Category Archives: 08-Photo Memoirs

The 17th Pastoral Anniversary of Dr. Wesley Elam, Sr. and Sylvia Elam

From September 10 – 14 North East Baptist Church celebrated the 17th pastoral anniversary of Dr. Wesley Elam, Sr. and 1st Lady Sylvia Elam.

“Where He Leads, I Will Follow” (Psalm 23) was the theme. The anniversary kicked off on Wednesday, with guest messenger, Rev. Shelton Miles, Sr. Pastor of Emmanuel AME Church (Durham).  Friday, Sept. 12 Family Fun Fest III included a talent and fashion Show.  The 11 O’clock Worship Service on Sunday featured Dr. William McCoy, Associate Minister, Mt. Vernon Missionary Baptist Church as the speaker.

Below are groups of pictures from each of the three days.

WEDNESDAY NIGHT – Rev. Shelton Miles, Sr. Pastor of Emmanuel AME Church (Durham)








SUNDAY – Dr. William McCoy, Associate Minister, Mt. Vernon Missionary Baptist Church




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The 75th National Gospel Choir/Chorus Convention – 2008

The images presented here were captured to preserve the historical importance of this trip for members of the Raleigh-Durham Triangle Chapter and North East Baptist Church which is pastored by Dr. Wesley Elam, Sr. The images cover our entire trip and not just one aspect of it.


During the week of August 3rd through the 9th I had the opportunity to travel with some other church members to Chicago, IL. We attended the “75th National Convention of Gospel Choirs and Choruses” and we explored the Windy City when time permitted.

Note: I’ve tried to arrange this blog entry in such a way that it makes it easier for you find and view the images of interest to you. However, I encourage you to PACE YOURSELF and visit each photo gallery over several days so that you can experience the entire story.

Here is an index of the various sections that you will find within this blog entry.

  1. Getting There
  2. The Hotel
  3. Exploring The City
  4. The Convention (Monday – Friday)
  5. Shoe Care Specialist
  6. Kids Playing & First Meal
  7. Miscellaneous Pics



Our story begins in Durham, NC where we attended church and then made our way to the airport to catch our flight on SouthWest Airlines. We had a good time just sitting around in the airport and our flights were very peaceful. Upon arrival in Chicago we quickly secured our luggage and then focused all of our efforts on finding a shuttle to get us to our hotel. To our surprise, we ended up getting on the wrong shuttle and had to back track to the airport to catch the correct shuttle. Once we arrived at the hotel we were met by Minister Roland Perry II and he filled us in on what was to take place for the week. I invite you to take some time to view the departure and return photos.



Our home away from home was the Hilton Chicago which is located in the downtown area. This was a very nice hotel and became our 2nd home at the end of a our busy days. If I remember correctly there were 24+ floors to this hotel. Certain elevators only went to specific floors and it took some getting used to. After getting lost several times we soon got our bearings and became comfortable learning our way around. There is much more to the hotel than what I was able to capture but it will give you an idea of what parts of it are like. I invite you to take a peek into the hotel by viewing the hotel picture gallery.


The scene above was captured one morning as we walked out of the hotel to make our way to Dunkin Doughnuts to grab some breakfast. Since this is my blog then I can say that I don’t care if I don’t see another Dunkin Doughnuts for a few years. Okay, moving on . . . Chicago, IL – The Windy City. The ironic thing is that while we were there there wasn’t any wind at all. For the majority of our days we spent our time in convention classes, rehearsals and service. However, we made sure that we had enough time to explore the downtown areas of the city. We made our way down to the shoreline of Lake Michigan, explored downtown stores, ate authentic Chicago Deep dish pizza at a place called Pizano’s, we visited a park to take photographs, jumped on the free trolley to get a tour of the city, briefly visited the art institute and more. There were many visually interesting sites to capture and I invite you to take a look at Chicago through my eyes.


If you spent the time to view the galleries before this one then you were probably thinking “When is he going to get to the convention pictures”. Well here we are! The image above is a powerful image which gives you an idea of how many people were involved BEFORE all the seats got filled and people were forced to stand in the aisle. If you think the scene in the picture is moving then think consider what the book of Revelation says in Chapter 7 verse 9 “After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands;” There is a lot of symbolism in the picture above and it is one of many images captured during the “Consecration Service”.

