Category Archives: Personal Photos

A need fulfilled

Keigan working under his truck (20130404_07065)

We don’t know what we want until it enters our lives.  That’s why want is the source of greed and jealousy.  We see something, hear something, taste something, touch something, and in the aftermath of the encounter we find our desire kindled, and those flames scorch reason on the pyre of covet.

But need is different.  We need air, food, water, warm clothes in winter, tears when the pain becomes too much.  Needs are inherent like the color of our eyes.  And yet we don’t always recognize our own needs until something comes along to fulfill them.

Keigan petting his dog (20130404_07105)

Many years ago I met a family—they probably don’t remember that meeting, but I certainly do.  Visiting the family farm, I stood at the end of the driveway leading to the private road and watched a mother and her two kids approach.  My parents introduced us, told me this family lived in the new community being built along the bayou just down the road, and we stood and talked for a bit.

The mother, a woman named Denise, talked of the male alligator in the swamp near her home, listening to him rumble and grumble in his search for a mate, spoke of seeing him through a heavy downpour.  And her children, a daughter named Kenzie and a son named Keigan, shuffled their feet nervously in the presence of someone they didn’t know, but they burgeoned with life and vitality whilst dealing with my parents, whom they knew quite well.

Keigan in thought (20130508_07138)

I didn’t see that family again except in passing during a few of my visits in the intervening years.  They seemed like nice people, sure, but they were separate from me and my life in Dallas.  Whatever value they held, it hinged entirely on my parents.

Then I moved to the family farm in February 2012.  Once again I was confronted by this family, albeit under different circumstances.  And in that newfound contact I discovered a need I hadn’t recognized before, one now fulfilled, one now meaningful, one now central to me like the air I breathe and the food I eat, one like a warm blanket on a chill winter day.

Keigan talking on the phone (20130508_07223)

I’m kicking off a new series of posts to celebrate a member of that family.  He’s my brother, though at first I thought of him as a punk, then as an intelligent and interesting young man, then as an acquaintance who became a friend who became so much more.

Keigan becomes a senior in the next few weeks after his junior year ends.  For my first people-only photo project, I’ve agreed, with his sister Kenzie’s help, to photographically document his last year of high school, to help capture those memories for his family—but mostly for him.

Keigan driving (20130512_07236)

Although, honestly, it’s as much for me as it is anyone else.  We spend a great deal of time together, we talk, we go out, we laugh, we have fun, we care for each other in good times and bad.  Yet I know at the end of his high school years he will move on, venture out into the big bad world, take his life in the directions he wants and needs.  And in so doing, he will leave this place we call home, he will leave the world we live in, he will no longer be a daily part of my life.

So I want to capture those memories for his family, but I also want to capture them for me.  In just a year he has become essential to me and has made my life better and brighter.

Keigan stylin' (20130513_07341)

He’s the little brother I never had, the little brother I never knew I needed, the little brother who now represents so much joy and love and kinship.  He’s the little brother I gained in a year and he’s the little brother I will say goodbye to in another year.  Give or take.

Distance and absence will not change what we have.  I believe that sincerely, without question, sans hesitation.  But things will change; they always do.

Keigan looking hip (20130513_07346)

So for the next year I will share here some of the memories worth sharing, albeit I will keep the best for him and his family.  The photos and thoughts I share will be selected carefully while Denise, Kurt, Kenzie, Austin and Keigan hold the dearest closely for themselves.

This series is about a need fulfilled, a need I never knew I had, a need Keigan brought to light simply by being himself.  This series is about his last year in high school.

Keigan stylin' (20130513_07361)

This series is about a boy becoming a man.  This series is about someone facing the future.

This series is about family.

This series is about my brother.

Keigan taking his hat off (20130513_07366)

— — — — — — — — — —

Yes, I’m talking about Keigan from A boy and his cow (intro, part 1, part 2 & part 3), a series I need to finish.  Especially because I’ve photographed several shows since that first one, and most notably because he will continue showing with Bella throughout his senior year.  I promise I’ll bring that series up to date as quickly as I can so I can include their continuing adventures in this new series of posts.

No, this doesn’t mean I’ve given up on nature photos.  Trust me when I say I have so many images to share in that category that I don’t have to take another nature picture for years to come in order to keep the posts coming.  Though I promise to keep taking and sharing nature photos just as I’ve always done.  However, this series about Keigan and his family through his senior year will be as central as nature has always been.

