more exotic workshops to provide a more semi-private and a more intimate environment that you sometimes lose in a larger workshop environment. I’m always available for private photography instruction, just contact me here with your contact information and best time to call.

I will still blog on this site and inform you of my schedule and other items that I feel are better left on here, on my personal blog. On occasion, you will see a replication of content on both blogs, but remember, this site is a more personal blog and LensDiaries.com is a hybrid of a photoblog and blog, so both sites will have unique content too. I will also shift my focus from workshops to concentrate on Photographic Therapy, as a concept and the website, PhotographicTherapy.com. I hope you’ll visit all three sites.

Overtime, with your support, LensDiaries.com will transform into a more established photoblog–-this is a photographic journey we can accomplish together. Finally, I close by saying that I need your help to spread the gospel of photography by tweeting all the blog entries both here and on LensDiaries.com. Please tell all your friends and colleagues through all the social media networks—there are Facebook “like” and Twitter “retweet” buttons, please utilize them, every tweet and mention helps. Let’s spread the knowledge together. Let the stories be told! Thanks, Rolando

Back Up And Running

Well after being on the road on “back to back” workshops in the Virgin Islands, Phoenix, Moab and Daytona, we’re back for a few days of rest—however, while I was gone on this last trip, you probably noticed that our site along with GarageGlamour.com and a few other photography and modeling sites were down. Thanks to some hacker looking for glory, our server was penetrated so hard that we had to do a complete server rebuild—thank goodness for back-ups! This was only our third time in almost twelve years this has happened and let’s pray it doesn’t happen again.

I can’t stress, whether it’s your personal photos, computer files, website, databases or your own dedicated server, always have off-site back-ups—this saved us tons, but in the end, hackers do what they do best, they rob you resources, both financially and time that could be used better elsewhere.

Often rumors are abound that hacked servers spread viruses or malware of some type, and some do, but I can assure you neither our dedicated server nor any of our websites on our dedicated server had any type of issues that would have affected your personal computer. While for the most part we’re back to 100%, we’re still updating files and operating systems to the more current versions, which also increases our security and your security while visiting our sites. Through these upgrades you may experience a glitch from time to time, but not to worry, any glitch is only temporary. So far our security checks are at 100% fully secure and we’ll keep monitoring them to ensure a top-quality delivery of our content.

I close by saying thanks for all your support and for loyalty during this time, and yes, the long hours never stop—it’s the nature of the beast sometimes. Thanks again, and don’t forget our military troops, their families and friends, God Bless! Rolando

iPad, iPhone, i’M an iReady Photographer

liveBooks--Build Your Business

liveBooks Built www.rolandogomez.com

As digital photography went from a revolution to an evolution, so has many things in life, from reading books on an Amzon.com Kindle to using a GPS app on your iPhone—and technology isn’t slowing down. You can order pizzas online and even find long, lost friends on Facebook, and if you’re really into technology, you can tweet your whereabouts and let the public inside your head in 140 characters or less. But for photographers, the evolution hasn’t stopped with cameras, technology has changed the way we present our talents, from multiple photography communities to our own personal, talent portfolios.

The New York Times recently ran an article, “For Photographers, the Image of a Shrinking Path,” on how photographers are trying to survive in a world where the commercial assignments are shrinking as publishers and advertisers license online photos from soccer moms, thanks to Flickr and their partnership with Getty Images. As photographers see commercial sales dwindle, they are scrambling for new ways to pay their bills. Digital diversity is one of those tools, though it’s often overlooked. The photographers that will survive the digital trend are those that have learned to understand the power of the great equalizer, the Internet, not just through social media networks, but through their own personal, professional website.

While many photographers join free photography communities to post their web portfolios, this is only one method of exposure and not necessarily the best method to target “the client” markets that professional photographers seek to survive. These are photographer communities, rarely client communities and whether you’re a wedding, architectural, editorial, fashion or portrait photographer, it’s important to maintain a professional website that targets clients specifically.

