I’m in the process of relocating back to the US from Japan, part of that means I mail my camera gear ahead of the move. I do this because I trust the US Postal Service far greater than movers hired by the government. Call me paranoid, but I’ve been transferring like this in the military for almost 40 years. If someone is intent on taking your stuff when you do a military transfer, they’ll get it; that’s been my experience anyway. Mailing most of my camera gear back meant I needed to decide what I wanted with me here from August till November or December when I get home. There was no question I’d be using my old Peak Design Everyday Messenger bag, the 15 inch wonder bag that started the messenger camera bag craze. What I am surprised about is how great of a bag this still is! Having lots of bags, I don’t always grab this one, but now that I’m down to this one, well… it’s working superbly.
Today, I’m using it working out of my car shooting the little fishing village of Arisaki near Yokosuka, Japan on the Miura Peninsula. The lenses I decided to keep with me during this transfer to the US were a 15-35mm and a 24-105mm to give me some versatility but not take up a ton of space. I’ve discovered that carrying one less lens in this bag than I normally carry actually works better and keeps the bag more functional. Working out of a car means I can have the camera on the passenger side for easy access but the magnetic latch makes it super easy to close when not in use and driving. I’ve gotten in the habit of jamming too much stuff in this bag over the years and while it handles it, it’s just so much easier with only two lenses when it comes to access and weight. The bag still looks much like when I bought it a few years ago and I have no problem telling people to get this bag, even this original model! While there is a version 2 of the 13 inch Everyday Messenger (EDM), the original 15 inch EDM only received minor improvements. I would love to see an upgraded 15 inch bag with the improvements put in to the 13 inch bag, but I don’t think that’s likely. While I’ve used backpacks and still have a few, the messenger style bags just seem to work better for me. This is especially true when changing lenses, there’s just better use of workspace that I don’t find in backpacks. Backpacks seem to work better if you plan to lay it on the ground. No matter how ‘easy’ the access is, I always seem to needs something nowhere near the access points.
If you’re looking for a bag that’s going to hold up, inside and out, the Peak Design Everyday Messenger 15 is still an awesome bag that can be found just about anywhere at a great price. Why am I writing about it now? Well, I just got a little giddy using it today realizing it was money well spent a few years ago. When the EDM bag came out it was the head turner, people couldn’t wait to get their hands on it, it was followed by even more great bags. In the process it seems this bag has gotten lost in the mix by some of us. However, it’s still relevant, still working like it was intended, and hopefully I’m in the minority of those letting this thing collect a little dust. When I get home, I see me using this old timer a little more!
Yesterday I was able to go out and shoot the USS Reagan as she departed for sea, through Tokyo Bay, from her homeport in Yokosuka, Japan. I was sitting at a parking lot on base looking in to the foggy bay, shooting in the rain, when my wife who is active duty Navy came from work. She came to have a glance mentioning this would probably be the last time she’d see an aircraft carrier departing. My wife is retiring at the end of the year and we’re off to Texas and we’ll both be retired, I retired 10 years ago. Until she mentioned this, the last time she’d watch a carrier depart, I hadn’t thought of it that way. It kind of hit home that I’ve been around the US Navy for 40 years now, I realized I need to get out there and shoot plenty of ships before leaving as the chances of finding ships in El Paso, Texas are fairly slim.
The USS Reagan, CVN-76, departed as I was shooting with a handful of families around me having soft conversations. It’s the part of the military most people don’t see, the part families don’t look forward to… Departing ships aren’t as much of a big deal as when they return, there was no band or ceremony, just these few families. There is nothing like the aircraft carrier departing, seeing the harbor tugs out there before waiting and clearing out the boat and ship traffic to be followed by a helicopter flying circles around the mighty ship slowly moving through the water; it’s a big evolution. On this rainy day, the weather was less than desirable as I stood there with the families photographing the Reagan. Now she slipped in to the fog bank quietly, with the loved ones aboard of those few around me.
