Archive for the ‘Articles’ Category

A Collection of Collections

Wednesday, January 25th, 2017

Jim and Nida Gyorfy collect and display collections at their 5,000-square-foot museum in Idaho Falls, Idaho.In 2003, the Gyorfys opened Collectors’ Corner Museum with 25 of their personal collections. Since then, they have accepted 25 donated collections and added a few more of their own.

Among the 115 collections are hubcaps, dolls, coins, seashells, military items, toys, tools, trains, stamps, puppets, music boxes and even water hose nozzles.

“For some people, it’s just human nature to collect whatever fascinates them,” says Jim. “I started when I was 8 with stamps, coins and toy trains. Nida started collecting Nancy Ann Storybook Dolls when she was 6.”

Jim, 77, and Nida, 75, still have those childhood collections, which are among the museum’s permanent exhibits.

“Some people ask us why we collect things,” says Jim. “It’s fun, challenging to find items to complete a set, educational and good for the mind.”

A popular travel website,, rates the museum as a highly recommended stop.

Inside the Head of Reality TV

Wednesday, January 25th, 2017

Lindsey Richter Voreis, right, parlayed her experience on “Survivor” to launch LIV Ladies AllRide mountain bike camps, enthusiastically focusing her life on being a positive influence.
Photo by Linda Mason/

Genre dates to the days of radio 

How much is 15 minutes of fame worth? For competitors on today’s reality television shows, it can mean a great deal: instant fame and recognition, a chance to win big money or a vehicle to further an agenda.

“People on reality shows bask in their 15 minutes, but it takes someone with branding and marketing savvy to prolong their fame into long-lasting success,” says Michael Gene Ondrusek, who served as a psychological consultant to the producers of CBS’s “Survivor” during the program’s early seasons.

Ondrusek helped prescreen potential competitors, consulted with producers and the crew, worked on set with castaways and debriefed contestants as they were voted off the island. At first, his job focused on screening out high-risk contestants—those who might not be psychologically stable enough to withstand the pressures of the show or who, if things did not go their way, might sue the show.

“Then it became more about screening ‘in’ interesting people who would make the show more intriguing,” Ondrusek says. “For some contestants, the chance at a $1 million prize was just a postscript. They would have even done it for free.”

Reality TV is nothing new. “Candid Microphone”—the forerunner of “Candid Camera”—delighted radio audiences in the 1940s with people caught unaware on the airwaves in funny and embarrassing situations.

“Other waves of reality TV over the years include Edward R. Murrow’s ‘See It Now,’ ‘Person to Person’ and ‘The Real World’ on MTV,” says Gary Edgerton, author of “The Columbia History of American Television” and dean of the College of Communication at Butler University in Indianapolis. “You can even put TV game shows into this genre. Anything that’s not scripted can be called reality TV.”

The debut of “Survivor” in the summer of 2000 signaled the latest reality TV explosion. The expansion of broadcast channels beyond ABC, CBS, NBC, the CW and Fox during the past 15 years has created a demand for more programming as Netflix, A&E, USA, the Discovery Channel, the History Channel and the other 640 or so outlets for entertainment seek lower-cost ways to fill their broadcast time.

“Reality TV provided cheap programming and a way to fill time,” Edgerton says. “The casting in these shows creates the real drama. Producers look to create a setting and infuse dramatic conflict, so they look for certain types of contestants to put together, then they shoot loads of footage and create more drama in the editing room.”

Edgerton breaks TV history into the Network Era from 1948-75, the Cable Era from 1976-94 and the Digital Era from 1995 to the present. He credits HBO for jump-starting the cable era with its breakthrough pay-for-service via satellite.

“They innovated to such a degree that they broke away from the pack, and then, as is the case in any popular art, all the other major competitors started to imitate them,” he says.

Edgerton says more than a dozen sub-genres of reality TV are aired today, including dating/romance shows, news documentaries, cooking shows, talent competitions, strength and ability competitions, game shows and talk shows.

Although Edgerton says people are starting to tire of watching reality TV and are shifting back to scripted programming, Ondrusek says reality TV is like “crack” for viewers—and that is a win for the networks.

“It’s successful because of people’s desire to watch what others do in contrived situations,” he says. “It humanizes the viewer’s battle between ‘I’m all over that’ and ‘I wouldn’t do that in a million years or for $1 million’—and some viewers would love the chance to do something on the show differently or better.”

More stunts, challenges and outrageous situations ensure devoted viewers, Ondrusek says.