A website that showcases your talent. A website that isn’t about smoke and mirrors that overshadow your talent. It’s important that your website showcases your skills, crisply, cleanly, and beautifully—to help you build your business. This is why I trust liveBooks.com for both my professional photography and free photography books websites.

And from me to you, start a free trial now and receive 10% off a liveBooks website through 6/1/10 by using the promo code lbrolando.

Unlike the analog world of mail-in and hand carry portfolios, which still exists, photographers have to project professionalism in an up-to-date fashion—a digital fashion. One that delivers not only the photographer’s portfolio, but provides an easy navigation experience for the potential client plus an easy and reliable user interface for the photographer. In addition, to a simple user and client interface, a professional photographer’s website must be up-to-date so it adapts on-the-fly to the viewer’s choice of viewing device, whether it be their home computer, laptop, smart phone or digital tablet. LiveBooks.com provides professional photographer websites that do all the above, regardless if the viewer is utilizing an iPhone, iPad, or iMac.

My professional photography website, www.rolandogomez.com is digitally diverse and compatible—thanks to liveBooks—it’s up-to-date, it adapts to the viewer’s viewing device on-the-fly,  which means my clients know I’m up-to-speed. Well it’s time to hit some social media networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, all part of the surviving in today’s digital evolution, so please remember, don’t forget our military members, their families and friends, God Bless! Rolando.

Arizona Immigration Law, The New INS

I rarely publicly get into politics, it’s just not good business when you work for yourself to take a political side, but I’ve got to chime on this controversial Arizona immigration law—at least from an American of Latin descent observation of things. There is so much information, misinformation, debates, etc., out there where everyone is split over this new law, and that’s what bothers me the most.  If millions of people can’t come to agreement on how to interpret the law, how can an Arizona lawman be smarter than the rest of the world? And I’m just curious if all law enforcement types in Arizona have undergone specialized immigration training in how to define “reasonable suspicion” when it comes to determining if someone is an illegal alien?

According to this new state immigration law, law-enforcement officials in Arizona have the right to determine the immigration status of a person “where reasonable suspicion exists that the person is an alien who is unlawfully present in the United States.” And if that person can’t prove their status, then they “could be arrested and jailed for six months and fined $2,500.”  (Note: It’s been rumored that TMZ hopes to catch Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County at Home Depot—you know, buying saws, hammers and two-by-fours for his new expansion project.)

Now this is where I have a problem, and I’ll explain from my 47-years of being a Texan born in the good ole US of A with Latin descent.  Growing up as a kid, even with my Spanish heritage, European white-skin looks, I was often called a wetback, spick and all those racial names—in Texas. The darker-skinned Latinos would call me a Gringo and once I told them my last name, I was called a Güero. So most people when they see me don’t think I’m Latino until I introduce myself.

Then I’m asked, are you Hispanic? My first response is, “Where is the country Hispain? No, I’m of Latin descent, born in Texas, and served patriotically for over 8-years active-duty in the U.S. Army plus 8-years more as a civil service employee in the U.S. Air Force. So I tell them, “I’m an American and Texan of Latin descent.”

Right after I provide that answer, not surprisingly, I get the next dumb question, “Are you Mexican-American?” My response, “Nope, I’m an American of Latin descent.” Then I ask them, what descent are you from? Usually I’ll get German, Italian, Polish, etc., you get the picture, so then I say (matching the right descent to the person), “Are you German-American, Italian-American, Polish-American?” Get the picture?  And somehow Arizona law enforcement officers are supposed to be smarter than the Texas Rangers and the rest of the world? Don’t get me wrong, I support law enforcement but feel interpretation of the law, especially immigration law, should be left to those trained and specialized in it.  Heck, in Texas we have board certified lawyers in immigration and Spanish Land Grants.

