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  • Writer's pictureAlyce Bender

Monthly Review: March 2019

This past month has been something. Hometown adventures were the name of the game since I spent the entire month in Las Vegas, dealing with business administration type duties, my dog's health, and then participating as a presenter at the Create Photography Retreat. Much of this post will have little to do with photography, as this month I shot very little. I still want to give you a glimpse of what I have been doing as its not nothing and is part of my story, if you will.

So lets start at the beginning. For the last several months my oldest pup, Rusty, had been limping. He did well enough on our road trip in January but had a few days here and there where he really was hurting. Having visited the vet, nothing stood out and we figured he might have pulled a muscle at some point and it just needed time to heal.

Fast forward to when I got back from Japan mid February. He was still limping and now every day was impacted by it. Another visit to the vet, additional medications to treat what was still assumed as a strained muscle, and we gave it a bit more time while in town for the various conferences that took place .

Then the first week of March comes, no improvement. Worst yet, there is a hard knot on his upper foreleg, the one he has been favoring. So our vet refers us to a specialist. Thankfully, Vegas being Vegas, we have all sorts of pet specialists here. Within the week we have an appointment for consultation where x-rays are taken and my worst fear is visible. What is obviously a growth on the bone that was not there in December, now shows on the film. Rusty is scheduled for a biopsy the very next day.

As we wait for the biopsy results, I deal with all the legalities of setting up a legal business here in the Silver State. It keeps me occupied and home bound for the most part, allowing Rusty to rest. A week passes and the results confirm he has osteosarcoma, aka a highly aggressive bone cancer.

As any pet parent knows, the care and well being for an older pet is riddled with tough choices. At 13 years of age, Rusty has been with me through thick and thin and I wasn't going to give up on him in his hour of need. The vet determined that his lungs were clear, which is a good sign it has not spread outside the initial tumor. However, the tumor could not be left as it was and it had softened the bone in his leg, leaving him susceptible to fractures. We decided the best course of action, given the situation, his age, and considerations to quality of life, that we would amputate the effected leg but forego chemo treatments.

The surgery was successful and without any problems. They extracted the lymph node closes to the leg and sent it for testing to give us another idea if the cancer had spread. Thankfully that biopsy came back clean leading us to believe that there is a very good chance we caught it early enough that he will be able to live out his remaining years cancer free. There is no guarantee of this, but all signs point in that direction.

Now, he is slowly building his stamina so that once we are on the road again, short walks will not be an issue.

For those that participated and bid on pieces I listed online to help support Rusty's treatment, a huge shout out to you all! Thank you.

During all this, I did make a quick, overnight trip in my car to see the California poppy super bloom. Going mid-week around the 13th, I headed to Lake Elsinore and the highly publicized Walker Canyon trail. Even mid-week, the crowds were awful. Usually my trick of going mid-week to popular areas pays off and typically there are fewer people. That was not really the case for this spot. While there were not the 50,000 that were estimated to have shown up on that following weekend, there was still thousands of people on (and off) the trails on a Wednesday afternoon.

I'm not going to get too far on my soapbox about ethical photography as that is another post all to its own, but let me just say the behavior I witnessed among those rolling hills was one of the most blatant mass displays of disrespect and unethical treatment of an environmental area I have seen. Everywhere I looked people were crushing, picking, or stomping on the delicate poppies in the name of cell photography. Otherwise known as "Doing it for the 'Gram."

On a lighter note, I took this opportunity to test out my new Tamron 18-400mm lens and it worked like a dream. With such a wide range I would have thought it might loose something somewhere, but it is excellent at both ends of the lens spectrum. It is to the point where at the 400mm range it can be used as a psudo-macro lens, allowing for close up detail shots. It ended up being the only lens I carried for the two days I was in the poppy fields and all the images of poppies you see in this article were taken with that lens.

Other then that one overnight trip, I remained in town, visiting some of the local parks when I needed to escape the office. Most of what I captured on these trips was the various bird life that can be found throughout the Valley.

At the very end of the month, came my absolute favorite event of the month: the Create Photography Retreat! This year it was held right here in Vegas which worked out perfectly for me. The day before the Retreat formally started, I held a workshop for several of the participants where we visited a couple of the local parks and I talked on photographing birds and how to make the most of a short visit to any given location.

Once the Retreat started, it was so amazing to see many faces I had not seen since the last Retreat this time last year. On top of that there were many new faces but everyone was so friendly and just pumped to be with fellow photographers and able to spend three days completely saturated in photo talks and shoots. There is always such an amazing atmosphere with the Retreat and the friendships and comradery stretch way beyond just the brief event weekend. It is also an awesome time to try new shooting techniques and discover new types of photography that you may not have considered before, like me trying a bit of wedding portraiture (see below). For those who have not attended, I highly encourage you to do so next year. The 2020 location has not been announced yet but is open for nomination

from those interested in going. If you are considering trying it out, head over to the Create Photography Retreat Facebook page and join to keep up-to-date as announcements are made and to be the first one to know when registration opens.

Overall, the month passed quickly, ending on a super high note. This coming month will find me back on the road with both my pups creating new images and sharing more stories! I hope you will continue to follow my adventures and share with others who may enjoy them.

Until next time, cheers!

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