Lately, I’ve thought a lot about my 30 years in the US Navy where I learned something very important; being a good or bad person had nothing to do with skin color, religion, gender, sexual preference, birthright, or financial background. That’s a lot, but it’s true. When you’re in the military, no matter your pay grade, you will have to depend on others. I’ve seen and worked with plenty of jerks of every category under the sun and likewise, also worked with so many incredibly good people of every skin color, gender, religion, and background. In the military you either play nice with others in the sand box or they won’t play with you, it’s that simple. At some point you will need them and they you. It’s built in to military life no matter the occupation.
Early on in my first 10 years of the military, beginning in the early 1980’s, I saw great leadership as well as some of the worst; neither had ANYTHING to do with skin color. One of the best leaders I ever worked for in my time was a US Air Force Master Sergeant who happened to be African American. This person was seriously the best of the best, took care of people, was an outstanding leader, and one of the best human beings in every way possible. Skin color simply didn’t matter, this person took care of us and we worked harder because of that. You could expect to be treated fairly in any situation, every day. Let me tell you, it doesn’t get any better than that. This is just one example of the many great people I’ve worked for/with in the military. However, one of the worst leaders I worked for happened to be white. This person had the uncanny ability to consistently make the wrong decision in a sea of great alternatives, every time! If they made a good decision, which wasn’t often, it was accidental. You could actually count of this person to drop the ball and let you down, like clockwork. They didn’t try to be an awful leader, unfortunately it just seemed to come naturally. No amount of time, no leadership course or mentoring could have helped because making bad choices appeared to be this person’s forte. You know what? With this person and the Master Sergeant mentioned above, skin color had absolutely nothing to with either person’s abilities. Of these two people, only an idiot would have actually chosen to work for the latter leader described.
After many years, I became a Senior Enlisted Leader or SEL, and I saw the same examples but from a different perspective. Being trusted with the enlisted sailors of a command as a Master Chief was both humbling and the honor of a lifetime. When looking from my pay grade down the chain of command, I saw many incredibly talented sailors, excellent performers, and it had NOTHING to do with skin color, religion, gender, sexual preference, etc… These were hard working people of every possible background who were patriotic and honestly wanted to do a good job every single day. For those who didn’t fit that mold for whatever reason, or even those outright trouble makers, I can honestly say that most were in their situations for reasons of their own making. It had nothing to do with background, ethnicity, or gender. As I looked up the chain of command from myself, again the same was true. I worked for just about every type of person, good, bad, those in the middle, and race still didn’t matter. While the military was integrated back in 1948, it’s not perfect, but like America it’s hopefully moving in the right direction. Unfortunately, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit experiencing a few alleged racists over those 30 years. I say alleged because these fools knew they couldn’t spout their hateful beliefs openly where they’d likely be outed. They weren’t smart, they were spinelessly careful, and they looked for other like minded fools. Almost all of these people were very unhappy and had nothing but excuses for the reasons things didn’t go their way. It was shameful to see how they’d convince themselves that everyone, but them, was somehow responsible for their situations. They were the finger pointers who disregarded that old analogy of pointing a finger at someone means you’re really pointing three fingers back at yourself. There’s a good chance one of them will read this, my views won’t surprise them and I’m alright with that.
Regarding me, there’s one additional item, I’m a police officer’s son, I know what it feels like when Dad goes to work at midnight. I’ve known a lot of cops growing up and still meet many when I’m out shooting photos. I usually strike up a conversation just to make sure I won’t be in their way for some reason when shooting, I especially did this while photographing in Washington, DC. Honestly, watching ex-police officer Chauvin with his knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck for 7+ minutes, while Mr. Floyd and bystanders pleaded for Chauvin to stop, made me feel sick. Derek Chauvin’s actions shouldn’t define all police officers, it’s a tough job. They leave their families each day putting their lives on the line to protect us as a society. However, law enforcement is better off without the Dereck Chauvin’s on the force. Even if Mr. Floyd was up to no good, it surely didn’t need to result in his death. Ex-police officer Chauvin had 7+ minutes to find another way to restrain Mr. Floyd who didn’t look like he was trying to escape. He had 7+ minutes to do change tactics while cameras were filming. Chauvin had 7+ minutes to be what the public expected from a law enforcement officer when it honestly counted. For 7+ minutes the ex-officer chose not to listen to the citizens pleading for him to stop. I don’t know much about ex-officer Dereck Chauvin, but I do believe he had NO reason or right to be Mr. Floyd’s sole judge, jury, and executioner for 7+ minutes in time.
