Wednesday, July 4, 2012

About the Signers of the Declaration of Independence

by: Gary Hildrith

Have you ever wondered what happened to the fifty-six men who signed the Declaration of Independence? This is the price they paid:

Five signers were captured by the British as traitors, and tortured before they died. Twelve had their homes ransacked and burned. Two lost their sons in the revolutionary army, another had two sons captured. Nine of the fifty-six fought and died from wounds or hardships resulting from the Revolutionary War.

These men signed, and they pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor!

What kind of men were they? Twenty-four were lawyers and jurists. Eleven were merchants. Nine were farmers and large plantation owners. All were men of means, well educated. But they signed the Declaration of Independence knowing full well that the penalty could be death if they were captured.

Carter Braxton of Virginia, a wealthy planter and trader, saw his ships swept from the seas by the British navy. He sold his home and properties to pay his debts, and died in rags.

Thomas McKeam was so hounded by the British that he was forced to move his family almost constantly. He served in the Congress without pay, and his family was kept in hiding. His possessions were taken from him, and poverty was his reward.

Vandals or soldiers or both, looted the properties of Ellery, Clymer, Hall, Walton, Gwinnett, Heyward, Ruttledge, and Middleton.

Perhaps one of the most inspiring examples of "undaunted resolution" was at the Battle of Yorktown. Thomas Nelson, Jr. was returning from Philadelphia to become Governor of Virginia and joined General Washington just outside of Yorktown. He then noted that British General Cornwallis had taken over the Nelson home for his headquarters, but that the patriot's were directing their artillery fire all over the town except for the vicinity of his own beautiful home. Nelson asked why they were not firing in that direction, and the soldiers replied, "Out of respect to you, Sir." Nelson quietly urged General Washington to open fire, and stepping forward to the nearest cannon, aimed at his own house and fired. The other guns joined in, and the Nelson home was destroyed. Nelson died bankrupt.

Francis Lewis's Long Island home was looted and gutted, his home and properties destroyed. His wife was thrown into a damp dark prison cell without a bed. Health ruined, Mrs. Lewis soon died from the effects of the confinement. The Lewis's son would later die in British captivity, also.

"Honest John" Hart was driven from his wife's bedside as she lay dying, when British and Hessian troops invaded New Jersey just months after he signed the Declaration. Their thirteen children fled for their lives. His fields and his grist mill were laid to waste. All winter, and for more than a year, Hart lived in forests and caves, finally returning home to find his wife dead, his chidrvanished and his farm destroyed. Rebuilding proved too be too great a task. A few weeks later, by the spring of 1779, John Hart was dead from exhaustion and a broken heart.

Norris and Livingston suffered similar fates.

New Jersey's Richard Stockton, after rescuing his wife and children from advancing British troops, was betrayed by a loyalist, imprisoned, beaten and nearly starved. He returned an invalid to find his home gutted, and his library and papers burned. He, too, never recovered, dying in 1781 a broken man.

William Ellery of Rhode Island, who marveled that he had seen only "undaunted resolution" in the faces of his co-signers, also had his home burned.

Only days after Lewis Morris of New York signed the Declaration, British troops ravaged his 2,000-acre estate, butchered his cattle and drove his family off the land. Three of Morris' sons fought the British.

When the British seized the New York houses of the wealthy Philip Livingston, he sold off everything else, and gave the money to the Revolution. He died in 1778.

Arthur Middleton, Edward Rutledge and Thomas Heyward Jr. went home to South Carolin tight. In the British invasion of the South, Heyward was wounded and all three were captured. As he rotted on a prison ship in St. Augustine, Heyward's plantation was raided, buildings burned, and his wife, who witnessed it all, died. Other Southern signers suffered the same general fate.

Among the first to sign had been John Hancock, who wrote in big, bold script so George III "could read my name without spectacles and could now double his reward for 500 pounds for my head." If the cause of the revolution commands it, roared Hancock, "Burn Boston and make John Hancock a beggar!"

Here were men who believed in a cause far beyond themselves.

Such were the stories and sacrifices of the America revolution. These were not wild eyed, rabble-rousing ruffians. They were soft-spoken men of means and education. They had security, but they valued liberty more. Standing tall, straight, and unwavering, they pledged: "For the support of this Declaration, with firm reliance on the protection of the Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other, our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor."

Monday, June 25, 2012

Why a Professional Photographer?

An artist friend of mine who lives here in Texas had her chimney catch on fire six years ago.  They happened to live out in the country and far from help so their house burned to the ground in a matter of minutes.  They barely had time to get out so rescuing keepsakes was not possible.  I met her for lunch not long ago and we talked about that awful experience.  After it happened, a couple of us went out spent hours helping her sift through the ashes looking for remnants of her belongings.  We found a few pieces of jewelry and a few damaged photographs but the bulk of her life's keepsakes and memories were gone forever.  All her family photographs, her own original artwork, and the things that insurance money can't replace are gone.  Six years later, she still mourns her loss and with good reason.  While most of us won't have to face such a loss, all of us can look around our homes and think about what we would rescue from fire or damage if we had the time.