Let me give you a better analogy, would you let a plastic surgeon do your heart transplant because both are doctors and surgeons?  Would you let a divorce lawyer represent you in a murder trial? Maybe if you were Tiger Woods or Jesse James. And you wonder why Sandra Bullock filed for divorce in Texas. Meanwhile back to the ranch.

In my opinion it seems that the Arizona legislators are targeting the “Mexicans” which sounds like racial profiling. If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, then it’s a duck!  If they are not racial profiling one specific group, then will they stop someone because they look Asian?  I’m willing to bet money, that Officer Brewer, no relation to Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, since she is Caucasian (I bet some of you thought Officer Brewer was a man), will never ask a “Caucasian” person in Scottsdale for their proof of U.S. citizenship, though that same officer would ask Juan Valdez immediately when they spot him at Starbucks ordering Columbian coffee. Though I’m wondering how many law enforcement officers in the United States realize that the term Caucasian refers to white-skinned Europeans? (Source, Wikipedia.com)

Maybe as part of the training of law enforcement in Arizona we should include something like a Coke verses Pepsi taste-test trial and place an Caucasian next to an American of Latin descent (dark-skinned) and see how many officers would pick the Caucasian out of the line-up?  God forbid if the surrounding states of Arizona pass the same law. New Mexico will have some serious problems trying to distinguish real Mexicans from new Mexicans—somehow I picture a lot of their lawmen drinking margaritas after work.  Nevada shouldn’t have any problems though if public perception is correct and Area 51 comes to life, just look for green colored skin—now that would be an irony if those green illegal aliens got pass the Arizona police and crossed into New Mexico.  Then you’d have a New Mexican Caucasian police officer calling aliens Greengos.

Going back to my military days, it’s against the law for the U.S. Military to act as “civilian” law enforcement–yes, I spent 26-months in the Latin American drug war during my soldier time in the early 90’s, so I know that law well as it was never left up to our interpretation. So if it’s against the law for a U.S. Army soldier to act as civilian law enforcement, especially immigration law, why then under Arizona law, are they allowing the local yokals–the type that can “flash their tin” to break speeding laws when off-duty, to question anyone “reasonably suspicious” when it comes to citizenship status?

Does suspicious mean the same to Officer Felipe Calderon as it would to Officer Jan Brewer? Would Officer Calderon always pick out a Caucasian and Officer Brewer a Hispanic or Asian?  Get the picture? Just like the Federal government requires it’s workforce to undergo sexual harassment and suicide prevention training, why shouldn’t Arizona require all it’s peace officers, for the sake of peace, to undergo racial profiling training? Just what does an illegal alien look like that makes them suspicious?

Bottom line–let INS do their job. Local police are already overworked and now you’re giving them immigration duties? Doesn’t make sense. The next Arizona law will give police officers the right to question anyone with a cigarette lighter because they could be an arsonist. Even President Barack Obama strongly criticized the law and is calling for Federal immigration reform—our President people.  I wonder where Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa weighs in on this, at least he had the sense to make prisoners pedal to generate electricity to power TV sets in jail.  I’m willing to bet, “America’s toughest Sheriff,” as he’s commonly referred too, is building a whole new tent city in anticipation that he’ll run out of room and the dinner menu I can assure you is not Kung Pao Chicken or enchiladas.

Well I’m in Arizona next month to conduct a photography workshop, guess I’m going to take my U.S. Passport and put it in my briefcase because if my wallet gets stolen, I could be locked up since my last name is Gomez and not McCain, thus suspicious to someone that is not Latino and doesn’t understand the Latin culture. Like Carlos Mancia would say, if you’re drinking a beer or standing outside Home Depot you have provided enough reasonable cause to look suspicious so thank goodness I drink Canadian, Crown Royal Reserve and not beer and I prefer Lowes hardware stores. Speaking of Canadians, I hope Phoenix Suns player Steve Nash (Canadian) gets pulled over (and is not carrying any identification) on the way to the U.S. Airways center tonight when they meet the San Antonio Spurs for round two of the NBA Playoffs—though I wouldn’t wish the same for Tony Parker or Manu Ginoboli.