I’m not here to teach but to share the images and therefore I will keep moving.What can I say about the convention? (sigh letting out air). It was AN AWESOME JESUS CHRIST FILLED EXPERIENCE!! It had such an impact on me that when I was post processing the pictures I felt a sense of sadness because I longed for the environment that one experiences when they are surrounded by a multitude of people praising and worshipping God. Why was I saddened? I missed the fellowship, the high praise environment, the young people that love God and aren’t afraid to express it, the energetic but bible based preaching and the diverse music. Just realize that the ambience lasted for SEVEN DAYS without end. Don’t take this the wrong way because we should all praise God in our homes by ourselves and in our churches but when you’re surrounded so many other people doing it “all the time” then that is a different experience all together.Belows these quick directions you will see the days of the week Monday through Friday. There is a SINGLE gallery for each day of the week. The bulleted topics beneath each day are QUICK LINKS to specific sets of photographs WITHIN each gallery.

You have two ways to view the photographs associated with each day of the week.

  1. You can select your topic of interest and go straight to those pictures.
  2. To guarantee that you see all the pictures for a particular day just click on the “Click Here To View Photos” button.













Since I know that people were getting anxious to get to the convention pictures I decided to continue with “other” pictures at this point. As I walked around the Hilton Chicago I ran into a man named Donald. He was very soft spoken and was patiently waiting to get some business. I wore sneakers most of the time and my dress shoes were already in good condition but I still wanted to capture the essence of his setup in a respectful manner. Donald gave me permission to photograph everything and in return I tipped him for his cooperation and time. I invite you to view more images of Donald and his setup.



A trip to a different city wouldn’t be fair for the children if we didn’t just let them break free and have some fun. This gallery is devoted to some of that activity because if the truth be told the children had a demanding schedule as well. Brent hooked up with some other teens and would be gone for hours on end. A few of our church members even ran into him a local eating place. Speaking of eating.. this gallery also contains images of our first meal in Chicago.





The picture above was taken of me and the children eating breakfast at Dunkin Doughnuts. This miscellaneous gallery contains a few random images that didn’t really fall well into any of the other galleries. I invite you to view them.



I hope that you have enjoyed this documentary of our trip to Chicago.

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Eileen’s 40th Birthday Party

On July 12, 2008 my sister Eileen celebrated her 40th birthday. What she didn’t know is that a surprise party was being thrown for her. My sister Benita had told her that she was going to enjoy a nice dinner at P.F. Chang’s. Unbeknowst to her the planning to surprise her began about 2 months earlier. The mastermind behind the surprise was our sister Benita. Everyone was told to be at Benita’s house no later than 5:30 p.m. because Eileen and Fred were due to arrive at 6:00 p.m. to go to dinner. Well at least that is what Eileen thought…

What Eileen didn’t know is that an ambush had been set for her. There were balloons placed on the road which was perpendicular to Benita’s street. People were spread out to welcome Eileen with signs and happy faces as she turned onto the street. In the picture below you will see several people placed along the road with signs in hand waiting to welcome Eileen.

Eileen was in the white jeep in the front and the people holding signs are being pointed to by the arrows.



As you can probably imagine, Eileen was quite surprised and I was able to capture this picture of her as she drove past in the jeep.


And of course Fred is playing it cool because he’s known all along what was about to take place. As Eileen stepped out the jeep she she was amazed to see how many people had come to welcome her. One of the first people that she hugged was Benita and she realized that she had been hoodwinked and bamboozled.


Eileen probably ended up hugging a million people by the time she made it into the house. Eventually she worked her way through the crowd and then we headed for the backyard. Benita had arranged for several people to have a rose along with a card with a character words on it.. such as “loving”, “inspirational”, “caring” etc… I’m not sure what the real words were because I was focused on taking photos so don’t hold me to those.


Each person walked up to Eileen, spoke their word as well as anything else they wanted to say and then placed their rose in a vase. Below is a picture of our mom presenting her rose to Eileen.



Another part of this party involved a special song from Eileen’s four boys to her. They stood in front of her while the song “mama” by Boys 2 Men played. I’m not going to say that they actually sang but we understood their intent. It was funny because on different parts of the song a different son would step forward, as if he’s singing a solo.. YET none of them actually sang. I think that they were getting choked up and just couldn’t bring themselves to sing because that would have put them over the top.

