The Best Dog Ever!

Posted in Uncategorized on June 14, 2015 by A Photographer's Life


By Johnny Bivera

It has taken me a few days to get to this point of sharing the story of the best dog ever. It really hit home yesterday morning when I realized the spot below my feet on the bed was empty, and no one was looking back at me to see if I had stirred to warrant letting me know that it was time for breakfast. If I was sneaky enough to pass a peak, I would fall back asleep until he had enough of waiting. But on that morning the air was quiet and empty, and I stared at the spot feeling an entity that used to be.

My wife named him Potus, an acronym for President of the United States. You see, my wife and I met at the White House, and the President was called POTUS when referred by staff and those in the know. She believed it would be neat to yell, “Come here Potus, sit Potus, bad dog Potus and so on…” I on the other hand thought the name was cool. So Potus he became…Potus_005

One morning when my wife Kirsten and Potus were out walking, where we used to live not too far from the Naval observatory on Mass Avenue and in between was the residence of our former boss, where the President and First Lady live in their DC home after leaving the White House, was on a dead end street entering a park that became one of their walking routes. His collar was always kept loose and he came away from it and ran straight into the Clinton’s home where the front door was slightly ajar.   Oh the horror thought my wife, as she raced towards the house yelling for and of all things “Potus, Potus!” The owners weren’t home, but the Secret Service agent inside couldn’t figure out who my wife was and why was she yelling for the President. Crazy lady at the door he probably thought, it could’ve turned into a tragic misunderstanding but fortunately it was more of a comical situation that quickly got resolved with the boy jaunting happily away home with his tongue hanging out.Potus_002

I refer to my best friend as a 911 dog. He brought great comfort to my wife and I during difficult times. When I received a Navy promotion, Kirsten said I could have a dog as a gift. We went to beagle rescue and took home this cute little puppy nearly three years old. This being my first real dog to be responsible for, I had bought all these pee pads from the pet store and had them spread in key locations all over the house. But after a little while from his initial arrival I found him hanging by the door as if to say, “Hey man, I’m potty trained already.” He and I went for walks around the neighborhood, the parks and even down at the memorials. I had for the first time a sidekick and travel buddy, just us boys on daily adventures. Then September 11th happened shortly after and I had to leave. Where I went my boy couldn’t go, but I felt good knowing he would be home with Kirsten to keep an eye on her while I left for Afghanistan.Potus_026

Potus didn’t really know any tricks, he didn’t like to chase after balls and he wasn’t that social around other dogs at the park. More so he had this routine where he would walk this perimeter, his periphery of walking all away around like it was his area of responsibility. He was a flower sniffer, walking him on a leash was a commitment. It was never an endurance challenge but a slow paced walk of reflection. He was never in a hurry, unless like all beagles, there was food or treats involved. His clock must have been synched with the Naval observatory because letting us know about his feeding times were spot on, and the beagle’s bay reminded you of that daily, like the morning call for reveille or when taps is played at sundown.Potus_024

As most dog owners will tell you, there’s nothing like coming home from a trip late in the night and have them waiting for you while everyone had already gone to bed. In the early days when I would come home Potus eagerly came running, but years later he slowly walks over and sniffs, raises his head and looks at you with his brown eyes as if to say, “Welcome home, what took you so long!” I scratch his head and wait for his smile that lets me know that I was home.Potus_004

A few years later and seeing how Kirsten and I hadn’t killed our dog like our fish and plants, we felt confident that adding a child would be doable. So Amelie came into our lives and we started to look like a real family. Potus was a most patient dog with her, who loved him fondly and would allow her to play with his soft ears.