“The producers and networks look for new models that break new boundaries and up their game,” he explains. “The bottom line is that the networks are in the game to make money, and as long as these programs are successful and profitable, they will continue.”

While participants often view reality TV as a way to open a window to future fame, it does not often work out that way.

“You’ve got a short time to build your brand and get traction, but one thing that reality has fed is the rapid growth of YouTube,” says Ondrusek. “It’s a place where anyone at any time can record anything and become a ‘star.’”

Seeing the Unseen

Wednesday, January 25th, 2017

A young couple looks at wedding rings. No words are needed to understand the scene. The picture on the wall is a visual clue to help us quickly guess what is happening.

I have a student, Brittany, who desires to make a career of forensic photography. She will likely be required to document many crime scenes, making detailed pictures of both victims and evidence—small clues that may lead to solving big crimes.

After all, crime scenes are puzzles, where often what is not obvious—or even what is absent—might speak loudest about what happened.

I have always felt the best documentary photographers are part detective and part social worker, learning through observation and practice to see what is not obvious to most.

This may sound like a riddle or a paradox, but it isn’t. It is about slowing down, observing and photographing clues—small pieces of a scene—to communicate a story. It is the practice of learning to see what is not there.

Just as scratch marks high up on a tree trunk in the woods warns there might be a mighty big bear around, noticing visual clues in a scene can help a reader or viewer understand a story more clearly. This can be as simple as the expression on a face, a gesture or a piece of yellow tape at a crime scene.

A discarded costume and piles of candy on the living room floor says a child had a big night trick-or-treating. Similarly, a lapel pin or patch on a jacket can speak of military service.

I do a presentation titled after the children’s book, “Brown Bear, Brown Bear what do you see,” where I project images and ask students to read the details, the clues and tell me the story of what happened—the who, what, where, when and why in the picture.

Like a hound dog sniffing the ground and bushes and gathering the scent of an animal, we gather clues from a scene to help tell the story of the unseen. As I learned years ago, things implied (unseen) are often much stronger than things stated (visible).

My illustrative hero and influence, Norman Rockwell, often used visual clues to tell his stories. A discarded sign, an opened letter with a foreign postmark, a magazine with a movie star’s face (in the girl in mirror)—each helps tell the story.

Just as foreshadowing in writing can clue a reader to a plot in a written story, a small visual clue in a photograph can help a viewer grasp the overall visual story. Visual clues help bridge the gap between what is obvious to the eye and what is not seen, the implied story.

Sometimes the absence of something—the silence—speaks loudest.

Photographs rich with visual clues that do not reveal all of the information or the whole story allow us to use our imagination, to become detectives and complete the pieces to the visual puzzle.


David LaBelle is an internationally known photographer, teacher, author and lecturer. He has worked for newspapers and magazines across the United States and taught at three universities. He applies many of the lessons he learned during his magical boyhood years in rural California to photography. For more information, visit

Reading with Grammies

Wednesday, January 25th, 2017

The three grammies broadcast another episode of their popular radio program, “Read Along with Grammy,” at Ellensburg Community Radio in Ellensburg, Washington. Kath Frasier, far right, reads from a children’s book while Sandy Morris works the control board and Vicki Nelson rings the bell signifying it’s time to turn the page.

Ellensburg Community Radio’s storytelling trio aims to entertain and connect with families and community

Volunteer Sandy Morris reads a passage from a children’s classic into the microphone at Ellensburg Community Radio. She is one of the storytelling trio known as the “grammies.” Their program—“Read Along with Grammy”—is popular with ECR listeners.

The small but popular internet station is a community effort.

The station has a shoestring budget of about $120 a month, but station volunteer and board secretary Kath Frasier says it is the “official, but not official hometown to the world.”

Broadcasting via the internet not only keeps costs down, it helps avoid risks associated with using and maintaining a tower.

“We don’t have to worry about the tower,” says Ellensburg Community Radio Board President Mollie Edson, referring to towers required by typical AM/FM stations. No tower means avoiding the often high winds in the area. Kath heard about Kittitas County, Washington, while living in Australia. After working in the nursing field for many years, she decided to fulfill her dream to get a music degree at Central Washington University in Ellensburg.

“It wasn’t as easy going back to school in music as I thought it would be,” she says.

Kath, whose grandchildren live in Seattle, created the “Read Along with Grammy” program. She thought of the program as a way to keep in touch with her grandchildren, and to make sure they knew her voice.