I close by saying, let’s not go back to WWII where in Europe you had to carry papers. The Arizona immigration law is just another “persecution” of another ethnic group, which is worse than racial profiling. So I’ll agree with Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, it’s not racial profiling—it’s persecution. If there is any good news in this for Arizona, the Diamondbacks aren’t changing their name to the Yankees, probably because they got more baseballs than Arizona Tea, which is scrambling to tell the world it’s brewed and based out of New York—seriously. Just my two centavos for what it’s worth.  Thanks to reading my rambles and as I always say, let’s not forget the men and women in the military and their families as they sacrifice more to protect our freedoms than anyone in this great nation.  God Bless, Rolando

Follow Your Heart

My son Nickolas during a heart examination, he's so brave. My son Nickolas during a heart test, he’s so brave.

Almost four years ago, when my only son had his two-year check-up, our pediatrician detected a slight, “heart click.”  In fact it was so faint, a cardiologist who would later give my son a more thorough examination, declared that the average doctor would have missed it.  The cardiologist went on to diagnose my son with a “bicuspid, heart valve defect.” This condition is predominate in males, and hereditary, and besides my younger brother who also has it, we have no family history of it.   The history our family does have, is that we  follow our hearts.

In fact, my younger brother was first diagnosed with this defect before my son was even born, and with this condition, other males in the family were encouraged to get themselves tested as this heart defect, when severe, can cause the blood to back-flow and the aorta will enlarge and can eventually burst.  When my brother was diagnosed with it, I chose not to be tested initially, regardless what friends and relatives would say, as my heart told me I was ok.  It wasn’t until my son’s prognosis that I decided it was time to follow the doctor’s orders.

That’s me.  I’m  sometimes a stubborn, Leo, Latin, male who doesn’t always listen to what might be good for me, but I was right, as the same cardiologist who tested my son, Nickolas, told me, “Whatever you’re doing, keep doing as you have a heart of a 20-year old.”  While my son has the condition mildly, as any father would feel, I’d rather it be me then him. According to the “doc,” he’ll be fine, as on a scale of 1-10, ten being the worst condition, my son is about a one—though he’ll have to take antibiotics anytime a dental or medical situation exists that exposes the circulatory system, due to the higher risk of heart infection. Otherwise, he should live a normal life and could even be a professional athlete with no problems.

My brother on the other hand is more like a seven, not so lucky—he’ll eventually need risky, corrective surgery. Many people go through life not even knowing they have this condition, and it’s deadly. Since there is no family history, some hypothesize there was some gene mutation from my father’s exposure back from his days with the Atomic Energy Commission, were he used to rebuild atomic bombs in the sixties.  No one really knows for sure, as my Dad has survived a long life and will soon reach his 81st birthday.  What we do know, he has a good heart.

While my soon to be, six-year-old son is lucky compared to my younger brother, I followed my heart at first, and my heart was right. I didn’t listen to anyone else, which sometimes gets me in trouble.  As I get older, knowing time is precious, I still follow my heart.  While there will be people that disagree with me about my past, present, and future decisions, I respect that, as our nation gives us the right to agree to disagree.  Regardless, in whatever I do in life, I’m following my heart, nothing more, so please believe in me when I say, right or wrong, it’s my heart that guides me at times.  Though I’ll admit, I’m not always right in my decisions.  

God Bless!  Don’t forget our military troops, their families and friends, without them, we’d have no heart in our nation.  Keep them in your prayers, Rolando.

Escort Duty–Taking Chance

Pathfinders static discharge a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter during sling-loading.

Pathfinders static discharge a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter during sling-loading.

