Thursday, December 8, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011: New Traditions

Thanksgiving is gaining new traditions with a growing family. The Keehns (my mother's side) celebrated an exciting family trivia game that will include "new blood" next year. ;-)

This year's holiday brought back many memories of gathering at my grandmother Kay Keehn's home in Seguin. The four daughters have ensured the history and value for tradition lives on with the grandkids, and we will furnish new but familiar traditions for our children.

Click the photo to view a slideshow:

Kathryn Fox, 7, swings in the hammock at my sister's home in Bryan, near College Station.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Russo's Spot

First shots with my new 28mm f2.8. About to hit the spot.

Robert Russo unloads wood for his concrete company Sunday. He built the covered skate spot with his son, Ben, about five years ago. A skater in the 80s, Russo has since hung up the boards.

Ben built a skateboard press and sells boards for $7.

"Chicken," as she is named, is the lone survivor of nine chickens that produced eggs for the Russos, until a wildcat raided the coop last year.

Thrashed my board.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

times beneath the train tracks

On my way to skate an unexplored ditch, I found this couple sharing a moment as the train roared overhead.

Eric Odom, 17, and Nina Gomez, 16, talk and eat under the Banister Ln. bridge as an
Amtrak train rumbles overhead Saturday in Austin. "We just had the munchies so we came down here," said Odom. He said they spend several hours together under the bridge every week.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Skateboard Wonderland

A skater in my neighborhood built this wonderland two minutes from my house. I was in awe. When nobody answered the door, I couldn't help myself from skating the strange and magical place. Then some other boarders showed up and I felt relieved that "anyone can skate."

Click the picture for a slideshow.

Monday, September 26, 2011

For Melissa and Cory Smith

Before taking engagement photos for Melissa and Cory Smith around the South Congress Bridge in Austin, I honestly didn't feel happy. I don't want to be solely a wedding photographer or portrait photographer, but I needed to get out and see that it's all about making good pictures for people. They are a couple of high school sweethearts from 5,000-population La Grange, Texas.

Click the photo for a slideshow of favorites.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Steiner Ranch Wildfire

Don Dickson, 63, sifts through the remains of his home of 19 years Thursday on Canyon Road, five days after a fire broke out in the Steiner Ranch area of Austin. Click the photo for a slideshow.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Dock

Click photo for a slideshow!

Entering the cabin area, I found my cousin Carl Langner sleeping. It was his 28th birthday the day before.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Bill's Bus Yard

Click for a slideshow and description:

Monday, August 22, 2011

Special Olympics

It was a sigh of relief to be out shooting sports. I came to watch and snap some shots of my friend Eric Mullins, an all-sports athlete and spokesperson for the The Special Olympics, compete in a softball tournament at Koger Stokes Complex, across from SAC.

Erich bats.

Special Olympics photog John Bost

Limo Joe

"Limo" Joe has lived behind Home Depot for over six years. He got the nickname Limo because he once ran a limo service, along with two other businesses, before money "became God."

"I went crazy and gave all the money to my kids," he says. Limo's daughter serving in the marines will send him clothes and food, but he refuses money he doesn't ask.

Since then, Limo says he's found everything he needed in life by losing it. He has almost died three times on the streets, but surviving physically is the only hard part for him. Giving up his idol of money allowed Limo to find the joy and peace of Christ and his Spirit, and a humility that only comes with a reverent fear of God.

I was blessed to deliver food to him and other homeless on the Northside as a part of the Bread and Water ministry at Northwest Community Church.

They wonder about "the girls" who come down from Austin on weekends to walk the streets to make money, using it to buy makeup at the Walgreens nearby. They complain about the system, those in leadership who cannot offer any solutions. "Give us bags and pay us to clean up the streets," Limo once asked a judge in vain.

Proverbs 22 is one of his favorite passages from The Bible.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Another Old Room

A brief poem is necessary for this room where I've grown ten years. The next dwelling awaits in Austin! Next week, I begin staying with my aunt and uncle above Lake Travis, where I'll freelance and save money until, hopefully, UT calls my name.

Ready to leave this room;
return upon new seasons:
Remember what has changed;
realize what never could.

Searching through a prism,
seeing the light and shadow of life;
sensing absence and presence.
Soul stirring in a cold wind.

Tomorrow's room isn't as reminding,
the rent in a new town or city,
teaching you more about living.
Tell me again because I'm tired of unwinding.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Roswell Ranch

It's dry in Texas. Really dry. But that didn't stop my mom, Jan, cousin Roger and Tia Nancy from making a day-trip out to our cousins' 15,000 acre hunting ranch in Eagle Pass, Texas, where good times with greatly missed family awaited us. Click pic below to view a slideshow!