“The radio show gets the kids used to our voices,” Kath says. “It started with one book, then another. I kept on reading and posting the book on Facebook ahead of time, so they can get one at the library to read along with. The bell rings when it is time to change the page.”

Kath is joined by two other grammies: Vicki Nelson and Sandy Morris, who has prior radio experience. All three grammies agree it would be great to have more readers—grandparents or not.

“The more the merrier,” Kath says.

She says there is no reason to be intimidated by the reading or equipment. Volunteers do not need a background in radio, or anything tech-related.

“Vicki and I came in and read books recently and were having a good time, as we always do,” Kath says. “We found out the show didn’t get out. We are sometimes neophytes in the techno world.

“If there are more readers, we can extend our on-air time and have better coverage while on vacation.”

Unscripted ‘Real Life’

Wednesday, January 25th, 2017

Fans of Discovery Channel’s “Deadliest Catch” have witnessed the personal ups and downs of Captain Keith Colburn of The Wizard—including the stresses of running a business and his struggles to save his 25-year marriage, which ultimately failed.
Photo courtesy of Discovery Channel/Jason Elias

 Being cast on a reality television show offers participants a chance at fame and fortune

Keith Colburn makes his living as a crab fisherman, spending weeks, sometimes months, at a time battling the elements on a quest for the catch that will financially make or break his next 12 months.

“What we do is one of the most dangerous jobs on the planet,” says the 53-year-old captain of The Wizard and one of the stars of “Deadliest Catch,” which is in its 13th season on Discovery Channel.

The television show portrays the real-life events aboard fishing vessels in the Bering Sea.

“We’re all about trying to catch crabs, not be TV stars, but now I can’t go anywhere without being recognized,” he says.

Since Keith has been featured multiple seasons, his moment in the spotlight is longer than most. Competitors on shows such as “Survivor” and “The Voice” usually have one shot at notoreity.

Whether a contestant wins big money or becomes a household name, merely being cast on a reality show is life-changing—and the format is incredibly popular with those in the TV business.

“I think reality programming’s growth is partly related to the increase in entertainment channels and platforms,” says “Big Brother” Executive Producer Allison Grodner. “There is a growing demand for new content, and unscripted is generally faster and cheaper to produce than scripted.”


Challenging Times in Front of the Camera
Being part of a television show is challenging, and that is magnified when space is tight and at a premium. Keith and the other captains have work to do, and everyone on the crew has assignments.

“Add a producer and a camera person, and the crew has to learn to adjust to more bodies on the boat who are trying to capture the best shots while they’re trying to do their jobs,” Keith says. “It can be tough.”

He says the biggest surprise for him has been how much people respond to the show.

“What I do, how scary it is, it’s what really happens out there,” says Keith. “It’s our lives. I think people are intrigued by the danger.”

When not working, he retreats to his 36-foot Sea Ray cabin cruiser.

“It’s a nice diversion,” Keith says. “I named it ‘Esperance,’ which means ‘hope.’ I just like to disappear on it.”


Surviving Trials and Tribulations
Kail Harbick had no place to hide as a contestant on CBS’s “Big Brother” Season 8.

She says she had a target on her back from the minute she set foot in the house.

“When I overheard a couple of the guys say, ‘Let’s get the old lady out,’ I knew—once I figured out that I was the second-oldest at 37—my days were limited,” she says. “They wanted it to be a real party house, and they were certain I wouldn’t fit in. My original strategy was simply to not rock the boat, but after hearing that I went on the offensive.”

Contestants are monitored with microphones and cameras 24 hours a day. Each week, a head of household nominates fellow houseguests for eviction until only one remains and wins $500,000.

Kail won the head of household contest the first episode, but it was downhill from there.

“Later, someone told me that being head of household is the kiss of death,” says the former real estate agent and the fifth houseguest voted out. “I never recovered.”

Kail had dreamed for years about being chosen for “Big Brother,” applying three times.

“I was so excited, but I didn’t really know what to expect, even after watching the show for so many seasons,” she says.

Before entering the Big Brother house, Kail and 13 strangers each had to spend a week alone isolated in a hotel room with no phone or television.

“I was homesick from the beginning,” she says. “It was so tough. All I could think about was my husband and my children back home. The isolation was terrible. It was such an emotional roller coaster.”

Today, 10 years later, Kail is pursuing another dream: earning her ministry leadership degree at New Hope Christian College in Eugene, Oregon.

“I’m giving motivational biblical speeches,” she says. “I’m completely content about where I am now.”