I boarded my flight from Los Angeles to San Antonio feeling hollow, mixed with emotions, as I had just said one of those airport goodbyes we hate to do—I’m never good with goodbyes especially those resonating with longevity. This concave place in my life had me more moody with mixed emotions than normal, and when I selected the HBO movie “Taking Chance” on the in-flight, entertainment system, I didn’t realize that I’d soon be watching the most powerful, but saddest movie that I can remember—I tried to hold back, but the volatile mixture of emotions combined with my military background, brought tears to my eyes along with flash backs of my military time in Desert Storm, Haiti, Rwanda and the Latin drug war days.

“Taking Chance,” stars Kevin Bacon as Marine Lt. Colonel Michael Strobl, who volunteers for military escort duty to return the body of a heroic, young, but fallen Marine back to his family—but not just the hearse ride or the funeral of a flag-draped coffin, but what happens behind the scenes, from the minute a military service member is killed in action to the burial.  The movie takes you through the respect of escorting a body to the immediate family and all the people it affects along the way, from the airport baggage handlers to the vehicle drivers, not to mention the Marine colonel, a Desert Storm veteran, who must face his own assessment of himself for avoiding duty in Iraq for the fear that his number was up.

While I’m sure this movie will affect everyone differently, military veterans like myself will probably think, that could have been me during my days while on military missions.   We also understand that those who have never served their country, will never understand what it truly feels like—just no clue—it’s a different world and an experience that will never purge itself from your system and perhaps Taking Chance will provide a feeling of what it’s like to those that haven’t served. It’s not just about patriotism, it’s about the sacrifices and sometimes the ultimate sacrifice—and those that have survived their military duty know it could have been reversed at some point in their military career.

While this movie is heart-grabbing and rides high on emotions itself, one scene demonstrates how the yellow badge sewn on a TSA uniform is not the same as the military medals meticulously measured and spaced on a military uniform.  I loved that scene as I’ve seen too many TSA screeners act like their threaded badge gives them the right to disrespect you as they tried to do with the colonel in this movie.  It should be mandatory for TSA screens to view this movie as part of their training, then perhaps many of them will not “cop” an attitude they are so generally becoming known for.

This movie demonstrates the meaning of respect and loyalty, words many people take for granted.  Military medals are normally earned, especially for heroic actions and selfless service—Silver and Bronze Stars are not yellow badges—they are for bravery and meritorious actions above and beyond the call of duty.  The importance of duty is written into the script of this movie throughout, from the simple action Lt. Colonel Strobl takes by only drinking water while escorting the remains on a civilian aircraft, to protecting the private possessions of Lance Corporal Chance Phelps that will ultimately be returned to his family.

I could write volumes about this movie, but unless you’ve seen it, no matter what I write, you will never be able to feel what it’s really like—just like military service itself.  While yesterday started with mixed emotions of a dreaded airport goodbye, I thank my Lord for ensuring I survived my military time.  At the same time, I’ll never forget those that have fallen, including those that I personally knew, while serving to protect our freedoms and I can only hope that those who choose not to serve, will not forget—it’s only fair as military members volunteer their selfless service today to bring us the freedoms to do the things we do, including difficult goodbyes.  God bless our service members, their families and friends, let’s not forget them and their sacrifices—Rolando (Army active-duty Staff Sergeant, 1987-1995)

Goals, the Key to the New Decade

While there are many folks out there arguing if the new decade starts in 2010 or 2011, one thing for sure it’s a new year and obviously many like myself made new resolutions to live by and all seem to have a common thread, that 2010 will be better than the previous year.  I wholeheartedly agree and without getting too personal in my life I’ll give you insight on my thoughts for the New Year.

As humans we all make mistakes, and Lord knows I made quite a few in the past decade, the key is how we learn from these mistakes.  My greatest mistake in the last decade was trusting in too many people that promised so many great things, often that lead me to promise others things I found out I could not deliver unless the promises made to me became reality—some did, most didn’t.  I trusted too many people and that alone impacted some of my own integrity—but I’ve learned from it, trust less, trust yourself and your gut more.