By the way, Eileen has placed ALL OF THEM ON PUNISHMENT for being in on this suprise party and not letting her know.


After each person said some words we socialized for a bit and grabbed us a bite to eat.


Another surprise lay in wait for Eileen. She didn’t know that Benita had me to put together a video to be a tribute to Eileen’s life. It contains pictures from birth to age 39 and has several guest appearances by various family members. Special thanks to Antonio Davis over at of Winston-Salem for capturing the family members in that part of NC for me.

Below is a picture of Eileen “Rose” Watkins-Rice sitting on the couch and watching the video.



Although the point of the picture below is to capture the sign hanging from the ceiling you will see a faint image of Benita on video talking and singing to Eileen.


The video was created with music from the 70’s and 80’s. Just a few of the songs included are Double Dutch Bus, Get Off, Planet Rock, Outstanding, Carwash etc… You can view the video by clicking on the image below.


After everyone had the chance to view the video then we took a moment to have a brief toast to Eileen as well as sing happy birthday.


We then headed back outside for a little fun and games which included, a SOUL TRAIN line, some free style dancing and just having a good time.


There was a point where Eileen was laughing so hard that she could not stand up. Fred, her husband, had decided to get his “boogie” on and the rest was history.



Then Eileen (in red hat) and one of her home girls started to get their soul train boogie on.


Right before I left to head back to Durham I managed to get everyone to SHUT UP and move into a group so that we could get this shot. Unfortunately I couldn’t be in the shot because I didn’t have a tripod. However, I’m in two of the pictures thanks to Christian and Sharon.


If you know me by now then you understand that I don’t capture just a few moments and put my camera up.

If you want to view the entire celebration, the memories, the fun and the mingling the take some time and visit the full gallery of photographs.


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NEBC Vacation Bible School 2008

Vacation Bible School (VBS) brings back many memories from my childhood.  It was one of the most anticipated weeks out of my summer and it made me look forward to going to church.   Just like yesterday I can remember making arts and crafts, learning about Jesus, playing with all of my friends and topping it off with good dinner for 5 days straight.      My church just had it’s vacation bible school and it was a blast to capture with my Sony A700 camera.   


The misconception is that VBS  is for children only.  That is far from the truth.  VBS is for people of all ages from babys to the elderly.


Below are just a few moments (of many) that were captured during the later part of the week.








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The Photography of Christian Watkins – Age 9

NOTE: In the pictures below there are some that I took to help tell the story which are followed by Christian’s picture from that scene.

Read slow so that you can distinguish which pictures were captured by Christian.

It is not a secret that I love photography. The more I learn the more I realize what I don’t know. One thing that I love more than me doing it is to teach my children about it. For right now I’ve taken my youngest son Christian under my wing and I’ve been sharing with him what I’ve learned. For the past 1.5 months I’ve really been drilling Christian on aperture fstops, shutter speeds and ISO sensitivity, the color of light, depth of field, composition as well as using creative angles.

Today I planned a project for him that would stretch his imagination and force him to think in a creative manner. I took out my Mole Richardson 750 watt spot light and I gave him the task of photographing his drum set and his brother’s guitar. Here is the catch. He has to use his camera in 100% manual mode. Also, he couldn’t use normal angles and he had to produce an image that was unlike anything that we would see from a normal vantage point. To get him thinking outside the box I had him close one eye and simply move around and look at objects at various heights, angles and distances. By using the one eye approach he was able to see how shapes and visual relationships can be exploited and manipulated to create a visually interesting photograph.

In a nutshell, the most strict requirement was that he have fun and that the photographs be captured with artistic vision. As his 9 year old mind starting churning I ran to grab my other camera so that I could capture him with his thinking cap on. So here we go…

Drums first.

Here is an angle showing the spot light illuminating the drums and if you look close enough you can see Christian behind the drum set trying to setup his shot.


Below is another shot looking over Christian’s shoulder to try to anticipate what he’s trying to do.


Here is the photo that Christian captured with the Sony A100 and to spice it up a bit he turned on the flash to add some blue highlights to the chrome. I was very impressed when I saw this shot but it gets better!