Second Time is a Charm
With two chances at big money on CBS’s “The Amazing Race,” Eric Sanchez of South Florida knows what it is like to finish second and win it all.

On Season 9, Eric and race partner Jeremy Ryan were runners-up in the around-the-world trek, dividing $25,000. Two years later, Eric partnered with another Season 9 competitor for Season 11 All-Stars—his then-girlfriend Danielle Turner—to take home and share the $1 million top prize.

Eric bought a nice house and a new car, and gave some of the money to his family.

“I moved to California for a year, just because I always wanted to live there, and the rest I used for adventures and good times, including some travel,” says the now 38-year-old who works in general aviation sales. “But looking back on it, I wouldn’t be doing anything differently today if I hadn’t won the money. I did get to see the world and make good friends, so I guess in some ways it changed the course of my life. For me, the biggest takeaway was realizing that the world is not that big a place and there’s really lots to see and do.”

Idaho’s Jon Peter Lewis, who now lives in Los Angeles, landed spots on “American Idol” in 2004 as a solo performer and on “The Voice” as half of the duo “Midas Whale” with friend Ryan Hayes in 2014.

His finish in the top 10 of “American Idol” led to a spot in the 50-city American Idols Live tour.

Jon Peter met Ryan in 2010 and the two of them launched “Deep Love: A Ghostly Folk Opera” in Idaho. The show was part of the New York Musical Theatre Festival in 2015.

“With these competitions, you really need to have some music ready within a couple of weeks of being on the shows,” Jon Peter says. “That’s about the best way that you can convert that national exposure into something consumable.

“Right now I’m very happy, and music is taking me where it wants to take me. I’m grateful for having been on these shows. It was well worth it for me.”

Post-Reality Success
Few reality TV participants achieve international fame and long-term recognition.

“People on reality shows bask in their 15 minutes, but it takes someone with branding and marketing savvy to prolong their fame into long-lasting success,” says psychologist Michael Gene Ondrusek, who was a consultant to the producers of CBS’s “Survivor” during the program’s early seasons. “You’ve got a short time to build your brand and get traction.”

Such is often the case with talent competitions. Carrie Underwood, Kelly Clarkson and Jordin Sparks have had commercial success after winning “American Idol.” Others who appeared on the show but did not win—including Chris Daughtry and Jennifer Hudson—also made a name for themselves.

But they are the exception, not the rule.

Sam Woolf, who grew up in Bradenton, Florida, is working to establish himself after competing on “American Idol” in 2014, finishing fifth. He said he wanted to be a performer from a young age, and his time on the show helped solidify his dream.

“‘Idol’ was a turning point for me,” says the now-20-year-old, who lives in Boston. “I realized that I’d have to work very hard, and that’s what I’m willing to do as I’m focusing on my songwriting and guitar playing. I’m doing what I want to do for my career. ‘Idol’ helped me grow as an artist and as a person.”
A Life-Changing Opportunity


Fame can be fleeting, but it does offer a platform.
“I was bullied as a kid,” says 29-year-old Nick Hanson of Unalakleet, Alaska, who has competed on “American Ninja Warrior” the past two seasons. “That’s where my competitive spirit comes from, so I work with kids to help them be strong. It was hard for me because when I came here, I didn’t look like a native. I took up sports to try and fit in.”

The show allows him to share his message.

“The momentum from ‘American Ninja Warrior’ has helped me dive even deeper into who I am,” Nick says. “I love my culture and where I came from. It has opened doors for me to tell my story.”

Lindsey Richter Voreis of Portland, Oregon, who was on “Survivor: Africa” in 2001, says what producers don’t tell you is, “When you’re done, you’re done.”

“But it doesn’t have to be that way,” Lindsey says. “For me, it was a real wake-up call, a life-changer. It was the best and worst experience of my life.”

Lindsey admits her self-esteem took a big hit.

“For one thing, I was pretty naïve and clueless back then,” says the longtime athlete who began mountain biking in the mid-1990s. “A lot of my drama was based on my fears and insecurities.”
Lindsey says the broadcasts were not accurate as far as what went on during the tapings.

“I was made out to be the villain,” she says, noting producers definitely encouraged bad behavior. “It was very malicious and manipulative. In a way, it’s kind of sad that with all the hard things happening in the world that we participated in this trivial human experiment.”

Lindsey says her time on “Survivor” opened her eyes and started her journey toward being a positive influence on people’s lives. Several years ago, she launched LIV Ladies AllRide mountain bike camps for women, using her lessons learned for good.