Potus_003Everybody came to love Potus. Maybe it was in the way he would look at you. His eyes had a way of piercing your soul, like he really saw you for who you were. He could smell a fake yards away…so when you were around him, you had to be your true self. If he spent time with you, that meant you allowed yourself to be real…

I will remember our time on the beaches of Virginia, in New York’s Central Park, on the boat in Cape Cod and on our many car-rides everywhere. He enjoyed that so much because he did not like to be left at home and would prefer to nap next to me on the passenger seat. Like me he wanted to be everywhere and see everything…Potus_007

Time passes quickly over the years as my daughter grew taller inch by inch, and with Potus, well as far as I was concerned he just grew older and wiser. I was failing to accept the fact how much a year took away from a dogs life. At fifteen Kirsten drew attention to Potus’ slowing energy and vitality, so we decided to get Amelie her own dog, to ease the brunt of when Potus moved on, another beagle but a mini, one I picked up south of Charlotte on a return trip from New Orleans. He was a weird dark kaki colored runt of the pack who was the last to receive a home, very shy at first and I wasn’t sure how this young pup was going to turn out.Potus_008

Dogs give us excitement that we normally take for granted, but I will never forget the moment I came home with the new pup named Ollie. Amelie shrieked in excitement as we came through the door and she started to yell, “Oh Ollie,” over and over…Potus in the background perked up with not a hint of concern or care. As the days grew, we noticed the old boy moving about more and more, sharing in the excitement of feeding time with this new dog in the house. And before long, a manifested new and revitalized beagle was back, and we had two dogs full of life and energy. Potus slowly began to accept Ollie, as he didn’t mind the grooming Ollie would give him from time to time, it would become some of my most precious visual moments, to watch Ollie lick Potus in the face as a sign of his affection.Potus_023

But this was all borrowed time. Again time passed but even with the strong will of my dog he was no match for the process of aging. His eyes told me that he was still there, never mind my failing hind legs, the arthritis, the incontinence or the tumors we beagles are famous for in our old age, I’m still alive here and your good boy.

Kirsten was stronger about it, for I liked to believe that Potus and I shared the common belief that we were just fine. Leave us alone, it’s just a bad turn for the day. But those days only happened more and more.  And the visible aspect of his life was becoming harder and harder to dismiss. I slowly started to accept the progression of life, the beginning, middle and inevitable end. I found myself staring at him more, kissing his forehead often and cradling him in my arms when I finished upstairs in the office late, where he slept by my feet until it was time to call the night.Potus_020

The decision was made, a time so that all of us would be together. We were all with him. The vet staff was very sad, as they have come to know and care for him over the years. They were very gracious and kind and helpful in our time of sorrow. I leaned in on him by his head and we all touched him gently as the forever sleep crept in. I whispered, “Good dreams buddy. You can chase the squirrels again. You’re a good boy. The best dog ever!”Potus_018

Picture Taking Fun During Walla Walla’s Red Badge Project Class

Posted in Concerning Photography, iPhone Photography, Multimedia, New Media on August 24, 2014 by A Photographer's Life


Red Badge Project visual media faculty member Johnny Bivera prepares to conduct a presentation on visual storytelling to veterans with PTSD.

Red Badge Project visual media faculty member Johnny Bivera prepares to conduct a presentation on visual storytelling to combat veterans.

I want to thank our students and staff for participating in a little shooting assignment for our first mini two-day Red Badge Project Workshop in Walla Walla’s Public Library. The assignment to use one’s cell phone camera to produce an image with the concentration on content I thought went really well.

So with that in mind, without worry to technical requirements, but more on subject placement, moment and graphical composition, I want to show what photographers can do in post work to make their images more interesting artistically and visually through Photoshop.

Please bear in mind that my manipulations are not intended to show that these are what your images should finally look like but more of a sample on what can be done from an illustrative point of view.