Still my best friend in life, Rhonda.

Still my best friend in life, Rhonda.

I’ve always been taught to help others, that I did in the past decade more than ever.  Many took that help and never looked back and said thank you, others did say thank you, and the reality of it all, I learned who were truly friends for the sake of friendship and were friends only for their own personal gain.  Obviously during this trial of friendship you separate the two, sometimes more quickly than others—but ultimately you know who they are and they know who they are too. My mantra is simple, never be a quitter, always look forward.  Keep the passion alive and the passion will guide your goals.

I set many goals in the previous decade, some I didn’t accomplish, but the importance is that I set my goals.  My goal strategy is like in the military promotion board system for noncommissioned officers, we express long-term and short-term goals as part of our promotion evaluation.  While 2010 will start out tough at first, I foresee that it will finally begin to flow much smoother than the past, especially if I stay focused on my goals, perhaps I will even get promoted.

My short term goal this year is to push very hard in getting my “photographic therapy” concept out to many, my long-term goal is to realign my business back to a level higher than it once was, to move more forward in my photography and writings in a more positive manner without impacting it in negative fashion from potentially false friends and false promises. It’s time for me to use the lessons learned to help decipher quicker who is real and who is in it for their own benefit.  It’s time for me to make wiser decisions and focus more on what I do best based on experience, passion, and creativity.

In the new decade, as I’m one of those that feels the decade started in 2010, I plan on avoiding conflict, poor decisions and learning to filter the real from the unreal.  I plan on spreading the gospel of photography in every possible way my passion guides me to do so, for the benefit of others of my choice, and those that stand with me will gain, those that don’t, will be short-lived in my life as I have far less room for error in this decade as I get older and much wiser.  Separating the real from the unreal only gets easier because I don’t live the past, I’ve learned from it and learned there is always better.

Happy New Year, Even Better Decade!

No one has been immune from the past crazy decade of world conflict, poor economy and just tough times in general for the majority of the world–hopefully, as history dictates, the cycle will go up and not further down. Regardless, we’re all survivors and I thank each and everyone one of you that has helped support the gospel of photography.

I honestly think photography, while not a cure, is in fact an outlet to release and feel better for the moment, especially during these tough times.

Heather in a military flight suit.

Heather in a military flight suit.

The new decade and new year will start with the re-release of Photographic Therapy, the Power of Photography to Help Build or Rebuild Self-Esteem, and while it’s expanded from 77 pages to 105, plus a new chapter, images and the expansion of the photographic lighting chapter, it’ll still be free. Totally free, no gimmicks, no obligations, no worries. Those on the email list on http://www.freephotographybooks.com will be notified first! Again, no obligation, just be ready to download the printable PDF file when we announce it and please let all your friends and colleagues know so they too can share in the benefit of my fifth book, being free.

Well time to run and get ready for tonight’s festivities. I hope everyone has a safe and great time this weekend, and please, don’t forget in your prayers the service men and women who allow us to love in the free world. Don’t forget their friends and families, too, as they all, ultimately pay the biggest sacrifice in life. I salute you all! God bless you all too. Happy New Year and an even Better Decade! Rolando

Amazing Friends! Playboy Photographer and Casino Owner

Note: More behind scenes photos on my Facebook page!

Playboy's #1 Photog, Arny Freytag and I with Elite Model Jenni and KT

Playboy's #1 Photog, Arny Freytag and I with Elite Model Jenni and KT

As I return back from Las Vegas from a two-day semi-private instruction workshop and our three-day “Glamour, Beauty & the Nude” weekend workshop the thought of friendships come to mind—especially since I had several friends associated with this event, Arny Freytag, Gavin Maloof, Igor and Lucy Rivillis, Holley Dorrough, Jeff Whitted, Stephanie Dawn, the group of photographer attendees and my team of talented models.