Now, at the top of this I said being a good or bad person had nothing to do with skin color, religion, gender, sexual preference, birthright, or financial background. In my experience, people are defined by moral compass, character, and how they treat others, that’s what is meant by playing “nice with others in the sand box” described above. When I look back at my time in the military, remembering all the great leaders, those co-workers who are now dear friends, and those shipmates no longer with us, the last feature about them that stands out is race. If all the people who helped me in some way on active duty, or since as a military dependent and retiree, were suddenly and individually plucked from my memories by skin color, there just wouldn’t be much left. If I had ever embraced racism, all those incredible people I’ve mentioned and most of all my own Mexican-American wife, would have never entered my life. I can’t begin to imagine that because my life would be so much different, and not for the better. Hopefully 7+ minutes can result positive change, a needed social awareness, and a clearly articulated way forward to eradicate racism. Hopefully, those tragic 7+ minutes of time mattered and will teach society the lessons needed to leave our country a better place where ALL our children are treated the same.
I found out today that two of my photos are to be shown digitally, it’s always cool when this happens! Both of these exbitions were possible through Gurushots.com. I like Gurushots not only for the exposure from these exhibitions but also to see what other photographer’s are doing creatively. Viewing photos at Gurushots, Flickr, and a few other places only helps me to get better.
This photo was taken recently near where I currently live in Yokosuka, Japan. I was walking near Verny Park in the morning and able to see the base where the US and Japanese ships are docked. The sun was obscured mostly because of the buildings but a little light was hitting these Japanese submarines making for a cool effect. Really hoping to get some shots of these heading to, or from, the sea. This shot, Morning Subs, was selected to be digitally shown at the Blank Wall Gallery in Athens, Greece in the Mostly Black Exhibit from December 13-15, 2019. Living in Japan has been a great experience so far, I’m trying to capture as many ‘daily life’ type shots and while a photo like this might seem to not fit that category, it does. Yokosuka is a HUGE Navy town, not just for the US but the Japanese as well, something I was unaware of prior to living here.
I lived in northern Virginia in 2017 and loved every minute of it. I didn’t really know much about Alexandria, VA prior to living at Fort Belvoir, but it quickly came to be one of all-time favorite cities. This was for a few reasons, first I’m a huge history nerd and Alexandria is history nerd central! Second, for shooting stock photography it was a target rich environment. Whether I wanted/needed food shots, generic patriotic material, or flags (literally EVERYWHERE), it was all there in front of me! This shot, called Plum Crates, was taken at the Old Town Alexandria Farmer’s Market held on Saturday mornings next to City Hall. It the four corners of wooden plum crates, I shot a few others but this one stuck with me more. The photo was selected to show at the BBA Circle in the “Artistic Still Life” exhibit from January 31-February 2, 2020.
As always, thank you to all of you for the support I receive and hope you enjoy the blog. I really am trying to keep it going this time around!
Today I’m shooting the USS Ronald Reagan departing Yokosuka, Japan on a Tiger Cruise this morning. A Tiger Cruise is a one day trip where family and friends come along, very cool. Living on a naval base has its perks! Look for pics in the future, meanwhile check out my photos at BillChizekPhotography.com.
About This Photo: This is about Wisky, Wisky is not a typo, yes it’s without the H. Wisky, not the bourbon kind, this is Wisky, the Navy kind. Wisky was the nickname of the USS Wisconsin (BB-64), a WWII era battleship that, like her three mighty sister ships, America couldn’t seem to do without. She was originally commissioned in 1944 near the end of the Second World War but would be recommissioned two more times and decommissioned a total of three times! This beautiful ship, and piece of history, now sits in Norfolk, VA. Back in 2016, I was going to one of my bestest bud’s retirement from the US Navy and decided to turn it in to a photo trip. Having lived in Norfolk a couple of times, it originally wasn’t my cup of tea but over the years it really grew on me. Going there just for a ceremony was cool, but turning it in to something much more could be even better. Besides Wisky, the plan was to get some shots at Williamsburg, Jamestown, andsome rural shots as well. Shooting well-documented sites and objects in a new way is always a challenge, sometimes I’ll research before leaving just to see what NOT to shoot. Upon arriving at BB-64 in Norfolk, I set up right in front of the battleship and tossing the rule of thirds out the window, shot straight down the middle of the bow to get this BW shot called Wisky. With the clouds behind BB64, no wind with calm waters to reflect, and no tourists at this given time, I took quite a few shots like this. While I tried adhering to the rule of thirds, it just didn’t speak to me on this occasion Shooting to the left would leave out the apartments and shooting to the right would miss out on the museum that houses the warship. It felt to me like both of those aspects needed to be included. Another photo, the similar color shot called Centered, came out decent and I really like both shots. Confident that I got what I wanted, I wanted to find other angles and include items located there as well such as statues and park benches. Checked all those off the list!
