Seeing the World Through New Eyes

It is incredibly tempting to rush your way through Northern California. There is so much to see and do that you have to be careful to not fall in the trap of looking so forward to the next stop that you fail to fully take in what’s right in front of you.

We wrapped up our trip to the Napa and Bay areas with a couple of days in San Francisco. It was there that I was reminded of another one of the great photo-remedy benefits–seeing the world through new eyes.

Traveling down Market Street, and in the area surrounding the famous Ferry Building, I found myself looking for (and finding) interesting views and photography angles. It was a great way to experience the city. The people, the architecture, the landscaping, even the produce on display were all worth observing.

It helped me gain appreciation for the many little gems that it seemed other people were likely missing while lost in their hurry to get where they were going.  At one point, I found myself thinking, “So many people are missing out on what I’m experiencing while looking through my camera’s view finder.”

I also thought that, perhaps, it is that way with God. While too many of us are frequently going through life like a humming bird zooming through a herd of hungry cats, he sees the good all around us. Through his viewfinder, he sees all the beautiful colors on an overcast day. He see the street musician earning a living making other people smile. He sees a young woman falling in love.

Note: These and other photographs from Greg’s time peering through a viewfinder in San Francisco can be found at: 

Stopping Moments From Running Away

Note from Greg: The great American author Eudora Welty, who won a Pulitzer Prize for ‘The Optimist’s Daughter’ in 1973, once said, “A good snapshot stops a moment from running away.” This is a point that is further reinforced in the reader letter below. Perhaps, Rick is stopping moments from running away from both himself and those whom he loves.

Your photo-remedy site reminds me of my oldest brother Rick.  His lifetime hobby has been photography. For a while he even had a web site posting his pics.

During the past five years, Rick has suffered from many heart, lung and bone ailments too numerous to mention. He doesn’t have a lot of time left.  But the one thing he still likes to do is to get his camera and have someone take him to a nearby park or lake where he can escape the misery of his pain and instead capture some incredible images.

He has always had a great eye. It was not unusual for him to take hundreds of photos for example when we would go to a botanic garden or rain forest. Heck, we had a family reunion several years ago and somehow he took more than 1,500 pics in just a few hours!  I know photography is very comforting for him so I totally agree with your blog.

The photos featured in this posting came from Greg W. Gilstrap during a 2008 Hawaiian journey. 

Romancing the Grape

The Bible teaches us that the first miracle performed by Jesus in the Gospel of John was turning water into wine at the Wedding Feast at Cana. I guess that is one of the reasons I have always been fond of the ‘fermented juice of grapes.’  Well, that’s what I like to tell myself.

I also like to remember the wise words of the late Professor Emeritus Peter R. Giradot who taught a fascinating one-hour ‘science of wine’ class when I was a student at the University of Texas at Arlington. Giradot, an affable former Dean of the College of Science, was a noted wine judge and aficionado. I remember being spell bound by his ability to romance the art of wine making.

He also was never shy about telling his students, “The medical value of wine is a well-accepted scientific fact.” While he primarily articulated the advantages of red wine, I recall he even pointed out that white wine was the first liquid some stomach surgery patients were allowed to drink in European hospitals. My fondness for Europeans grew immediately.

Today, it is fairly well accepted that red wine is heart healthy when consumed in moderation.  The Mayo Clinic reports:

“While the news about red wine might sound great if you enjoy a glass of red wine with your evening meal, doctors are wary of encouraging anyone to start drinking alcohol. That’s because too much alcohol can have many harmful effects on your body. Still, many doctors agree that something in red wine appears to help your heart. It’s possible that antioxidants, such as flavonoids or a substance called resveratrol, have heart-healthy benefits.”

During our recent trip to the Napa-area, we got to visit the vineyards of Cakebread (my favorite), V. Sattui, Francis Ford Coppola’s Rubicon Estate, Robert Mondavi Napa Valley, Viansa, Gloria Ferrer, and Domaine Carneros (pictured above and the top of this post). The photos featured here and, in greater abundance, on our Exploration Communication website are all from these wine producers.

I will let the medical community debate wine’s merits. On the other hand, I do not need to see a study to conclude that a trip to the vineyards and tasting rooms of Napa and Sonoma County, California is an awesome photo-related remedy.  And, I like to think it is even better if you take a sip or two and enjoy it with great friends.

I wish Dr. Giradot was still around to thank him for ‘romancing the grape.’ But, I also like to think he is enjoying a robust Zinfandel while enjoying another spectacular sunset with his friends in heaven.