Arny Freytag, Playboy’s top photographer, provided amazing instruction as a guest to our semi-private instruction first few days.  Gavin Maloof provided us with VIP treatment at his Palms casino and even had us over his house one evening so we could watch the NBA team he owns, the Sacramento Kings on his gigantic television in his theatre room.  Igor & Lucy Rivillis joined us for any support we needed as usual, and of course, I couldn’t have pulled this workshop off without my second in command, my make-up artist, Stephanie Dawn from Atlanta.  My models, what can I say, without them our lenses are left lifeless.  My hat’s off to all eight of the them and especially the attendees for all their efforts—everyone pitched in to make this Las Vegas workshop a cherished memory.

Palms Casino and Sacramento Kings owner Gavin Maloof at his house with (L to R) Stephanie Dawn, Playboy photographer Arny Freytag, Playboy Playmate Holley Dorrough, myself, Elite model Jenni and KT

Palms Casino and Sacramento Kings owner Gavin Maloof at his house with (L to R) Stephanie Dawn, Playboy photographer Arny Freytag, Playboy Playmate Holley Dorrough, Elite model Jenni and KT

Over the years I’ve had the pleasure of meeting many people, with those encounters comes new friends, though not all friendships last, which often makes me wonder how people generally define friendship.  When I was much younger our parents would make us watch 60-minutes and in one famous interview, the late Malcom Forbes described the meaning of success as when you could truly identify one real friend for each finger on each hand—Forbes claimed he was still working on his first hand.

Elite model Jenni poses while shooting at the Sky Villa Penthouse, Palms Casino during my workshop.

Elite model Jenni poses at the Sky Villa Penthouse, Palms Casino during my workshop.

I’m sure a lot of people who thought they were his friend that day, questioned with a gut check, their own definition of friendship.  Mine is simple, I follow Forbes formula when it comes to gauging my success, but I break down my friendships into two categories, business and personal, though sometimes the two will mix.  Then I further breakdown those friendships into the subcategories of political and realistic as I know many friendships exist for political correctness in today’s society.

So a politically correct business friendship is just that, they will only be around while it’s for the benefit of business and politically correct—Martha Stewart is a great example of learning who her business and personal friends were during her legal crisis.  I saw it in the U.S. Army when Command Sgt. Major Freddy Manning was the senior enlisted soldier who only answered to the United States Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM) Commander-in-Chief, Gen. George Joulwan.  We were all a team and everyone loved the SOUTHCOM sergeant major, everyone was his friend, from four-star generals on down, from every branch of the military.  While his uniform and position commanded respect, Sgt. Major Manning respected his troops and they respected him and his retirement ceremony was that of a general’s.

Eleya poses in the hot tub of the Sky Villa penthouse suite at the Palms Casino.

Eleya poses in the hot tub of the Sky Villa penthouse suite at the Palms Casino.

A few years after his retirement, I visited Sgt. Major Manning down in Georgia as we had done the Latin American Drug War together while I was stationed in USSOUTHCOM, and prior to that, we had been stationed together at V Corps in Frankfurt where he was the V Corps Command Sergeant Major.  We had more than a politically correct friendship, we both put in four years working personally for Gen. Joulwan at V Corps then USSOUTHCOM.   We traveled extensively together and on trips, you tend to bond.

While a few people stayed in contact with Sgt. Major Manning, he felt somewhat abandoned because after he quit being Gen. Joulwan’s right-hand man, the Christmas cards stopped flowing in and he was an example of having many “friends” that were only politically correct friends.

While our Vegas workshop was awesome, it had a few glitches, though my friend Gavin Maloof came through as a true friend to help us out and this says a lot about his character as he has no reason to be a “politically correct” friend with me—what can a photographer of my caliber bring him?  Nothing, the man has everything from owning a top Las Vegas casino, an NBA basketball team and even the ARCO arena they play in.  But Gavin Maloof was there to make sure we had what we needed.  Now that’s a friend and I salute you my friend.