I have compiled the images as a side-by-side note before and after to better show how much work is used to alter and enhance each of the images everyone has turned in.  If we look at John’s image

WW_001of what appears to be a dog outside the yard looking in, the original makes it hard to read and it is a soft and blurry image. But there’s a possible graphical interest by using editing tools through Photoshop in the way of filters and third-party plug-ins such as NIC Software ( In John’s image I used sharpening tools as well as pushed the image’s pixel structure to a harsher edge and to also play with the saturation and warmer color balance levels to add additional tones and take it away from its original flat surface. Content wise, the graphics of John was on the right track and interesting to look at, I would in the same instance take additional shots to hopefully get a better silhouette of the dog and hold the camera as still as possible, helping to retain a sharper image. If holding the camera as still as possible hand-held but still your images are soft and not sharp, this is when the use of a tripod or setting yourself up against a wall or some solid object that will help keep your camera steady.


In Michael’s image WW_002of Army veteran Jerry Leisley’s tattooed arm and hat, is a very nice and clean image that supports the story article of our workshop published in the Union-Bulletin( Again, the original is nice enough not needing much post work, but I want to show what changes are accomplished with the enhancement of the images pixel structure and a little burning and dodging of the highlights and shadow areas using that particular Photoshop tool.

Evan’s work on either a wood bench or fence is really nice when you de-saturate the color to black and white, apply sharpening and enhance the pixel structure to a harsher line adds a little more contrast to enhance a blacker shadow. For these images, you really want to pull out as much detail of the wood as possible. WW_003  A lot of detail shots are done by the use of a tripod, the shutter is slowed to gain greater depth of field and lighting and time of day is taken into account to gain the best possible three-dimensional feel to an image.  His second shot of a very cute baby is greatly enhanced by the use of sharpening tools to include structure enhancements and a little dodging and burning. Indoor photography without the use of fill flash is very challenging, and one of the most used for cell phone camera photographers. Both images have great content.









Brent’s six images below show when applying the use

WW_007  of Photoshop editing and third-party software plug-ins, really pull out Brent’s great eye for graphic lines and design.

WW_008There would be great commercial or fine art value in Brent’s work should he continue to pursue photography more seriously. To get more out of Brent’s eye, talking technically, the time of day and studying where the light is coming from can greatly enhance these images or any future image he shoots.WW_006  Using a tripod for very early in the morning or when the sun sets, will add color saturation, three-dimensional shadows and detail, helping to add more to his images without having to use so much post Photoshop editing.



Skips’ image of his dog is very nice and has a reflective relationship between man and his best friend. De-saturating the color to black and white and pulling the shadow detail out with a little burning of tone into the highlights balances the tonal value overall, as well as kicking in a little structural value of the pixels pulls out detail in the carpet lines and his dogs fur gives a more readable image overall.  WW_011


All in all the content of everyone’s images are very visually interesting and I hope that this gives all a better idea that the pictures that one is taking has an even greater value with a little work in post. But to better create a product, shooting the originals and taking into account your lighting and time of day for better color saturation and depth, using tripods or ways to steady the camera for a sharper image will greatly make for a better picture with less work later in post production.

Navy Photo JOB Opportunuty in San Diego (photographic / digital imaging equipment specialist)

Posted in Uncategorized on October 23, 2013 by A Photographer's Life

Navy photo JOB Opportunity in San Diego:

EDUCATION AND EXPERIENCE. To meet the minimum requirements, a photographic/digital imaging equipment specialist must qualify in all of the following categories of education and experience:

1. Must have recent in-depth experience as a Navy photographer with a good working knowledge of the operation and maintenance procedures of photographic/digital imaging equipment; recent experience in a supervisory capacity of one or more employees in photographic laboratory production work center.

2. Must be a graduate of the Navy’s Photographic “A” School or equivalent schools or technical

3. Must have recent-in depth digital imaging experience or significant digital camera system training.

4. Must have recent experience with the Navy Supply System and Procedures.

5. Must have a current secret clearance.

Let me know if this applies to you.  Have updated resume / CV


Best, Johnny…

The Next DC Shoot Off Lecture Series

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on February 21, 2013 by A Photographer's Life

The Next DC Shoot Off Lecture Series

The DC Shoot Off

Posted in Concerning Photography with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 9, 2012 by A Photographer's Life

Join us for the upcoming 7th annual DC Shoot Off Photography Workshop happening 15-18 March 2012 in Arlington, Va.