Saturday, July 2, 2011


I could not be more happy for my sister Lisa Cleveland and the love of her life, Michael Niswander. They met at His Hill Ranch Camp (Comfort, TX) in 2007, and their relationship grew as counselors there. Below, they began to skip and smile in a new life together. Click to see a slideshow! A note on the pics: black & white shots are included in addition to color as personal preference.

Click for rehearsal pics:

And the wedding:

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Lisa - UNT Music Graduate

It was a special moment watching my sister walk across the stage. Click pic below for a slideshow!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


The original office (now abandoned) of the Southwest Workers' Union on the Eastside

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Blue Baker Cookies for Kids Contest

Click pic below for a slideshow!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Lisa and Mike, Engaged!

I love these two. It's impossible not to laugh when they are with you, together. My sister Lisa was engaged to Mike Niswander Jan. 25th.

Click photo below to view a slideshow:

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Trunk Organizer

I spent about $25 to build an organizer for the trunk of my 2006 Honda Civic EX. Check the specs...

The Trunk Organizer. Features include skateboard racks for two boards, top shelf and changeable dividers. All components can be removed or manipulated slots and Velcro attachments.

The grain of black-stained cedar, the most lightweight wood. The top shelf provides an additional nine inches of storage space above the trunk floor (eleven inches).

The organizer weighs only 20 pounds without the skateboards.

Velcro dividers allow manipulation with ease.

Rear complete with cooler for food and drinks. It is the main storage area, providing the full 19 inches of trunk height. Seat drop-down lock (only accessible from inside trunk) are rigged to allow interior access but can be switched back with precious cargo.


Monday, March 7, 2011

The Beatles, brains and bambinos

Richard Turner, owner of Redbone Guitar Boutique, 4343 McCullough Ave., through a portrait of Paul McCartney in “The Beatles Cave,” a section named for a club the group performed in in their early days featuring memorabilia. From 9 a.m.-noon Sundays, Turner hosts “The Best of The Beatles With Richard Turner,” the longest-running show on ...KSYM 90.1 FM. He started the show in 1986 while attending RTF classes. Read more:
Pictures from a competition where six teams of faculty and students answered trivia questions for the title of "The Big Brain on Campus."

Trophies display a cartoon.

Martha Buchanan, student success professional in arts and sciences, waves a child's chair as she enters the stage Thursday, as part of team Mugwumps in Big Brain on Campus in McAllister Auditorium. Her team finished second of six teams.

Jeff Hunt, chair of theater and speech communictations, asks trivia questions.

English Professor Patricia Portales crosses out Sesos Pequenos from the score board after they were eliminated.

Economics Coordinator Bruce Norton watches the final moments of the competition with political science Chair Paul Wilson. Norton's team Entourage won the competition last fall.

Team Know-Nothings team members Tim Rockey, dean of continuing education and workforce development; John Visintainer, philosophy chair; Vernell Walker, dean of professional and technical education; Dr. Conrad Krueger, dean of arts and sciences, pose for a photo after winning the competition. Behind them, Nick Benedetto, administrative secretary for professional and technical education, lowers his head after his team, the Mugwumps, finished second two competitions in a row.

Bambinos at the rodeo!

Corey Verstraeten, 10, laughs as his friends, Tanner Bowman, 8, Sarah Haby, 11 and Tillman Haby, 11, play with the "Footsie Wootsie" foot massage chairs Feb. 8 at the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo on the grounds of the AT&T Center. "We were given $5 and we turned it all into quarters," said Sarah, who, along with her cousins, is missing school to enter pigs for competition at the rodeo from Atascosa, Texas, southwest of San Antonio in Bexar County.

Bobby Salinas Jr., 9, holds his $60 rubber band gun Feb. 8, while listening to advice from Stephen Morris, who has hand-made the guns for more than 35 years at the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo. "He's earned it," said his dad, Bobby Salinas Sr., adding that his son wakes up at 6:30 a.m. everyday to help raise hogs for rodeo competition at their ranch in Mullin, Texas, 300 miles north of San Antonio.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Given Chance

My life has been a blessing of many blessings. I don't believe in chance, only the opportunities God gives us to make the most with until the next one (every moment!).

The essay below was submitted, with one edit, in my transfer application to the University of Texas at Austin, the only school I applied. The university is the only real choice for me, as no other school in Texas offers a communications degree in visual journalism. I just hope they choose me.

Given Chance

Hands cuffed, swelled in pain under the weight of my mistakes. Eyes exhausted, fought tears of regret but could not hold back my joy, finally realized. After abusing drugs to the point of feeling nothing, the life I lost for years was given back with a flash of light in the mirror, a confession of what kept me from pulling over sooner from the cycle I was caught in. I was given a second chance at life; a "blessing in disguise." There was a time I didn't believe in God, and a lot changed before then to bring me to where I am now –– forever grateful.