After shooting plenty in the immediate vicinity of the ship, I noticed a parking garage across the street and wanted to see if I could get up high and have a look. There was an elevator, why not take it? Well… it’s what I call the Chizek Luck. Here’s a summary of the Chizek Luck; almost any time that I’m fortunate, like being the guy who gets in the shortest line at the grocery store, it’s usually followed by having the “closed” sign go up with the person in front of me. Sure, the cashier is always sorry, tells me how bad they feel, but I understand the Chizek Luck well. Heck, even my 7 & 10 year old daughters picked up on my luck. If I were to take that elevator to the top, somebody, somewhere, would tell me about some missed opportunity or show me their award winning photo THEY got by taking the stairs in that building… Deciding to hoof it up five or six floors, I came around the corner on about the third floor and was looking at Wisky through a dirty window in the stairwell. I’m honestly not sure why, but something inside said, “shoot it” and up I went to the top. I reached the roof of the parking garage, forgetting about the window shot, and went to work with the intended shoot. Both of the below photos were taken from the garage, on the left is Norfolk (B&W) and on the right is Anchor Up. While I like both of these photos, it’s Dirty Glass, the photo taken in the stairwell that hangs in my little office. After returning from the Virginia trip and beginning to work on the photos, I noticed this window photo, it clicked with me. Maybe it’s because my usual luck didn’t hold true or because of the little voice inside that said “shoot it” had compelled me to listen. This was a spontaneous shot that just worked, the angle of the ship, the light and shadows, even the dirt on the window make it cool. Anyway, I love this shot and it gets looks when my Navy friends come over, and for me, that’s the best part.
For those of you who don’t know, when it comes to photography I’m what you might call a late starter. I became interested in photography after joining the US Navy in 1981 and my first camera, the Canon AE1 Program (left) cost half of my monthly salary. I was living in Italy and shooting with film was crazy expensive, plus I was a really crappy shooter. To save money, I sent my film to a company in California, they would develop the film as slides and send them back; it was cheap. Then I could pick out the keepers, send back the slides, and they would return the slides with prints. Why all this? Well, it prevented paying for multiple blurry photos shot with different settings (the crappy shooter thing) but it also took weeks to get prints. At just twenty years old, living in Italy, I wisely chose sell the camera gear and spend the extra cash on Napolitan pizza, pasta, and European beer. In the last years of my Navy career, I took up photography again with a little Sony DSC-W7 digital camera
and eventually moved to DSLR’s. This photo of Mount Vesuvius, at right called Morning Blues was taken with that camera. Retiring in 2011 after 30 years as a US Navy Musician, my remained on active duty. By 2014, photography was getting to be a serious hobby so I began blogging, it was a way to post what I was doing as well as talk about my photos. I currently hold the titles of military retiree, military dependent, and stay at home dad which is WAY harder than it sounds. In the summer of 2017, my wife transferred and we moved from Coronado, CA to the Washington, DC area. I couldn’t have been happier, my love of photography is paralleled by my love of history! My wife’s transfer put us smack in the middle of everything I loved! I was so floored by everything around us in the northern Virginia/DC area that I completely let the blog fall by the wayside…
By the summer of 2017, the blog was a memory, not intentionally, there was just so much to do and see near our new home. I didn’t leave the house without a camera it seemed. We lived thirty minutes from a half dozen Civil War battlefields, the Smithsonian Museums, near the colonial city of Alexandria, and everything that comes with Washington, DC! The last blog post in September 2017 was The Old Switch-a-roodetailing my recent switch from a Sony a7R II back to the Canon 6d Mark II, a move I don’t regret to this day. I had also been a user of Peak Design bags for a couple of years and loved them. However, after moving to DC, there was another company that I loved, more on that later – maybe a future post? I was selling stock photography at this point for about six months and was making a few bucks. Since then it has taken off in a big way, it has become a small business. Stock photography is tricky and it’s difficult to know where photos are used unless I search or someone tells me. By the time the blog died in September, I discovered one of my photos had been used on the cover of National Geographic India’s Road Trip Edition the previous April. My car photo, The Fifties, was used as a composite image where another photographer’s photo was used in the hubcap (right). I couldn’t have been happier, especially when credited for the photo inside the cover! It seems every photographer’s dream is to end up in NatGeo any way possible, that was simply amazing. Since then, my stock photos have been used many times, pretty happy about that too; click [HERE] to view them.