Register here

Photo by Kurt Lengfield

Starts at 6pm Thursday evening for a social meet & greet at the Hilton Garden Inn bar lounge, to be followed by portfolio reviews and one-on-one career counseling.  Friday will be an all-star packed open presentation panel with keynote speaker and three-time Pulitzer Prize photojournalist Michael Williamson.  Shooters continue  on with edit and mentoring sessions during Friday night into Saturday to continue their evening with three more presenters.  Once all images are turned in from their theme assignment we go into Sunday morning from 9am – noon for judging and a small awards ceremony by 12:30.

Don’t miss out and if you can’t physically make it to DC compete online with SHOOT OFF INTERNATIONAL an online competition running parallel with the on site event but judged in its own category.

Also our speakers presentations are open to those reading this post.  Come join us and enjoy the work of some of our most creative and talented photographers of our time.

The Faculty

The Schedule

The Sponsors

Submission Guidelines

For additional information contact Johnny Bivera at or call 202-251-8094

Shoot Off Visual Media Workshops is a not for profit program for military, civil service photographers and invited guests.  The best speakers, mentors, editors and judges throughout the country volunteer for this prestigious event that aligns our service members with the national press corps, industry leaders and veteran military photographers. These workshops are for all levels and provide professional development in helping to fill training gaps for our service dedicated photographers throughout the year.

Concerts Kick Off 4th of July Celebrations – by Johnny Bivera

Posted in Concerning Photography with tags , , , on July 4, 2011 by A Photographer's Life

At Yards Park between the baseball stadium and Navy Yard, concerts hailing over 40 bands play for the 4th of July celebrations.  It was a very hot afternoon that may have kept foot traffic from leaving AC dwellings to maybe watching the Nats play the Pirates before joining us for some live music.  It was still early and by 3:30 a breeze from Suitland and across the river came in steadily, providing some much-needed relief just before the possibility of heat stroke.

The 4th will most likely bring in quite a crowd, the kind I was hoping to see today, but I did get to see a few groups give it their all despite the heat.  I thoroughly enjoyed The Fuzz, a modern rock and pop cover band from Arlington, Va.  With their new frontman singer, keyboardist and performer Mandi Meros made for a great addition alongside

singer Mike Leverone.  Drummer Mike Lumer or the “Animal” was great to watch despite the heat and sweat building up behind the stars and stripes and also with the occasional rift from guitarist Matthew Berry… this is a tight and exciting sound that I would very much enjoy watching again.

The festival boasts a number of food and drink vendors as well, giving the Yard a boardwalk feel next to the water.  I find the area that I’m experiencing for the first time pretty cool and look forward to future events in the days to come.

I did manage to capture some of the dancers.  The best part was that it wasn’t crowded, so there was a lot of room to play with a little drag shutter I hadn’t done in awhile.

I stayed long enough to make it through a glass of lemonade and the $2 refill and left for a dinner party where a nice cold glass of Corona was waiting.  I also made it out just in time before the thunderstorm… I hope the rest of the evening portion of the concert went well for everyone…  Happy 4th of July!

Shoot Off Video Workshop Open Invite – by Johnny Bivera

Posted in Concerning Photography with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 9, 2011 by A Photographer's Life

The Inaugural Video Shoot Off coming this week!

If you’re in the DC area late this week through the weekend, we have an open invitation for you to attend this Friday’s speakers series and Sunday judging critiques of the inaugural Shoot Off Video Workshop at the Navy League Building in Arlington, Virginia.