What I naively deemed "just a phase" of using drugs, didn't end until the night I pulled out of a parking lot without my car headlights turned on. During the years before I turned 17, what began as pure exercise turned into pure experimentation that trapped me. Skateboarding has always been a form of self-expression for me, yet the gravitational force between my body and the ground moving beneath me also led to following friends down ditches to a place that, in our fragile adolescence, we unknowingly depended on for each other.

Every moment in my life has felt somewhat like a dream since then, moving so fast as if all the choices have been unconsciously made for me. Getting arrested was the catalyst in a series of events that changed the course of my life indefinitely. My parents mercifully bought detox necessary so I could work as a drummer in "The Jammin' Janitors" at Sea World. This "dream job," that was my first, ended bitter-sweetly when the show was cut, leaving me to apply as a photographer that next summer. Observing guests treasure their photos influenced me to study the craft for my senior mentorship project. I wouldn’t have received a head start in my career of choice if the one in 135 lottery balls hadn’t rolled out so I could attend Communications Arts High School. In a similar fate-like fashion that preceded every event until then, my teacher chose for me to study photojournalism, my practice of three years at San Antonio College that is now my passion and lifestyle.

I am convinced I’ll never have to "work" a day in my life. I've always loved my jobs, and always will if I'm helping people. I owe everything to my parents, and everyone that ever helped them. No matter how hard I work to achieve my goals, I know it's because they instilled character and belief in me from the beginning. My father is a home health nurse, his compassion and strong work ethic lending to my own. Two older sisters shared their gentleness, my privilege of a humble heart.There were many others, too, that offered everything they could along the way. Dusty vinyl records of The Alamo City Jazz Band and artistic photographs, objects of a life's musical talents and creative eye that I have experienced in my own, were passed down from my mom's dad, who I never had the chance to meet after a drunk driver took his life during her pregnancy. Surely, I would not be alive if my mom, the most resilient person I know, did not survive her own birth after a rare abdominal surgery that doctors told reporters the fourth morning, "was hopeless. God had a hand in its success."

It was in that moment of reflection in the backseat police car window, of finally seeing myself for who I really am, that reminded me of who I never wanted to be. Every event that followed has reinforced my belief that while changes in life occur unexpectedly, it's up to me to make the most of my future by embracing the significance of every person, place and opportunity that came before. My life as a photojournalist is just beginning. Looking back at where I came from keeps me focused on each new day, when I can be so much more.

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Wat Dhammabucha

Down a narrow road that winds behind suburban San Antonio, past old houses and the last remains of land once called "the boondocks," lay one of San Antonio's more hidden gems of cultural diversity: the Wat Dhammabucha Buddhist mission. The bright-red and golden sign hangs amidst a hill-country style neighborhood of mostly Thai immigrants, a hill-top view of the Leon Valley water tower as traffic moves along Bandera Road.

I had only a faint idea of golden Buddha statues and ornate temples that could form a backdrop to my portrait-feature assignment of a student who chose life as a monk over a career in music after coming to the United States from Thailand in 2004.

Accounting sophomore Surasit Mankongsakulkit sits in the temple Sunday before a statue of Buddha, who isn't worshiped but simply followed for his philosophy of attaining self-enlightenment.

A Buddhist monk enters the meal hall Sunday at the Wat Dhammabucha Buddhist mission. Shoes are removed before entering buildings as a Buddhist practice of “keeping what is unclean outside,” Mankongsakulkit said.

Wan Wallace prays Sunday in the meal hall before the monks begin eating. The mission began more than 20 years ago based on Theravada Buddhism, strongest in Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Thailand, Laos and Myanmar. Theravada means “the doctrine of the elders” and emphasizes attaining self-liberation through meditation and concentration.

Mankongsakulkit passes food down the line Sunday in the meal hall. Buddhist practice holds that the monks eat only one meal daily, which is provided by local restaurants and other Buddhists.

Mankongsakulkit talks with fellow monk, Phra Pong. “We work a few hours a day,” he said, noting that 10 monks help keep up the 15-acre mission grounds.

Mankongsakulkit talks with Elby Flinn Sunday with his dog, Sassy. "You guys have been great to the neighborhood," Flinn said of the Buddhists. For over 20 years, the mission has strived to protect the wildlife and natural landscape amidst an increasingly urban San Antonio.

Surasit Mankongsakulkit uses a leaf blower near the temple while working Sunday. Mankongsakulkit wakes up at 6 a.m. to chant with the other monks before his 9 a.m. class here.