1st Day in Oaxaca, Mexico


Spent the late morning photographing at El Convento de Santiago Apostol Cuilapan.  It was supposed to be a convent but it was never completed. Today was our first full day in Oaxaca.  I’m here photographing with Mission Focused and Adventures in Life, serving on a 1 week missions trip.

Unfortunately they do not open the gates to this place very early, but I can tell you if your brave, it is possible to take photos here at the crack of dawn!  More photos later…internet speed in Oaxaca isn’t very fast.IMG_6963



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iphonography :: The Best Camera is the One You Have with You!

H Mart has been in town for a little while now and there always seems to be a ton of cars in the parking lot. I have been wanting to go see what all the fuss was but never took the time to go see.  My Aunt was recently in town for my nieces wedding and she wanted to go check out H Mart, perfect!  I usually have at at least 1 or 2 cameras with me at any given time but that day I only had my iPhone.  I am a strong believer in “the best camera is the one you have with you!” So rather than complain, I took up the challenge!

This is my iphonography photo essay of my time at H Mart.  Enjoy!

Fresh Fish

Soy SauceRamenSweetsMore SweetsLots of Cool Treats

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Shooting Warriors :: The Rock Academy

I began going to the Rock Church in 2001, and when they decided to start a school, I started helping photograph different events and sports.  How much I helped, has varied from year to year, but it’s always been fun and always a challenge at the Rock Academy.

Rock Academy Soccer

First frame :: Warrior Soccer at Sunset

It has been fun seeing some of the kids literally grow up in front of the camera.  As the school has grown to a full K – 12th school, I have met lots of kids named buddy, friend and sweetie…mainly due to the fact that I can’t remember all their names. An interesting thing happened over the years, what began as a desire to serve the Church & Academy, became my “world class” school of photography! Rock Academy, Photographing for the Rock Academy, I have had the chance to photograph in all kinds of environments, constantly changing the settings, with different lighting, Warrior sports (inside and outside), musicals, camps and worship services to name a few.  As kids come and go, a few things remain constant…the Teachers and Staff at the Rock Academy love these kids!  They work hard to provide the best Christ Centered education possible, at the same time challenging them to be the best students and citizens.  It’s an honor to have witnessed this over the years!  My photography has improved over the years and I have learned that you don’t have to have the best “gear” to capture the essence of an event. Nice equipment is certainly helpful, but don’t get caught up in the “only if” or “if I had that…”  Go and tell a great story with your camera.  Here are a few of my current favorite photos from photographing the Rock Academy Warriors. Rock Academy , Rock Academy Theater Arts, Bye Bye BirdieRock Academy, Rock Academy Theater Arts, Bye Bye BirdieRock Academy, Warrior Basketball, San Diego, Ocean BeachRock Academy, Warrior BasketballRock Academy, Warrior SoccerRock Academy, Warrior Soccer, Chicano Park, San DiegoRock Academy

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60 Years Strong :: San Diego Rescue Mission

As a photographer with Mission Focused, I have had the privilege of photographing at the San Diego Rescue Mission for over 10 years.  What I love about the Rescue Mission is that they are un-ashamedly Christ centered in everything they do!  But they help everyone who comes threw their doors, regardless of what they believe.

This year they are celebrating 60 years of service to the Homeless and Needy in San Diego! Congratulations to the San Diego Rescue Mission!  May God continue to to bless the Rescue Mission for many years to come.

The following photos are just a few of the programs the SD Rescue Mission has for the Homeless in San Diego.  Please consider helping those in need in your city!

Volunteers escorting a guest to the Thanksgiving Community Dinner

Annual Homeless Vigil | Remembering those who died on the streets of San Diego that year

The  Mission offers Free Community Dinners at Easter, Thanksgiving & Christmas | Everyone is welcome

Samaritan’s Feet | Washing the feet of those in the Mission’s program as way of honoring them

Community Dinner | A simple reminder that homelessness & being in need knows no age

Graduation from the Mission’s 12 month program

Sleepless America | A fundraiser to raise awareness of the homeless population in your city

At the Community Dinners everyone leaves with a “care package” of necessities


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Eloxochitlan, Oaxaca

Eloxochitlan is a beautiful oasis up in the hills above Oaxaca City.  A 6 hour drive into the mountains, will take you to this small town most folks from the US or anywhere else for that matter, will never visit.I was there in October 2014 photographing with Mission Focused, helping document the Adventures in Life’s Fall Medical Missions trip. It was really a great week of service, helping folks from all over the area.  Everyone involved, from the local church, the townspeople, to the whole med team were blessed by our time up there.  We couldn’t wait to come back next Fall!

Dave Miller

On December 14th the town of Eloxochitlan erupted in violence between 2 different political groups. At the end of the day, our friends we worked with in October were left brutally beaten, houses and cars were destroyed and 2 of our friends were dead.

You can read Dave’s account of what happened on his blog HERE or by going to the following link> http://wp.me/p3J5Mb-lQ

Dave is in Eloxochitlan right now, visiting our friends and taking a look at the damage in person. Part of the work that Adventures in Life does, is to work alongside the local church to offer humanitarian relief while sharing the Good News of Christ.  So far, Adventures in Life has purchased a truck to replace the pastors truck that was burned in the violence and helped purchase supplies to help another family rebuild their restaurant that was destroyed.  There’s more help and healing that needs to happen, and hopefully in time, it will be safe for another Med Team to go up the mountain and serve.  Hopefully!