Yes, I do have biological brothers—two older and one younger half-brother.  One has been lost to his own prejudices, one lives his life and visits when he can with his wife and kids, and the other has been gone for decades for reasons too complicated to explain.  It’s not that I never had a brother, but instead it’s because Keigan endeared himself to me for many reasons and became the little brother I wish I’d grown up with.

Yes, his family likewise became my extended family, each of whom I love dearly.  They’ve graciously welcomed me into their lives, trusted me with their home and themselves, allowed me to play a bit part on the stage of their world.

No, I don’t consider A boy and his cow my first foray into people photography.  It was a small step in that direction, but it centered on a person and an animal, not to mention the process of training, caring for, showing, and all the other verbs that come with participating in livestock competitions.  This senior year project is my first time ever focusing entirely on people.  I’ll be winging it, true, but I hope I learn from it and can make of it a permanent addition to my photography repertoire.

I remember


He will leave behind a life that is rich and full and rare.  We will see it coming—the end—and we will anticipate it even though we cannot be prepared for it.  He will not let go, will not give in; he will force the disease to take him, to strike him down, because he is a fighter.  And he will not give up.

Since 2004 I have acknowledged September 7 as a date on the calendar; more importantly, I have felt it.  Some years it slips by with a few soft words shared quietly in my mind; some years it strikes a blow that leaves me in tears.

Dredging up the past can be both good and bad.  Dwelling there is futile, a spiral down a dark chasm.  But it’s sometimes important to touch the scars, even if only to remember that we once felt meaningful pain.

The anniversary of Derek’s death has sometimes been reason to lament, whether that be in public or private, yet mostly it has been a reason to remember, a reason to celebrate the wonder of a life lost.

As tomorrow has approached, my fingers increasingly have traced the patterns of these emotional scars, and I realize they mean something more than wounds that will never quite heal.  Those scars, reminders of history’s pains, tell me of a wonderful past, a time of magic and joy, an experience every person looks for in life.

They remind me that the hurt I felt at his loss was only possible because of the profound elation I felt in his presence.


The first time we visit the family farm together, he will tell me he has never been on a dirt road.  And once we arrive and he meets my parents, he will tell all of us that he has never seen a cow before, at least not in person.

I remember eight years of splendor followed by two years of watching you fade into history.  Never before or since have I experienced such contentment, such happiness, such a feeling of palpable joy and belonging.  You gave me what I didn’t know I needed and exactly what I wanted.

I remember strolling barefoot in the creek and laughing until I cried when you practically walked across water after I facetiously warned you about leeches.  Never has anyone moved so quickly and with such purpose.  Critters never were your thing.

I remember the first time you met my parents.  How nervous you were!  And I remember how my parents fell in love with you, especially my father who found you to be the opposite of everything he ever feared for me.  You broke his stereotypes, you shattered his preconceptions, and you helped him see me—us—in a way he never thought possible.  You changed his worldview for the better.

I remember dancing with you in the rain.  No music save the drumbeat of a downpour.  No audience save nature.  No planning.  Just us, just the storm, just a bit of impromptu romance.

I remember we could share a comfortable silence and find strength in it, find more of each other in the quiet between us.  Perhaps we spent it watching the moon drift across ripples on the lake, perhaps we spent it listening to each other breathe, or perhaps we spent it letting our minds wander the walkway of what we shared.  What mattered wasn’t how we spent the silence; what mattered was that it was a comfortable silence.

(99 Jason & Derek)

He will fear the cows in the pastures.  He will approach the fences but will not get close enough to touch them.  Or to let them touch him.  His fear will be palpable yet entertaining.  We will all laugh about the city boy’s first time in the country.  And years later we will still laugh about it, though he will be gone by then.

I remember our neighbors treating us like every other couple on the block.  The family from Pakistan inviting us over for dinner every week.  The couple from Britain who needed us to babysit on short notice.  The Texas mother who thanked us for being a good influence for her kids.  The block parties.  The dinners and walks and long conversations in the street.  We felt at home in every way possible.

I remember vacations.  Oceans, countries, states.  But we never had to go far to find other worlds.  A local park could be as thrilling a getaway for us as any travel to remote locales.  It wasn’t the destination that mattered; it was the company that made a place worthwhile.

I remember standing in the driveway at night watching the rabbits play, watching the raccoons and opossums run about, watching the coyotes and bobcats, watching nature.  You never did understand how so much wildlife could thrive in the big city.