“I had the gift of seeing behaviors that weren’t serving me well, and took the opportunity to change them,” Lindsey says. “The show did a number on me, but, yes, I’d do it again, even knowing what I know now.”

Fishing: The Pastime of Presidents

Wednesday, January 25th, 2017

This Presidents Day, February 20, remember they were mere mortals first and presidents second. Most of them—like most of us—preferred a rod and reel in hand rather than a golf club and little round ball. Left, Franklin Roosevelt watches as the day’s catch is off-loaded from his boat, “Larooco,” after a rewarding fishing excursion in Florida in 1924.
Photo courtesy of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum

“All men are equal before fish.”
—Herbert Hoover

Golf is likely the first thing that comes to mind when people think of the favorite presidential pastime. However, that is a misconception. Golfing presidents is a relatively modern trend.

Fishing has been the pastime of choice for most presidents. Nearly two dozen of them enjoyed regular fishing trips as an escape from the pressures of the Oval Office, while several presidents were downright passionate about the sport.

Three presidents who belong to the latter group are George Washington, Herbert Hoover and Jimmy Carter.

Washington loved to fish the Chesapeake Bay, as well as the rivers and streams of Virginia. He often carried a small, pocket tackle box with him. It contained hooks, wax, horse hair and lengths of silk fishing line so he could indulge his frequent piscatorial urges.

Dressed in slacks, jacket, collared shirt and tie, Hoover never really looked the part of a fisherman. But his looks were deceiving. He was the consummate angler. His favorite places to wet a line were the Florida Keys, Northern California, and the McKenzie and Rogue rivers in Oregon. His favorite fly was a size 10 Royal Coachman.

Carter is a contemporary version of Hoover. He is a lifelong, avid outdoor enthusiast and fisherman. He is a master of knot tying. His favorite is a nail knot with seven turns. He has fished throughout the world, from Venezuela to Mongolia, and everywhere in between. One of the most talked-about outings was his famous encounter with the “killer rabbit” while fishing near Plains, Georgia, in 1979.

Want to learn more? Here are three popular books about fishing presidents: “Fishing with the Presidents” by William Mares; “Hoover, the Fishing President” by Hal Elliot Wert; and “An Outdoor Journal” by Jimmy Carter.

Baby Your Fishing Rods
A good rod is the backbone of fishing, so it’s important to treat your rods with TLC.

The best thing for them is to be cleaned periodically. Use a soft, cotton cloth and a little rubbing alcohol. Pay particular attention to the guides, handles and reel mounts, where gunk can build up over time and adversely affect performance.

Always store fishing rods vertically, either on a wall rack or in storage cases, so over time they don’t develop a case of the bends.

Be an Outdoor Volunteer
Volunteer opportunities abound throughout the region, since many outdoor and conservation programs are always in need of help. For more information, check out the website of your favorite outdoor agency or organization.

What Day Is It?
February 3: Feed the
Birds Day
February 8: Boy Scout Day
February 22: Walking the Dog Day

Got a Tip or a Whopper?
Send us your favorite outdoor tip, photo or story. If selected for publication, we will send you $25 for one-time use of the item. When sending a photo, identify people and pets, and tell us the story behind the picture. Email your submission to gro.etilarurnull@ofni.

Many of Curtis Condon’s fondest memories involve outdoor adventures with friends and family, whether fishing with old school buddies, backpacking with his two sons in the mountains of the Northwest, or bird watching along the coast with his wife. He feels fortunate having the opportunity to write about the outdoors and other subjects for more than 35 years.

Celebrating Hats Every Day

Sunday, December 25th, 2016

Pat Griswold takes organizing her hat collection very seriously. She keeps everything labeled and categorized so she can find each of her 500 hats.
Photos by Sarah Spratling

January 15 is National Hat Day, but Pat Griswold of Carlin, Nevada, doesn’t wait until January to celebrate. Pat has collected more than 500 hats dating from 1912 to the 1960s, so any day is a great day to wear a hat.

“Some are elegant classics and others just make you laugh,” says Pat, 85, who started her museum-quality collection in 1985 after buying some hats at an auction. “The ideas behind some designs are unbelievable and creative with the use of feathers or ribbons.”

The hats are stored in her basement in neat stacks from floor to ceiling. Each box has a photo on it, showing the dressy vintage hat inside.

Pat’s late husband, Lee, liked to joke about one of his favorites.