–  Greg

One Perfect Day in San Francisco

Blue Angel aircraft over Alcatraz Island during 2011 Fleet Week

If you set aside politics and pre-conceived notions, it’s hard to deny that San Francisco is one of the most beautiful densely populated cities in the world. Television personality Larry King, for example, reportedly indicated the ultimate travel destination for him would be one perfect day in the Golden Gate City.

October 2011 sunset on Golden Gate Bridge 

“It’s a perfect 72 degrees, clear, the sky bright blue,” King has said. “I’d start down at Fisherman’s Wharf with someone I really like and end with a romantic dinner and a ride over the Golden Gate Bridge.  There’s no city like it anywhere.  And, if I could be there with the girl of my dreams, that would be the ultimate.”

Fight for the sky during 2011 Fleet Week

 During our recent trip to San Francisco, the Bay area, and the Napa-Sonoma region, I was fortunate enough to be there with the girl of my dreams (Mary, my wife of 29 years) and three pairs of our wonderful ‘couple friends.’ We basically started the day in the Fisherman’s Wharf area, which is where we got to take in the approaching 70 degree weather and occasional blue skies.  The skies were blue just long enough to capture the photos featured here looking up at both the water and shore birds and at some of the aircraft participating in Fleet Week 2011.

Photo-remedy Words of Wisdom  

Focusing your eyes towards the skies can be a challenging and beautiful part of photo-remedy, but don’t do it for too long if you are looking to avoid a pain in the neck! – Greg

Navy Blue Angels during Fleet Week 2011

On the Road Again

For the better part of two decades, I made my living working in the travel and tourism industry.

Just as good writers need to write, most good tourism promoters need to travel. So, I traveled to everything from promotional trade shows and policy workshops to industry forums and sales events. I’ve visited nearly every state, and several international countries.

I was on the road so often that I generally just kept a bag of “necessary” amenities and some clothes packed away in a suitcase. I could, and would, travel at a moment’s notice. It was no big deal.

But, times have changed.

While I love the thought of seeing and experiencing beautiful and entertaining places as much as I always did, the thought of traveling far from home now gives me a great deal of pause and even some anxiety. Cramped airplane and automobile seating can be extremely hard on my spine. So instead of focusing on keeping a bag packed of toothpaste and the like, I now have to think about what I will need for pain management and prevention. And, I have to do it in a way that allows for me to still carry a small bag of photography necessities.

Blue Angels at San Francisco's 2011 Fleet Week

Last Thursday, Mary and I traveled with friends to see and experience Napa Valley and the Bay Area of California. The medical suitcase I had to pack included ice packs, a heat pack, a TENs unit, a CPAP machine, a cane, two special neck and back pillows, over-the-counter oral medications, prescription oral medications and pain patches, a handheld electrical biofeedback unit, a low back brace, and (of course) a corkscrew!

The photo to the right shows what my neck looked like under my shirt before I began each day. I used to fancy myself as quite the “catch.” Seeing this picture has helped cure me of what I can now admit was a delusional notion to begin with. Thank God Mary and our travel companions are all Saints.

We returned from the long weekend yesterday. Over the next few posts, I’ll share some photographs and trip stories. More importantly, I will share how photography was (once again) a powerful remedy.

Readers Speak Up!

Photo courtesy of Allison G., Prescott, AZ

Note from Greg: We have already registered some encouraging comments on the blog. The letter below came from Prescott, Arizona. It is shared with Allison’s permission. We encourage others to share their thoughts on how photography can be a remedy for whatever ails them.

Amazing that you should say this today!

This morning, I was very stressed and a little down. So, after I dropped Stefanie at school I stopped at a local lake to take in the beauty of nature. Nature has long been an elixir for my mind and soul and knew a short stop would be just what the doctor ordered. Without thinking, I began taking pictures with my camera phone. Before I knew it, I was peaceful and joyful, again. I thought to myself, maybe I should be more intentional about getting out and photographing nature.

And, then, out of nowhere… I thought about all the beautiful nature photos you’ve posted on FB! I was wondering if you felt the way I did when you took your photos. It was so restorative for me at that moment, and as I continued looking at the pictures throughout the day… it preserved the moment and kept me peaceful and joyful. Thank you for sharing your photos and your story. It has absolutely encouraged me. 🙂

Photo and note from:  Allison G., Prescott, AZ