I remember seeing both excitement and terror in your eyes when you saw your first and only tornado.  You held my hand so tightly that I thought you’d break the bones.


He will ask me to take my telescope with us when we visit the family farm.  He had never looked through one until he used mine.  Then he was hooked.  He will want to see the moon in close and crisp detail, he will want to see the gas giants as they hurry through the night sky, and so he will ask me to find every exciting thing even as we shiver in cold winter air.  Mom will snap photo after photo between views of the cosmos.

I remember long walks after dark, endless phone calls when you traveled on business, constant e-mails and text messages.  We couldn’t get through a day without touching base at least once, even if only to say hello, things are fine here, hope you’re well.

I remember you trying to read something into our shared heritage from New York, your Buffalo roots and my family scattered about Syracuse, Tully, Rochester and elsewhere.  Only when we compared notes did we realize we had been in the same places at the same times on several occasions.  Had we met before?

I remember your smile, your laugh, that mischievous twinkle in your eye, the sound of your voice.

I remember your quick wit and keen intellect.  We used to laugh about you mastering sarcasm before you learned to speak.  And I’ve only met one other person who can speak intelligently on so many topics, who can ask the right questions even when dumbfounded by the subject, who can see beyond the obvious so easily and with such clarity.  Just as I always believed, you were indeed a rare person.

I remember thinking you were more conservative than the most radical of Republicans.  It provided a captivating study in cognitive dissonance.  You never met a Democrat you liked, and you could hardly believe your heart when you fell for me, a centrist with liberal social views and conservative fiscal views.  How many debates we enjoyed about politics, you adamant in your beliefs and me always willing to look at both sides to find the best answer.  And though you never considered voting for anyone other than a Republican, you accepted that you were a pawn for them, a member of a group they would constantly use as fodder for culture wars.  And you accepted that.


He will stare into the heavens like a child’s first time looking into a kaleidoscope.  He will laugh at how quickly the moon flies through the darkness, how it escapes the telescope’s gaze even as he watches it closely enough to count the craters.

I remember the smell of you.  When your travels took you far and wide, it wasn’t beneath me to sneak a snuggle with a shirt you’d tossed in the laundry.

I remember watching you sleep on the couch with Kazon sleeping on your head and Kako sleeping on your chest.

I remember your charm.  You could elicit a smile from the most miserly and miserable souls.  Everyone liked you.  Even David, a married friend of mine from work, developed a crush on you.  He was man enough to admit it and laugh about it; his wife was comfortable enough to encourage it because she said it made their sex life better.

I remember how much you feared introducing me to your family.  You never admitted to them who you really were.  They knew just as my mother knew before I told her.  When I did finally meet your family, it was at the end.  I’ve always wished that could have been different, that we could have met under better circumstances.

I remember how easily we shared our friends.  Mine became your friends just as yours became my friends.  And though we told a few of them that we were a couple, most of them assumed and accepted it on their own.  Yours would call you and ask how I was doing just as mine would call me and ask how you were doing.  It happened so silently and easily that we didn’t notice when we became a couple in their eyes.

I remember you kept backing your Cougar into the side of the garage, eventually tearing the mirror from the passenger door.  I offered to switch sides with you but you feared that would just mean you’d tear the mirror off the driver’s door as well.

I remember taking you to Las Vegas for the first time in your life.  Watching the lights reflect in your eyes as we moved around town seemed all the more apparent because you had your eyes open so wide, trying to consume every decadent sight, trying to understand how such excess could thrive in the desert.  You loved it so much that it became a regular haunt for us, at least as often as we could fit it in our schedules.


He will die Tuesday night.  I remember this detail clearly: September 7 just after ten in the evening.  His brother will call, will tell me the news, and I will crumble to the floor beneath the weight of it.  It will not surprise me, no, but that will not make it easier.

I remember near the end that my one hope in life was that no person be robbed of experiencing the kind of completeness that we shared, of meeting someone who could fill the voids that have gone unnoticed.  No one should be robbed of the opportunity to experience such a thing, even if only for a moment.

I remember I didn’t feel angry at the thought of losing you.  On the contrary, I felt that I had been given a gift unlike any other gift, one that I never expected, one that filled my days with all the good imaginable.  Though I didn’t want you to go, I knew I had been blessed to share part of my life with you.  I was a better man because of it, because of you.