“It’s black with feathers on it,” says Pat. “He said it looked like someone shot a crow and the feathers landed on my head.”

Women’s dress hats are still in vogue in some places, Pat says.

“Extravagant hats with wide brims are a must at the Kentucky Derby,” she says. “Women in the British royal family have always worn fashionable hats, too.”

Pat says her hats range in value from about $6 to more than $175, depending on their condition and how unusual they are.

“They’re all fascinating,” she says. “Every hat is unique and has a story waiting to be told.”

Give Credit Where It is Due

Sunday, December 25th, 2016

By having a vision and waiting for a modern automobile to pass and contrast those autos pictured, I added my signature to one of the beautiful floodwall murals designed and painted by Robert Dafford and the Dafford Muralists of Lafayette, Louisiana, on the Ohio River near Paducah, Kentucky. The project began in 1996; the last panel was completed in 2007.
Photo by David LaBelle

When putting your signature on another artist’s work, be respectful and add value

I remember walking into a café in Arizona and being met by a large photographic print of the Grand Canyon. What struck me first was not the majesty of the beautiful cavity, but the size of the photographer’s name printed in giant, bold type beneath the image.

How arrogant, I thought. The photographer had done so little—basically made a record, a copy of another’s artwork—then had the nerve to shout his name on the print as though he had done something great, too.

His bold name sought equal billing with the One, the artist who fashioned the canyon.

If you created something beautiful or even unique and I put my name on it, wouldn’t you feel robbed?

OK, so I am being a bit dramatic here, but it is to make a point: Taking a few snapshots with a digital or film camera of another’s creation, another’s artwork, does not make me an artist. It makes me a copy machine.

I am not diminishing the eye of the artist—whether with brush or camera—but unless I add new composition, light, vision, perspective, interpretation or point of view, I am little more than a copy machine.

If I put my name on another’s artwork, isn’t this a form of visual plagiarism?

Reproducing another’s artwork is a way of honoring the artist. But when we make a picture of another’s artwork—painting, mural, sculpture, statue, building, bridge, etc.—then strut around like we have done something great, we ought to consider who gets the greater credit.

By incorporating human forms or dramatic light, interesting foreground or background, you create new composition and reverently put your signature on another’s artwork, be it landscape, mural, architecture or bronze or marble sculpture.

God gives us everything—the light, the color, the eyes to see and compose and interpret, even the heart to appreciate. He allows us, even encourages us, to add our point of view.

With any creation, any art, shouldn’t we tread quietly, reverently, giving honor and glory to the true artist?

Challenge yourself to put your signature on another’s artwork, like comments in a gallery book. See the creation in a different, maybe dramatic, light. Compose a portion of the artwork using shadows and life forms reacting or participating in the artwork.

As with any gift, we ought to give thanks to the creator.

David LaBelle is an internationally known photographer, teacher, author and lecturer. He has worked for newspapers and magazines across the United States and taught at three universities. He applies many of the lessons he learned during his magical boyhood years in rural California to photography. For more information, visit

Add a Little Spice to Your Outdoor Routine

Sunday, December 25th, 2016

Orienteering maps have more detail than regular maps, including trails, buildings and elevation contours. Even things as small as boulders, fences, pits and springs appear on orienteering maps.
Map courtesy of Columbia River Orienteering Club

Once in a while, it’s fun to add a change of pace to outdoor workout routines to break up the monotony. One way to do that is with orienteering.

Orienteering is called the “thinking sport” because it combines mental challenges with physical ones. It is an activity for young and old, athlete and nature lover.

Participants are given a map of the event area with various terrain features circled and numbered. The object is to find all of the terrain features—in order—as quickly as possible. Competitive participants run from point to point, while most people enjoy the course at a more leisurely pace.

Multiple courses are offered at each event. They are set up on the basis of experience, with something for beginners as well as advanced participants.

Map-reading skills are more important than knowing how to use a compass. The compass is primarily used to orient the map to the terrain or to determine direction of travel. Most organized events provide brief training sessions for newbies, including how to use a map and compass in tandem.

There are two orienteering clubs in Florida: Florida Orienteering in the Orlando area and Suncoast Orienteering in the Bradenton area. The clubs hold events from late fall through the end of spring.

For more information, visit the Florida Orienteering website at It also features information about events hosted by Suncoast Orienteering.

Outdoors 101: Use Caution With Cotton

Cotton socks are comfy for relaxing or kicking around, but they may not be the best choice when picking up the pace. Cotton sucks up sweat and water, clings to the skin when wet and dries slowly. Those properties increase the risk of blisters. Synthetic and light merino wool socks are better choices for active sports.

