As I was taking the photo of Vasquez Rocks you see above, someone was taking a photo of me.

Joel Cooke was hiking with his sons and approached me saying he had taken a “really cool photo of me silhouetted against the sunrise.” He asked if I’d like to have it and he took my phone number. He seemed excited to share it. In that moment, I’m not sure I conveyed just how thankful I would be to receive it. All I could do was smile. I had made the same offer to others in the past, but this was the first time the offer was being made to me.

The rest of my morning I thought about him and his sons hiking into the sunrise light. It reminded me of my own sons at that age running around Vasquez Rocks, treating it as the adventure it is. It’s better than any playground.

And I imagined a photo I had not seen yet. I thought about how kind he was to make the effort to stop and offer it, and I hoped he would follow through. I just had a feeling it was going to be something I’d enjoy. The smile he brought to my face lingered all morning.

Vasquez by Joel

The photo above is the image Joel captured on his iPhone 7 Plus and edited in SnapSeed. It is better than I hoped it would be. I love the care he took in the process. In fact, he originally sent me a different photo. Soon after he followed up with a text saying, “I just noticed I didn’t edit my preferred shot, where you’re silhouette had your legs spread a bit more… let me know if you want me to.” Well, of course I did.

I love the shot. It means more to me than Joel probably could have known. It represents exactly what I seek in my morning photographic jaunts… seclusion and beauty. I am at peace in these moments. I’m at peace looking at this photo. Thank you, Joel.

I spent the next 45 minutes or so chasing the sun up the sky. I moved to a few different locations and when the sun had finally risen to a place where I could find no more rocks for it to rise from, I began walking out of the park back to my truck. As I neared the exit, I noticed another photographer up on a rock outcropping.


He was shooting portraits with a model. He was not alone, but he was clearly in his own world as well. My smile widened. Was I really going to be able to pay forward Joel’s kindness so quickly?

The sun was intense on the rock they were perched on. Like a spotlight. I snapped off several shots and then walked over to offer him the photos. “My experience is that we don’t get many photos taken of us while we’re out shooting,” I yelled up at him, “if you give me your number I’ll send you the photos.”

I was not surprised that he seemed as thankful as I had been. The photographer’s name is Joseph Calvo, and he is an exceptionally talented portrait photographer.

The photo below is one of the photos he was taking of model Minori Ito in that moment. This is his edit, which he kindly expedited so I could write this post today. I was thrilled to see it.


Joseph and I texted back and forth over the rest of Saturday and part of Sunday. It turns out his camera of choice is the Sony a7r II, and he was kind enough to share one of his other RAW files with me, so I could play a bit. Holy crap. That is actually the only downside of the entire exchange. Now I’m longing for that camera more than ever. 🙂

Before this moment, my personal photos were the only photos that have ever been shared on this blog. It turns out serendipity is a powerful thing. Joel’s simple act of kindness –  the offer to share a photo with a stranger – caused three men from completely different backgrounds to be connected on this morning. It’s not a big deal, and yet, it is a big deal.

I hope I run into Joel again on some trail somewhere. I hope I spot him first and get to snap a shot of him with his boys. I hope Joseph doesn’t get sick of my questions about his camera. I’m sure I’ll have more. And I hope this little story brings even a small smile to your face.

“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” – Aesop

Many of the photos found on this site and more may be purchased here:

EXIF Data Below Applies Only To The Featured Photo In This Post
  • Aperture: ƒ/6.3
  • Camera: ILCE-6000
  • Taken: 8 October, 2016
  • Flash fired: no
  • Focal length: 16mm
  • ISO: 100
  • Shutter speed: 1/15s

    1. Great Pics And Story !! Well Done Gents … #StaySalty

    2. Pingback: Vasquez Rocks Sunrise Panorama | In The Viewfinder

    3. Moments noticed, one after the other, is what creates an unforgettable life. Thank you for sharing all three of these moments with us.

    4. Beautiful words, Jim.

    5. Pingback: Thanksgiving Day Wake Up Call | In The Viewfinder

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