Jul 31, 2007

I went back to the swimming hole yesterday with a disposable underwater camera. This girl is the daughter of one the families who is always there. With her bright blue eyes, and super long lashes, she immediately reminded me of a girl who I took pictures of on Pajarito Mesa, a small, rural community outside Albuquerque. A friend and I did a story about the girl's family, and their way of life in a place that was off the city grid, with no running water or electricity.

The girl in New Mexico lived in a trailer that got so hot during the summer she and her brothers and sister couldn't stay inside. Almost every day her family had to haul water to a holding tank so they could cook food, take showers and wash dishes. It was a life that most people would never choose. The girl's family didn't like hauling water, but they loved the fact that they had their own land and that their kids could tear down the dirt roads on their bikes. It was home.

The same goes for this girl's family. Who would think to jump in a canal along a freeway that that once had gators swimming through it? Who wouldn't when it's 95 degrees outside and you've been outside all day putting a roof on someone's house? Back, before Naples was a sea of pastel colored condos, this is what people used to do according to the family. And these people , and their daughter, refuse to stop leading the life they've always known.

Jul 27, 2007

This is from a story I'm hoping to work on about several families who are slowly losing their way of life because it is too expensive to live down in Naples. They were born and raised in Naples, and have watched the whole area develop around them. They can't afford to swim in the water parks, so they swim in the canals along the freeway. There used to be swimming holes all over the place, but this is the last one because all the others are now in or next to developments.

Jul 23, 2007

Part 2

For the second week we went out hunting for ghost orchids, and yes we found them. Thankx to Josh and his forest navigating skills we saw two flowers in bloom and many others about to. It was hard to believe I got the chance to see the flower. As an added bonus, we got stuck in some awesome Florida light in front of some crazy rain clouds that his us 10 minutes after we finished taking silly pictures. What a day, what a South Florida day. And to finish it off we then went and got some fried fish in Everglade City.

Jul 20, 2007

Went down to the pier, again, to watch the crazy sunset and crazy lightening, again. Sat in the bathwater that is the ocean and had a zen moment. This girl was waiting for her mom to pick her up as I walked back to my car.

Jul 19, 2007

The Florida rainstorm light has starded. I am a monkey.........

Jul 16, 2007


Cage fighting in Ft. Myers. Brutal, brutal sport, and the fans are the worst. One mom in the stands is screaming, "Kill him, Kill him" while her little fiver year old son is crying because he has no idea what is happening. The fighters are sweet as pie, but the fans....

When Edith Lightner woke up Thursday morning at her house in Immokalee, she said she didn't have much on her mind. She knew it was her birthday, and that she was now 100 years old, but that didn't seem like a big deal.

"I thought, 'Boy, that's a long time to live,'" she said. "And then I thought, 'Well, at least I'm still around to make my famous fruitcake.''"

Every fall for years, too many to count, Lightner said she's looked forward to making the special cake, which have evolved over time. With a little experimentation, she said she finally has the perfect recipe.

For her family, some of whom were with her Thursday to celebrate, they also are glad Edith is still around to talk about and look forward to her annual baking ritual.

"I can't really believe it's her birthday because of all she has been through. She is really an amazing lady to be here at 100," said Marval Bennett, 67, one of Edith's children.

Marval said her mom has always been the caretaker in the family and suspects she's fought to stay around so long because she still wants to help.

"She was always good natured about her work and she always took good care of us," she said. "I think she has a very strong will."

And a good sense of humor. As she sat in front of her birthday cake Thursday, Edith couldn't help but flash a toothy smile every once in a while, her upper teeth clenched over her lower lip, and a sly but playful look in her eyes. It was the same smile that had been caught in pictures throughout her life.

In one of those pictures, which Marval recently dug up and pasted in a special birthday scrap book, Edith is standing next to her soon-to-be husband Cecil back in July, 1932. The two have their arms around each other. Cecil looks confident and proud. Edith, with her grin, looks like she couldn't be happier.

The pair were married in November of the following year, and were together for the next 71 years, until Cecil passes away in 2005. In between, they had seven children, who in turn gave Edith 18 grandchildren. There are now 22 great grandchildren and 10 great, great grandchildren. Today, the family ranges in age from 100 to two years old, and lives across the country, from Florida to Pennsylvania, and Ohio to California.

Steven Coburn, 13, one of Edith's great grandchildren who lives in Las Vegas, was in Immokalee on Thursday to celebrate.

"I just think it is cool that she has lived this long and has experienced more than most people can even think about," he said.

But for Edith, after all this time, it's still the simple things that matter. This year she is especially excited because she was able to get a special secret ingredient for her fruitcakes; black walnuts. Marval picked a bunch of the nuts from a tree near her house in Indiana and brought them with her when she came down.

"It's a little early now, but I'll be getting ready to make some fruitcake in the fall," she said, smiling.

Got out of Naples on Saturday morning to search for some Ghost Orchids with my boy Josh who works for the Panther Preserve. It was so nice to get out of strip mall heaven and into the trees. We didn't see any ghost orchids in bloom, but we some just about to bloom, so the plan is to go back. We got out there early enough to see the sun rise over I-75, with Starbucks in hand, and hyped to find the elusive flower. It got plenty hot, especially with long pants and long sleeves to protect from the bugs, but still amazing. Thanks Josh!

Jul 11, 2007

A little piece of Florida light after a rain storm. Let it rain, please let it rain, because then it's not so hooooooooooottttttttttttttttt.

Jul 6, 2007

I walked into this moment not expecting it at all. I was riding along with a Hospice nurse and the last time she had seen this gentleman he was in good health. The day before we showed up he had become unresponsive, and the day after I took this picture he passed away.

The girl sitting with him is his granddaughter. I was struck by her love for him, and by her commitment. She stayed up all night with him the night before he died, and was right there as he passed away. She didn't run away, look away, or give any sense that she was uncomfortable watching he grandfather. She loved him, and she wanted to be by his side. To witness even just fifteen minutes of their interaction was amazing and incredibly touching. I feel lucky to have been witness to such love and care.

Jul 3, 2007

More recent work. It ebbs and flows down here. A lot of daily work, sometimes with enough time to get it down, sometimes without. I'm changing schedules this week so I'll be on nights and have more time to work my own stuff, or work things that don't have to turned in every day for deadline. Also trying to find my own stories and have a couple ledes. The first one will be published Monday so I'll put it up. Breen, if you're reading this, thanks for the feedback, really. It feels great to know that people appreciate the photos. Hommies for life.

The Dad with his girls is from our fathers day story. They're at the zoo on a boat that takes visitors out to these islands where the monkeys live. The girl eating watermelon was just chilling by a bridge we did story on. The girl and her father was one of my favorite photos from the past couple weeks. She had cancer when she was three, but has fully recovered. They were at the water park with other kids and their families who have been touched by cancer. I immediately fell in love with the family who was sweet as pie. And the portrait is of a WWII vet. We just did a big video piece on the web about veterans that runs July 2-4. Check it out.