Bike Tires: Rotate or Not?
Rotating car or truck tires is highly recommended because it evens out wear and extends tire life. However, bike safety advocates do not recommend rotating bicycle tires, since it can be hard to keep track of mileage and wear. Instead, they suggest replacing tires as they wear out.

There’s No Time Like the Present for Bargains
January is one of the best months for shopping. Most outdoor stores have a deep-discount section, such as the bargain cave at Cabelas. They often have more selection right after Christmas than at other times of the year, due to holiday closeouts and overstocked items.

Mail-order retailers offer the same kind of deals in spades. Two companies you should check out online are Sierra Trading Post ( and Campmor ( Both retailers offer lots of closeout specials this time of year.

Got a Tip or a Whopper?
Send us your favorite outdoor tip, photo or story. If selected for publication, we will send you $25 for one-time use of the item. When sending a photo, identify people and pets, and tell us the story behind the picture. Email your submission to moc.stnerrucadirolfnull@ofni.

Many of Curtis Condon’s fondest memories involve outdoor adventures with friends and family, whether fishing with old school buddies, backpacking in the mountains of the Northwest with his sons, or bird watching along the Gulf Coast with his wife. He feels fortunate having the opportunity to write about the outdoors and other subjects for more than 30 years.

Bridges and Angels

Sunday, December 25th, 2016

Henry and a friend’s dog, Dutch, in a classic Norman Rockwell-style slice of Americana photo. “It is a moment I will cherish forever—a reminder of a time when Henry, my youngest child, was a carefree cherub,” David says.

Embracing traumatic life experiences, David LaBelle captures quiet moments and humor in pictures

David LaBelle knows first-hand how grief can shape a person’s life. He also knows the power a positive mentor can hold over an unruly teenager. He has used both grief and teaching as cornerstones of his professional photography career.

David has been employed at 20 newspapers and magazines in nine states since 1967, and is featured in this magazine. He has taught at four universities—despite only having a high school diploma—and seven of his students have earned Pulitzer Prizes for photography.

He describes his body of photography as a combination of “human and humor,” and says that to be human means to have extremities in both joy and sorrow.

“Often, humor and sadness are on display at the same time,” David says.


The Student Years
Looking at his list of professional accolades, it may be hard to believe that in 1966 David nearly became a high school dropout. He says three people were truly instrumental in his life.

“My mother was my matrix,” he says, “and there was my high school photography teacher, Denning McArthur.”

The third person was Margaret McKean, a news reporter with the Ventura County Star-Free Press from 1969 to 1979.

Raised on a 10-acre farm in Oakview, California, David loved learning and says he was curious about life. However, sixth grade meant change in the form of a bus ride to an urban school. The city school was a place of turmoil. David had to take to his fists in a “hit-or-be-hit” lifestyle.

“That was a hard time for me as a kid,” he recalls.

David’s hands still bear scars from those years.

He had attended fewer than 40 days of education his sophomore year at Ventura High School when a school truant officer finally caught up with him.

What had he been doing? Mostly hunting and hiding out in the hills, but also taking photos with his mom’s Kodak Brownie Hawkeye camera.

David says about the only thing that kept him coming to school at all was the chance to walk down the hallway near the photography classroom and stare at work displayed on the walls.

Photography class was popular, the waiting list was long and David was a troubled student with a poor track record. School officials told him there was no way he would be allowed to enroll.

Seeing her son struggle was hard for Jeannette LaBelle, says David. In secret, Jeannette sought out Denning, the school’s photography instructor, and begged him to take on her son.

“He told me 25 years later what she’d done,” David recalls. “He said, ‘I couldn’t say no to her. I had 300 other people waiting to get into class, but she pleaded for her son.’”

Once enrolled in Denning’s class, David says his life as a student changed.

“Photography gave me a reason to get up and go to school—it gave me a voice,” he says. “I wasn’t a good writer or speaker. In this way I could show what I felt.”

David’s grades improved and he became a focused student.

Denning’s class was more than a photography basics tutorial.

“He read to us about the Vietnam War,” David explains. “He taught us that life was first and photography was second.”


The Big Flood
David was a 17-year-old high school senior when devastation hit Ventura County in January 1969. The skies poured and the rivers flooded in monumental proportion.