The next task for Christian was to capture his brother’s guitar. We put the guitar on the stand and he went to work.





Here comes one of my favorite photographs from his entire series.

He plopped down on the floor. He placed the guitar on his snare drum ……..


And here it is.

A very sweet shot captured. If he can visualize this at age 9 I can’t imagine what he will be capable of if he sticks with this until he’s a grown man.


When everything was said and done he had given me what I was looking for which was his creativity. Right now I’m a proud papa because he did it all by himself. He had to work the camera in “M”anual mode, figure out white balance, shutter speed, aperture, ISO, depth of field, as well think about how to achieve the picture that he saw in his mind.

What I’m trying to provide him with is a base from which he can build upon. He needs to know that it’s okay to think outside the box because the world is a much more visually interesting place when we look at it from severely altered points of view.

As you can imagine, Christian now has his own set of pictures printed with his name on them and for historical purposes we have another copy in our family photo album for generations to enjoy.


A Dog’s Tranquility

This is the Watkins’ family pet “Ace Jamal Watkins”. He joined our family at the tender age of 5 weeks old when my daughter Aleah  was only 6 months of age.  Aleah and Ace are two peas in a pod and he will watch out for her because they’ve literally grown up together. He is one of the most docile American Pit Bull Terriers that one can meet.  When he’s not outside entertaining the children he goes into a SERIOUS relax mode.  As you can see,  he has it very good.  When I’m not harassing him he lives a tranquil life.


Long Overdue Photos And Video From BJ’s 13th Birthday Party

Believe it or not but BJ’s birthday was April 15, 2007 and I’m just releasing the pictures. He didn’t have a big party like his younger siblings but he had a nice gathering of friends and family.

Here is a picture of he and some of his buddies hoovering around to take a picture. It was next to impossible to get them to form a perfect circle and so I gave up trying and just captured the memory.


It seems like the thing that they wanted to do most was play video games. In both of these pictures BJ is fixed on the TV set as his friends battle it out with electronic foes.



The whole gang is here. In this picture you will see some of BJ’s closest friends.




It was so bizzare that it was worthy to be called BREAKING NEWS. View the video to see what happened.


Carowinds Amusement Park August 2007

On Saturday, August 4, 2007, the children and I went to Carowinds with our church.  Thanks to Minister Delton Farmer, Derrick Cameron and everyone else that was involved to make this trip possible. It was nice being able to get away for a full day’s worth of play.  When we arrived at the park Aleah immediately teamed up with her buddy Erica and another little girl named Jordan.

(Jordan, Aleah, Erica)


YES!!!!! Was what I thought when Shell (Erica’s Mom) said that it would be okay for Aleah to hang with them.  This meant that I would be free to ride as many rides as I wanted.   It was also a chance for me to spend some time with my boys Brent and Christian.


This trip was a major hurdle for Christian.  It was the first time that he had the nerve to ride on big rides and the only stipulation was that I had to ride with him. We rode  just about every big ride at the park that we could get on without waiting for an insane amount of time in lines.

1. The Carolina Cyclone

2. Drop Zone  Stunt Tower

3. The Hurler

4. Southern Star

5. Top Gun The Jet Coaster

6. Carolina Goldrusher

And more…

 There is one memory in particular that comes to mind…  It was when we fixed our eyes on the “Southern Star” which is featured in the picture below.


When we were upside down I was able to take this picture of how it looked to us  while we stared at the ground.


Here is a picture when we weren’t upside down but sideways and you can see the people on the other part of the ride looking up at us.


When we got off the ride Christian said… “Dad, when everyone else was screaming you were saying  NOW THAT’S A SWEET SHOT!!”

We literally played hard all day long and by the time 7 hours had rolled by.. we were completely spent.  However, that didn’t stop the boys from experiencing one last ride.. a children’s ride.  I couldn’t believe that they wanted to get on such a simple ride but they did..   

Here is that one moment relived… 

You can view the video by clicking the Triangle in the picture below

I didn’t take a bunch of pictures during this trip because my main goal was to play and not be consumed with trying to “capture the outing”.  So you won’t find my usual number of images.  However, if you’d like to see the rest of the snapshots then