Playboy's number one photographer Arny Freytag, Elite model Jenni and myself at the Palms casino on the day we arrived.

Playboy's number one photographer Arny Freytag, Elite model Jenni and myself at the Palms casino on the day we arrived.

I salute all my friends, especially those that helped out so much this past week to ensure Las Vegas was a success—you know who you are and what part you played!  Arny Freytag, I can’t say more than enough and I’ll see you soon in Jan. then in February as a VIP guest at my Los Angeles workshop.  And for those that want to know, yes, we’re back in Las Vegas (info here).

Thanks, and as I close, I ask everyone to not forget our military members, their families and friends, especially over the upcoming Christmas holidays, God Bless!  Rolando Gomez

To Write About Life, You Have to Experience It First

U.S. Army Pathfinder Training--Slingloading

U.S. Army Pathfinder Training--Slingloading

There is an old saying, “In order to write about life you must experience it first,” and when you’re my age, 47, you’ve got a lot to write about, though sometimes I don’t think people will believe half of what I’ve lived in my photographic career of over 30 years. Regardless, I’m a person who loves to convey messages of life through my photography and my writings, so I decided to give away my fifth photography how-to book away for free—because I want to give back, educate and tell the stories of the power of photography to help build or rebuild self-esteem, more specific, photographic therapy.


After all, who would believe that a U.S. Army, soldier, would be posing nude for the camera during an ongoing investigation on soldiers that sexually harassed her? Not to mention she was almost raped by an Army Ranger and the Army was doing its best to throw her out of the service because they didn’t want to deal with her. She took the chance while under this stress to pose nude for my camera and immediately began to feel better about herself.

Just like the story of the young Air Force officer who returned from the Officer Training School only to find her own clothes on the front porch because her newlywed husband chose the bridesmaid, her best friend, instead. Yes, she too used photography to overcome her sense of helplessness, betrayal, and rejection.

While I spent over 17 years combined federal service with the U.S. Army as an active-duty solider and as a U.S. Air Force civilian, not all the stories are military related like that of the young lady who lost 131 pounds thanks to bariatric surgery.

Yes, these stories did happen amongst many others that I was able to witness at times in the form of hearing, seeing, and believing thanks to my camera lens, my subject’s mirror. This process brings out life experiences in a subject who is in the need for photography to help build or rebuild self-esteem. I see it everyday as a photographer, people seek strength in the barrel of a lens, not a gun, but when the photographer fails or doesn’t comprehend the subjects needs, then the photographer’s lens barrel can fast become a gun barrel, especially for someone in a depressed state of mine.

Photographers must be careful in the photographic therapy process and understand they are not there to replace medically qualified professionals. Photography is powerful, hence why I’ve giving away my fifth photography book away for free. There are no gimmicks, no adware, no spyware; it’s a book designed in Adobe InDesign and edited by one of the top photography editors in the world, Alice Miller of Plum Communications. It’s a 3.1-megabyte file in a clean PDF format and like all my books, it’s 8 ½-inches by 11-inches, full color, with over 60 photos and captions.

Plus, it includes 11 chapters, a preface, index, recommended resources, and more make up this almost eighty-page book targeted for photographers but written and designed in a hybrid format so potential photographic therapy subjects can learn and perhaps relate to the stories told. Perhaps potentially even save a life, so please pass it on to your friends and colleagues that you can download a free copy at http://www.freephotographybooks.com or here at this blog. It’s free! You can’t beat that, especially when my other books sell for up to $40 at local bookstores worldwide. And if you feel the book has given you something of value, you can provide a donation toward the costs associated with the distribution of such a large file. Every little bit helps as I’ve returned back from another successful Virgin Islands workshop filled with life’s experiences that I’m sure I’ll write about someday. Thanks, don’t forget the troops and their families, God Bless–Rolando Gomez