The LaBelle home was completely lost as San Antonio Creek rushed through it. David, his mother, younger brother Steven, sister Susan, and two neighborhood friends, John and Cindy—who had spent the night—were tossed into the current. David’s father—separated from his family when he went to his nearby Quonset hut garage—was clinging to the roof of the structure when he was plucked to safety by a helicopter.

David watched as his mother was swept away by the current—one of 13 people who died in the flood.

“Each of us—except my mother—were rescued by helicopter, me being the last,” David says. “I almost drowned. I was barely alive.

“Watching my mother die—well, that was going to change me, of course.”

A day or two after the flooding, David recalls a news reporter calling his father, Charles LaBelle, and asking to speak with the family about their experiences. It was then that David met Margaret McKean.

“She was so compassionate,” he says of the woman who interviewed him. “She was professional, but she was so compassionate and I remember thinking, ‘I want to be like her. I want to be there to help (people at their most vulnerable times). I want to be a bridge for them. I want to be a comfort.’”

David returned to school and to Denning’s class.

“He never said much,” David remembers of the time, but Denning pulled David aside after class one day to give him a quilt and share a few quiet words.

The instructor’s steadfastness was an anchor for the grieving teen. Their friendship would continue for the rest of Denning’s life.


Survivor Turns Photojournalist
As David took stock of his life after the flood, he realized this event and the people most influential to him would be a platform for his life focus.

“I thought, ‘I want to be a teacher like him, and a journalist like her, and I want to have compassion and see the best in people, like my mother,’” he says.

David took a job with the Ventura County Star-Free Press and began his career as a photojournalist while still in high school. Like many aspiring photographers, he yearned for recognition.

“When I was younger, like anybody, I was hungry for awards,” he admits.

David began earning them. His first professional award came at age 19, when he received the National Press Photographers Association’s Region 10 Photographer of the Year Award. He captured the award the next two years, too.

“Suddenly, I was in this national spotlight,” David recalls. “I went from Ventura as a real hot shot.”

He yearned for a Pulitzer Prize, and took news jobs in some of the hardest-hitting areas in California, including Ontario and San Bernardino.

“Both cities were violent,” David says. “I think during my first week in Ontario there were eight people killed.”

Burnt out, he took a job doing manual labor in the California oil fields. David realized he was not making a difference, so he resumed his photojournalism career, spending a year at a paper in Anchorage before returning to California. When the newspaper in Goleta folded, the ownership group offered him a job as a reporter/photographer at a paper in Kansas.

“After a month or so, it was clear I was a far better photographer than reporter or writer, so they made me their first full-time photographer,” David says. “I’ve always been a kind of brush breaker. I’m going to go through the stickers and break a path.”


Becoming a Teacher
About this time, David realized his professional focus had changed.

“Twenty or 30 years ago I decided I was going to be a better teacher than a globetrotter photographer,” he says. “I also wanted a family. That was a choice I made, and I wouldn’t change it. In my life, the greatest thing that defines me is that I am a connector.”

Throughout his news career, David always taught photography on the side.

“I was a year out of high school when I taught my first class,” he says.

A conversation with the photo editor at The Sacramento Bee changed his life.

“He was from Western Kentucky University, and he said they needed a photo teacher there,” David says. “I didn’t have a college degree, but he convinced me to interview for the job anyway.”

David landed the job at age 36. Western Kentucky had created the first Photojournalist in Residence program in the country, recognizing work experience was equal to a college degree.

“The students were so hungry,” David says. “They asked so many questions. We turned that sucker around.”

He went on to instruct students at the University of Kentucky and Kent State. In 2016, he began building a program at a university in Florence, Italy.

David feels deeply that he made the correct choice balancing his talents.

“A friend once told me, ‘David, since I’ve known you, you’ve always wanted to change the world—and you do that through teaching,’” he says, then chuckles. “I tell my students, ‘You are my epistle read by all men.’”

David has never stopped chronicling life through a camera lens—and he especially delved into it working alongside his students. He has worked on special projects featuring both homeless people and those in the final stages of life.

As a photographer, David says his greatest influences have been Jesus Christ and Norman Rockwell. He wants to showcase life and love through the everyday man.

David says that showing love through action is the most important gift he received.

He says he often thinks of the kid he once was, and hopes how he lives his life honors those who helped him.

Today, David travels the country hosting photography workshops. He covers basic questions about using a camera, but his focus is how to connect with a subject.

“It’s the human connection that’s at risk of going extinct,” David says. “We had better take time to preserve what’s important.”

For David LaBelle’s perspectives on photography and life in general, visit his blog,