2300 Wilson Boulevard
Arlington, VA 22201

Speaker Highlights for Friday are:

Bethany Swain, a veteran CNN photojournalist, creator of CNN’s “In Focus” series, and the current WHNPA Video Photographer of the Year

Bill Gentille, award-winning independent journalist and documentary filmmaker, professor at American University

Pierre Kattar, Emmy Award-winning video journalist and filmmaker, 2007 WHNPA Editor of The Year, former journalist for Washington Post Digital

Arun Chaudharry, official White House videographer, producer of “West Wing Week” and a former New York University film instructor

Tyler Ginter, freelance producer and filmmaker, former operations officer for the Army’s 55th Combat Camera, and a DSLR Professor for FXPHD

Jim Fabio, award-winning producer, director & editor (HBO, ESPN, and NFL Films among others.) Currently a Lt Col in the Air Force Reserves

Emmanuel Etim, producer and videographer based in Washington DC with over 10 years experience in Film, Video and TV Production, currently working with RHED Pixel

Inaugural Workshop of Military Videography

The Shoot Off Video Workshop in Washington D.C. mentors military, civil service and government video journalists with an emphasis on storytelling fundamentals.  Participants are given the tools and advanced techniques to become creatively faster and better.  Whether you’re an experienced videographer or new to the field, this workshop is for you!

Fundamentals, Teamwork, and Mentorship

The four day workshop includes key training sessions, guest speakers and presentations. Students are split into teams and assigned mentors. Teams shoot, edit and produce a shot-form documentary or news feature. These products are critiqued and judged for awards. For more information, click o the button below to download our press kit.

Registration Open

Registration is open for the 2011 DC Shoot Off Video Workshop with a few seats left!  In this, our inaugural event, we will be accepting 45 participants and up to 30 mentors.  The registration fee to participate in the workshop is $75.00. Click on the button below or the banner at the bottom of the page to begin the registration process.


DAY ONE     12 May     Thursday

1400 – 1700    Registration and Optional Reel / Portfolio Review

1800     Mixer/Meet and Greet (Participants, Mentors, Staff, Guests and Sponsors) Location: Ireland’s Four Courts

DAY TWO     13 May     Friday

0730 – 0800     Breakfast

0800 – 0830     Intro Video/ Workshop General Rules

0830 – 0915      Speaker 01 – Jim Fabio (What Is a good story?)


0930 – 1015      Speaker 02 – Pierre Kattar (Editing)


1030 – 1115     Speaker 03 – Bill Gentile (BackPack Journalism)


1130 – 1215     Speaker 04 – Arun Chaudhary (Documenting History In Real Time)

1215 – 1315       Lunch

1330 – 1415     Speaker 05 – Bethany Swain (Nat Packages)


1430 – 1515     Speaker 06 – Emmanuel Etim (DSLR Shooting)


1530 – 1615     Speaker 07 – Tyler Ginter (Adobe DSLR Workflow / Interview Techniques) Break

1630 – 1700     Presentation – GoPro (Tyler Ginter)

1700 – 1730      ShootOff Ground Rules (Maureen Stewart) and Topic Selection

1730      Shoot Off Begins

DAY THREE     14 May     Saturday

• Teams & Mentors shooting/editing all day

• Mentor Updates (Mid Morning (1100) & End of Day (1800)

• Venue available for editing

DAY FOUR     15 May     Sunday

0730 0800     Breakfast

0800     All projects due/uploaded

0800 – 0845     Speaker 08 – Quentin Kruger (New Media)


0900 – 0915     Judge Introductions (Bill Gentille & Pierre Kattar)

0915 – 1200     Project Viewing / Critiques (open to the public)

1200 – 1300     Lunch / Judging (closed)

1300 – 1400     Judges Comments / Questions

1400 – 1430    Award Ceremony

1430 – 1445     Multimedia Presentation

1445 – 1500     Feedback Session

1500     Workshop Concludes

For sponsors info and press kit:

Shoot Off Visual Media Workshops

Johnny Bivera, Executive Director,   202-251-8094,

Juan Femath, Workshop Producer/Director,   843-743-9013,

Blake Stillwell, Workshop Producer/Director,    814-504-2287,


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