I think everyone who is asked puts their photographs first among the things they would rescue if they could.  Portraits of your family, your children, your wedding and your child's senior portraits are among the moments in time that you want to preserve for your children and grandchildren.  It is your heritage and documentation of your family.   That is why those special times should be entrusted to a professional photographer.  A portrait photographer has studied skills both technical and artistic and continues to study the  changes and new photographic trends in order to provide artfully created portraits.  The portrait artist's work evokes emotion, captures personalities, knows the best composition and knows how to see the light and use it. 

So why did I write all of this?  Because I am blessed to be a photographer and one who has had the opportunity to create art for my clients so their memories will be preserved.  Another of my friends recently lost her grandfather.  She told me that they were so happy that I had done a photo session with her grandfather and grandmother, their children and grandchildren last November because now they had beautiful portraits of him even though he was no longer with them.  What an honor it is to play a little part in providing future generations with their family story.


Saturday, June 23, 2012

I found this video by Victor Kiam on Vimeo.  I really liked it and thought you might, too.

Ballerina from victor kiam on Vimeo.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Photo tip of the day!


Do you ever wonder why your white balance is inconsistent when you are using your digital camera?  I have a very easy way to stop that from happening.  When digital cameras came into our lives, all of us from full fledged working pros to those new to any camera had to learn new things.  White balance was something we didn't have to worry about with film cameras.  If you set your white balance on automatic, you are letting your camera do the thinking.  That is not always the best plan.  If you are shooting where the light is inconsistent or if you have mixed lighting with natural light, incandescent light or fluorescent added in from the ceiling or a lamp, your camera can't figure it out.   Yes, you can fix your white balance issues but it is far easier to fix them if you camera's white balance has consistently been set to the same thing for each of the images you shot at a particular time.  If you are shooting in the sun, you are far better off setting your white balance to daylight.  You should get used to setting your white balance to match where you are each time to start a new session of shooting.  With all the images taken during the time you are in that location having the same white balance setting, it is so much easier to tweak them if they are not quite warm enough or cool enough when you are starting at point A with all of them.  If you use Auto white balance, you might be staring at point A on one, point B at the next, point C or D for the next get the idea.  Consistency is key because your eyes will fool you.   Watch for more photo tips coming soon.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Well, another day and another broken air conditioner.  Boy, I sure do appreciate the air conditioning in my car these days.  After getting air conditioner #2 repaired yesterday, we were cool most of the day but, alas, sometime early this evening it gave up the ghost again!  Boy, we must have ticked off the air conditioner fairies somehow.  They are throwing their wands into the motor every time they get the chance.  A nice hotel is sounding really nice right now..............or even a not so great hotel would do if it had rooms with air conditioning.  Or, maybe we could spend all night at the movies!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Well, today was another roasting hot day...........99 with the heat index at 108.  Of course, this would also be the day that the second of two central air conditioners went out.  We are waiting for a new heat pump to arrive for the first one and the second one has been working hard to keep us reasonably comfortable.  The second one gave up the ghost sometime in the early morning hours.   We had floor fans to move the hot air around until the service man could get here.  I had photo sessions but with the fans wasn't horrible to shoot.  By about 3:00 system number two was back up and running.  What a relief.   

Right now there are huge claps of rumbling thunder and lightening that is turning the sky red. Maybe it will rain like crazy and get rid of some of that heavy humidity hanging in the air.  The ground needs it and with any luck maybe it will cool down a tad.   As I write this, it makes me think of all the books over the years that I read set in the deep south.  There were people sitting on their porches fanning themselves and drinking iced tea.  Ah, I can hear that lovely southern drawl now.  In my minds eye, I can see the moss hanging down from the huge big trees out on the big lawn and everyone moving slowly because of the oppressive heat.  It was a lot more fun to read about it than actually be in humidity for any length of time.  I am already dreading August. 

Enough whining for one night.  I'm off to bed so I will be ready for another hot, humid day.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

A number of you have seen the canvas that I had made up of the second image shown here.  But, you have never seen the original photograph that was my beginning.   When I haven't done anything different for a while, I find that I need a creative fix.  As you know, I love photography and I am always taking a new course or another seminar to stay on top of the rapid changes in photography these days.  But sometimes when I need to charge up my creative juices, I choose one of my images and "paint" it in the computer.  I have a special software program that allows me to choose whether I want oil, acrylic, chalk, oil pastel, pencil, charcoal, etc., etc., etc.  I can also choose the kind of brush I want and even mix colors on a palette.  I use an electronic tablet because it is just impossible to paint with a mouse.  The tablet allows me to paint lightly or heavily as I add pressure to the stylus.  Once I get going, suddenly it is hours later and I find I have been lost in time.  One great thing about painting digitally is that I don't have to worry about cleaning up a mess or smelling paint fumes for hours on end.  The next thing is having the finished product put on canvas.  What I have not done in the past but am planning on doing in the near future, is using real paint to build up on the canvas after the lab has printed my painted version.  I think that would add to the finished product by having "real" brush strokes of paint on top of the printed canvas.  Stay tuned...............I will add all the gory details when I master that part.