After a little more than a year in DC, my wife was transferred again; this time to Japan where this post is being banged out. While I hated leaving DC, at least it was for a place as cool as this. However, I recently pondered the mistake of not blogging while in DC and decided not to make that mistake again. I went back to WordPress, reactivated the old account, and quicker that jack rabbits making love – everything was sitting there just as I left it. It was as if Congress was asked to do something with it, nothing happened at all! Everything was there, even the previous followers! The goal now is to post something thought out, or as much as this brain can manage, every two weeks. In between those posts I’ll post live from wherever I happen to be shooting from, something for which I currently use Instagram (@ BillChizekPhotography). If you’re checking this out for the first time, THANK YOU! You can follow or subscribe on the right side of this blog to receive notifications for new posts. If you’ve returned, welcome back and thank you as well! I’m really looking forward to this blog and future feedback, hope to hear from you!
Selling stock photos has been going well this year. However, while most photos for my website make it to the stock sites with logos and trademarks removed, the reverse isn’t true as many stock photos don’t make it to BillChizekPhotography.com. These can range from the texture of a wall, grass with morning dew, or a piece of wood; subjects that allow copy space for advertisers to insert text, nothing appealing for a photography website. That said, I try to post a variety of photos about five days a week to my website and all the stock photos taken that week. Posting one photo daily ensures website traffic, if I posted thirty photos most visitors would just look at them one time and move on. Posting as many stock photos weekly as possible is important because they don’t make money sitting on a hard drive. However, this year I decided to post nothing but patriotic stock photos for the long Fourth of July weekend. For this, I used stock photos of flags flying in the yards near where we live in Coronado, California. Not surprising to anyone living in Coronado, but many homes here fly the flag year round. In fact, only the photo at the top of this post was taken on the actual Fourth of July weekend (click HERE for original photo). Yes, you’d be hard pressed to find a more patriotic community west of the Mississippi!
This is largely due Coronado having a unique military history, a good portion of Coronado’s land is occupied by Naval Air Station North Island. Almost since the beginning of Naval Aviation, many Naval Aviators have relocated to Coronado at various points in their careers. Many homes proudly display blue yard signs reading “Home of a Naval Aviator” and these are everywhere. To say this little town is kind of proud of the US Navy is like saying that little town back in Wisconsin is kind of proud of their Packers. That’s why most of these photos were shot months ago in anticipation that advertisers would be looking for patriotic photos for their Independence Day deadlines. Coronado was the perfect location for this because with flags flying year round, my patriotic stock photo search was mostly complete last May. This photo to the left may look like it’s been set up for an upcoming holiday, but this street looks like this practically for 365 days of the year! Yes, even with the white picket fences.
Coronado is home to many active duty and retired military, plus it’s the home of the US Navy SEAL’s who train here. Since 2007, Coronado has been home to our family for about seven years. It’s where I, like many others, retired from the military. It’s probably because Coronado is just one of those places that’s comfortable to military people because being retired military here isn’t a novelty. This is probably another the reason that flags fly year round here. Shooting stock photography here couldn’t have been easier, if I liked a particular photo but felt it was missing something, I didn’t have to spend hours in Photoshop doctoring the pic to get it right nor did I need to seek new locations. All that was needed was to return to the same location at a different time of day! The differences between morning and evening lighting, seasons, and weather all ensured a variety of photo settings.
