The 2012 Texas School Cruise was a who’s who of professional photographers and it was there that Jennifer and I truly got to know Charlcey and Don Dickson. They were so personable, kind, and made us feel so welcome. It seemed to us “nobodies” that they went out of their way to make sure we were included in all unplanned activities before the majority of folks arrived. That included one special night at one of Sweden’s most acclaimed restaurants.

The room itself looked eerily similar to that of a WWII bunker. I could tell, once folks started to arrive, the space was going to fill up and it was going to be a challenge for anyone to attempt to move around. So, who happened in and ended up at the end of the room with us? None other than Cindy and Ralph Romaguera. After we introduced ourselves, I informed them that we were not the cool kids (being volume photographers) and if they wanted to move away from us before it was too late, we wouldn’t be offended. Not only did they sit by us that evening, but they became our mentors and made it a point to always include us.

So why is this story so important? I’m attempting to illustrate the importance of being active within TPPA and attending events like Texas School and the iHeart Photo Expo. Jennifer and I hadn’t planned for this trip to be life-changing. We just wanted to see the world while earning a few merits. But we ended up with something far greater that would put us on a completely different path while unknowingly making lifetime friendships. It’s my hope that, by sharing our experience, others will find motivation to take the next step of getting involved.

Speaking of getting more involved, what better way than making plans on attending iHeart Photo Expo, October 14 – 16 in Grapevine, Texas? That’s three days and two evenings of education and fellowship. Plus, everyone receives one merit for attending. Notice I said “evenings” because this year we will make it a point to have more social events. I believe that is something that has been missing in the past. Details on evening social events will be announced later.

Before I forget, the sponsors of this event have really stepped it up. Let’s start off with a free 16×20 canvas wrap courtesy of ProPrints, 50% off a new website from PhotoBiz, and of course everyone’s favorite camera store, Arlington Camera, will be there along with other industry vendors. Our experience on the “Almost” Russia cruise can only be experienced in person. You aren’t going to find these types of experiences or opportunities online, so get involved. For more information please visit

Another opportunity, and taking it up another notch in getting active, is TPPA’s very own Texas 10 Spring Workshops. If you are wanting to help others by sharing what you know, we need volunteers who want to teach a full-day class (6.5 hours) in their hometown. Volunteers will earn two merits. It was the kindness of the Dicksons and the mentorship of the Romagueras that put us on a path to becoming more involved and wanting to help others. So with some encouragement, we started speaking and helping others at Texas 10 which helped us grow as educators and speakers with the culmination of becoming a 4x platform speaker at IUSA. For more information please visit:

Who knows? Perhaps, by becoming more involved, you might find yourself a new lifelong friend or friends, a mentor who will help you succeed in areas you only dreamt of or, even better, finding yourself mentoring others.