I remember calling your family to tell them.  They assumed you were ill but had no idea how sick you really were.  I hated that their first real interaction with me would be under such circumstances.

I remember I let them take you back to New York because they had missed so much of your real life, so much of the real you.  And I knew you had only weeks left and they deserved to spend it with you.

I remember you had the clarity of thought to say goodbye before the disease took your mind.  It was the day before you flew to Buffalo.  Only a few days after you arrived, they called to tell me you were no longer you.

I remember flying up to see you and how it made me cry when I entered your room only to realize you no longer recognized me, at least not most of the time.  Through the screaming and the rambling, though, you paused a few times to tell me you were sorry, that you knew who I was, that you knew I had saved the day.  Jenny had to leave the room because she couldn’t bear to see you like that, to see how quickly things had changed between us.

I remember telling your family that it was the end.  They disagreed, perhaps from denial or perhaps because they wanted to believe the impossible.

I remember flying back to Dallas to tend to some work and personal business, a decision I would regret forever.  I thought I had time.  I didn’t.

I remember saying a few weeks.  It turned out to be a few days.

I remember the call.

And I remember this was your favorite song.  It reminded you of our first trip to Vegas, one of the best times in our lives.  So let’s remember that together.

Introducing ‘Days come and go’

Fleeting and transient.  One by one the same yet vastly different each, days come and go like cannon fodder in a war.

Grasping to each of them with desperate intent are memories; perhaps ours, perhaps those belonging to someone else, but memories all the same.

As I recently perused a collection of photographs from Mom, many of them decades old, I realized there are faces within some of them that I will never see again, faces that contain the love of family and friends now lost to time.

I cherish moments spent dwelling on each of these images, moments defined by chills and tears, laughter and heartache.  I find it amazing how something as ubiquitous as photographs can contain such dramatic emotion, such lamentation and joy, such sorrow and mirth.

So in honor of days gone by yet memorialized within snapshots of living captured through the lens, I intend to share these photos, some along with the memories that accompany them.

Quality is lacking in many of these images due in no small part to the technologies and eras which define them.  Don’t expect art; do expect commemoration.

Farm life – Part I

Hidden away in the Piney Woods of East Texas, the family farm can be exhausting at its worst and magical at its best.  Plenty of hard work awaits those who tend its chores and care for its animals, yet the surroundings provide ample nature in which to wallow, not to mention the resident population of family critters who offer up joys beyond compare.

Ruby-throated hummingbirds (Archilochus colubris) around a feeder at the family farm (139_3998)

Ruby-throated hummingbirds (Archilochus colubris) are ubiquitous around Big Cypress Bayou in all but the cold months.  Mom keeps several feeders available for them, each carefully and diligently supplied with sugar water, and so the hummingbirds come year after year, their antics providing hours of entertainment.

In fact, Mom often stands outside holding one of the feeders right next to her face.  As soon as the birds realize she’s not a threat, they begin visiting, buzzing around her head and brushing her cheeks with their wings.  It’s more than fantastic, more than beautiful; it’s divine to see.

Adult and juvenile cows roaming through one of the pastures at the family farm (194_9494)

Even the cows enjoy roaming from pasture to pasture, some fields cloaked by dense woodlands drawing a barrier around them and others set within those very same woodlands.  A serenity befalls the place no matter where one looks.

When calves are about, fun spills over the grass like so much rich honey.  Large enough to hurt you if they ran you down, these little guys spring and leap in ways that puppies and kittens would envy, and it doesn’t hurt that the mothers always have a fresh drink of milk with them at all times.  It can get pretty hot in Texas, so a bit of play is always followed by a rapid search for and happy reunion with mom—then a tasty bit of nourishment and energy for more play.

A Gulf fritillary (Agraulis vanillae) resting on the ground in the main yard of the family farm (214_1441)

Gulf fritillaries (Agraulis vanillae) dance in the main yard, flitting about with abandon as though they had not a care in the world.  They appreciate this place.  At times the yard reminds me of a field of waltzing flames as a dozen or more of these butterflies converge.

The farm boasts a magnificent insect population that ranges from giant moths to giant beetles, from katydids and grasshoppers to spiders and wasps.  The air is often filled with dragonflies and butterflies, and with leaping grasshoppers and katydids, not to mention the chorus of a thousand species.  Only in winter do these sights and sounds disappear, a lonely echo creating a void they once filled and will fill again.