The photo location for this shot at left didn’t work the few times I tried, it was always lacking something. However, returning one morning and catching the sun behind the flag seemed to make it click. As a photographer, that’s one of the nice things about living somewhere that others travel to for vacation, if you don’t get a photo the way you want it you can just return later. While I’ve loved living here, my wife a service member and it’s our time to roll to the next place to call home for a while. Fortunately we’re moving to another incredible place that should prove interesting not only for photography but for our family as well, Virginia. As a former adjunct history professor and lifelong history buff/nerd/geek, I can’t think of another place I’d rather be located other than at my own house in Texas. Coronado has been a great place to raise our daughters, who have loved the beaches and learning to swim at the rec center, leaving friends and Coronado will be tough. While moving an entire house every three years or so can be draining, once settled at the new location this nomadic lifestyle can be rewarding. Since taking up photography, military transfers seem to recharge the creative batteries. In Coronado, even the below photo of springtime and blooming flowers came out patriotic, ya… it’s just that kind of place.
I shoot stock photography, like the above photo, and there is always a demand for patriotic photos during this time of the year with Armed Forces, Memorial, Independence, and Veterans Days all within a few months of each other. The night before Memorial Day is a great opportunity to photograph as the flags have been put in place, there are cemetery workers present but the property is generally empty, so I know I’m not bothering anyone visiting graves. This is from my Facebook page, written about my experience this year, the night before Memorial Day:
“Last night I took my girls to Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery here in San Diego. Rosecrans will be packed today so we are going to the ceremony in Coronado. I do this because I want my girls growing up with, and understanding, Memorial Day and not being part of a generation who doesn’t seem to care for, or appreciate, these things. While shooting these photos, I saw a lady sitting on a blanket over a grave, drinking a glass of wine, and wiping tears away. I decided to talk to her but warned my girls that she may want to be left alone and that no matter her reaction, it was ok. If she had told me to go away I would have said, “I’m sorry ma’am” and left. Well, I walked up, extended my hand and said, “I don’t want to bother you, but I just want to say thank you for your family’s sacrifice.” She said thank you, told me it was nice to hear that. She began telling me about her husband, a Navy Senior Chief and one of the SEAL’s killed during Operation Red Wings in Afghanistan (2005). He was in the helicopter that was shot down trying to rescue Marcus Luttrell (the Lone Survivor), Michael Murphy and their two fellow SEAL’s.* The helicopter going down was the single greatest loss of life in Navy SEAL history. We talked about her husband and Navy life, how he wanted to be a Master Chief, and then about us and Raquel (my wife) being at sea. While wiping tears away she assured my girls that “mommy will be home soon.” I almost cried myself at that point, I told her that I’ve gotten to know some SEAL wives where I live and it makes me realize how blessed I’ve been because of their community and what they do; how her husband, and people like him, aren’t forgotten. Afterwards, my daughter Amanda commented on how her husband was killed 12 years ago and she’s still crying… While I could have taken an incredible photo of this lady with the sun going down behind her as she sat on a blanket and an American flag pillow over her husbands grave, our conversation was better than any photo I could have taken.”
From a photography standpoint, I learned that just because you have a camera in hand doesn’t mean you should take a photo. While I was talking to her, I had my camera the entire time and I never once thought of using it. This moment was bigger than a photo opportunity; I cautiously entered her space, at a very private moment, and she graciously allowed me to stay. This experience left an impression not only on myself, but my oldest daughter as well. I think it’s as close as an eight year old girl can come to understanding that time sometimes doesn’t heal all wounds; that hurt can sometimes last a lifetime. Fortunately, I didn’t just drive by this lady but took a minute to talk with her and learned about her husband, but mostly their sacrifice. These families endure more than any of us will ever know, I’d imagine most of these service members will tell you that they’re just doing their jobs. I think they’re bigger than that and so are their families. This incredible woman shared a very private part of her life with me and it was an honor to meet her and be in her presence.