As a photographer, I’ve been blessed to see up close God in action.  Here in San Diego, in Mexico and few other places outside the US.  But what happened to my friends in Eloxochitlan was a real reminder that there is a spiritual battle happening all around us.  That life is fragile and we need to be ready to defend what we believe.  It was confirmation for me that using my gifts to photograph God’s work, His people in action, is what I am called to do.  My encouragement to those around me, my friends and family, is to live boldly for God, and to use your time, talents and treasures for His Glory!

Roasting coffee in Eloxochitlan after a long week of service




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First Frame :: Sundays at Starbucks

On Sunday evenings, I make it a habit of chilling in my local Starbucks.  It has become a time to relax, read, listen to music, work on photos or just talk with the guys behind the counter.  It’s turned into a time for me to recharge, reflect and get ready for the upcoming week. Sometimes I have a camera out, other times it’s just me and a book. 

I had with me the Olympus EP-1 with a 17mm 2.8 lens.  It’s been awhile since I’ve used the camera, so after checking the battery, I took the this photo.

3 years ago, I tried to do a 365 photo project, I think I made it to day 15.  I’ve been wanting to do another photo project like that since.  That’s where the idea for “first frame” came from.  I will be sharing at least, the “1st frame” that I take, wherever I am, whatever I’m photographing.  I’m excited about this project, and that I’m using this blog again.

Happy New Year!


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Canon Workshop :: Photographing the Hawaiian Pa’u Riders

In an effort to challenge myself(as part of Jon Acuff’s #DoOverBook) I’m photographing with a new camera…The Canon Powershot G3. The camera is a huge 4 megapixel monster, from 2002!

First frame

Canon Cameras held a photo workshop in Corona, CA with the Hawaiian Pa’u Riders, fresh from their 2015 appearance at the Rose Parade.  It was a cool morning but turned into a nice day to photograph the Riders and their beautiful horses.  All the photos are from the Canon G3, cropped and edited.
All proceeds from the Canon workshop went to support the Hawaiian Pa’u Riders. You can learn more about them at their site http://www.hawaiipauriders.org/



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Time to Blog…#DoOverBook


My first frame of 2015

It’s been some time since I’ve posted anything here and I have been wanting to start blogging here again.  I decided to take Jon Acuff’s #DoOverBook 30 Days of Hustle Challenge.I was considering starting another blog, about sharing the first frame from whatever I was photographing.  That’s when it struck me that THIS blog would be perfect for sharing, especially since that’s why I started the blog.

Since I last posted here, I have been helping my friend Dave Miller start with a new travel site, about all things Mexico (www.davemillersmexico.com). There’s a FB and twitter acct I’m helping with as well, links below.  Dave has been leading short term missions groups in Oaxaca, Guadalajara and Ensenada for over 20 years. Using his experiences and knowledge we are hoping to share the beauty and culture of Mexico with those wanting to go beyond the big box(bus) travel companies and really experience the heart of the people of Mexico.

At the same time, I am still photographing with Mission Focused, a photo non-profit I helped start with some friends a few years ago. The original reason for the blog was to share personal stories and insight into some of the events and trips I might be photographing.

With the new challenge, I hope to post more regularly in 2015.  I hope to share a little bit of what Ihad the honor of seeing and photographing last year along with sharing new photos. IMG_1071If you’re interested in following me on twitter, you can find me @brother_joe.  My friend Dave can be found @DMillersMx on twitter and on Facebook, /DMillersMx

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Tlaxiaco, Oaxaca Mexico

MissionFocusedJR110_5752After 4 days in the mountains of Tlaxiaco, about 3 hours from the city of Oaxaca, I find myself in Mexico City.  It’s interesting what 4 days without internet, wifi, cell service and social media can do for you.  And after spending some time in the countryside outside of Tlaxiaco, it helps put things in perspective.

The photo above was taken in the small kitchen of the “home” we spent 3 days installing a hydroponic fish farm.  They cooked lunch for us each day, and it was homemade deliciousness!  When I walked into the kitchen, it was beautiful!

Another reminder you don’t need viking ranges and stainless steel fridges to cook great food.  All you need is the freshest of ingredients, a fire, imagination and heart!  More photos soon…

If you’re interested in seeing where Tlaxiaco is, you can go to this Google Earth link> http://goo.gl/J6zYx

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On Mission with Adventures in Life & Mission Focused

I’m here in Oaxaca Mexico once again!IMG_5265I will be spending the next week photographing the work of Adventures in Life Ministry, in city of Oaxaca Mexico, and in surrounding towns in the area.  I’m excited to be here once again…it’s a beautiful city with lots of great photo opportunities.

It’s a busy week so when I can post I will be doing so on the MISSION focused site and on Facebook…please hop over there to keep up to speed.  Blessings!

www.MISSION-focused.com     www.facebook.com/MISSIONfocusedPhotography

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