Purple bindweed (a.k.a. cotton morning glories; Ipomoea trichocarpa) growing alongside one of the pastures at the family farm (214_1442)

Purple bindweed (a.k.a. cotton morning glories; Ipomoea trichocarpa) offers up perfume and lavender beauty, flowers fully open in acceptance of morning sunshine.  Like so many other wildflowers, this stunning plant, considered a weed by so many, grows readily along paths and trails running throughout the farm.  There can never be too much life here.

Wild berries grow on the hillside in a pool of varied briers, grasses and flowers.  Dense woodlands stretch across rolling hills with pine, hickory, oak, ash, dogwood and magnolia trees defining the landscape, each skirted with an assortment of brush sometimes too thick for the average walk.  Cypress grows along the bayou and its tributaries.  Just north of the only natural lake in all of Texas, the area gives rise to springs and marshes that dot the landscape like a patchwork of wonders.  In fact, no one has been able to count the number of springs on the farm because they are so numerous.

A cow sticking its tongue out hoping my mother will give just one more treat (216_1650)

Then there are the treats, the special goodies that deserve kisses—even if from a cow.  Always listening for Mom’s voice, these domestic giants lavish themselves in the affection and care they receive.  In fact, they call out to her—rather loudly, I might add—if they believe she’s late to visit.

But Mom is not the only one who enjoys such special attention.  Dad happens to be the person who gives them maple, a sweet, delectable goody for which they mob him like children begging for candy.  He’s forced to push and shove his way through a herd of drooling mouths and suppliant scroungers desperate to smell the scent and taste the flavor of nutritious yet obviously addictive syrup applied generously to hay.

A cow sticking its head through the fence with a wanting, begging look on its face (216_1660)

And the looks of wanting mixed with cuteness as bovines beg and plead for just one more taste of heaven leaves us simple humans laughing with pure delight.  They know a good thing and waste no time putting on the Oliver act: “Please, may I have some more?”

An eastern bluebird (Sialia sialis) arriving at the nest with food for its young (20080414_03434)

Joining the various farm animals is a contingent of wildlife.  Nesting in an old can wired to the utility shed because their house had been invaded by wasps, eastern bluebirds (Sialia sialis) rear their young with a diligence all of us at the farm notice.  Both mother and father spend their days bringing food to always hungry, always talkative young hiding away until it’s their time to fledge.  One need only walk out the side door to see this spectacle across the main yard.

Male brown-headed cowbirds (Molothrus ater) perched atop a pine tree (20080414_03445)

Meanwhile, male brown-headed cowbirds (Molothrus ater) gather atop a pine tree to plan their day.  Looking for mates and planning nest invasions undoubtedly requires a group effort.  Along with these avians can be found a litany of birdwatching gifts, from egrets to cardinals to flycatchers to hawks to owls to a plethora of winged beasts both great and small.  It’s not uncommon to see vultures flying low overhead as a hawk circles in the clouds.  The fact that Mom provides food for many bird species helps draw them in like clockwork, various groups and individuals visiting the feeders throughout the day as though scheduled in shifts to arrive and depart at preset times.

Those who don’t indulge in such handouts still surround the farm as they live out their lives in a vast wilderness that reaches through four states.  One need only stop, look and listen to enjoy a dynamic show of feathers.  And if the local population isn’t enough, my parents have a close friend who happens to lead the local bird banding efforts.  What might only be an unidentified shadow seen peripherally at other times suddenly rears up as large as life when a beautiful morning is spent identifying, cataloging, banding and enjoying the always surprising abundance of these creatures.

[To be continued…]

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!

Remember these from 1974?  First, Shenandoah Caverns in Virginia:

My two brothers and sister and me with Mom in the Shenandoah Caverns in 1974 (74_Shenandoah_Caverns)

Then later that same day, the Hogle home in New York:

My parents, paternal grandparents, brothers, sister and me visiting family in New York in 1974 (74_grandparents_NY)

34 years ago.  Just one of many memories from these past decades.

Thank you for that and so much more.

Happy Mother’s Day!

I love you!

[details for photo 1 – l to r: my sister Roni, my brother Fred, my brother Wade, me and Mom; details for photo 2 – l to r top row: my uncle Roger, my paternal grandmother (who passed away a few weeks ago), Mom, Dad and my paternal grandfather, then l to r bottom row: me, my sister Roni, my brother Wade and my brother Fred]