• Paul

    Prominent Dentist, Dr. Paul Sergio, Capturing Hearts & Images Through His Mind and His Lens.Dr. Paul Sergio is recognized as a successful dentist in the South Bend, Indiana area. He has indeed built a prominent practice over several decades and has developed a reputation as a kind, caring, compassionate... and very talented, dentist (periodontist). What many people may not know about Dr. Sergio is that he is also an extremely accomplished and gifted photographer. Though he does not shoot photography for a living, the images that Paul captures hold their own with many of the country’s top professional photographers. But don’t take our word for it- take a visual journey around the world and enjoy the remarkable images of Dr. Paul Sergio… photographer.

  • Traveling on two safari trucks gave us a good jostling, although the elevated view was glorious. We were traveling through the Masai Mara National Reserve, a large game park in Kenya, which is contiguous with the Serengeti National Park of Tanzania. Named after the famous and colorful Masai people (semi-nomadic warriors), and the word “Mara,” meaning “spotted.” The plains were literally spotted with animals, brush and shadows from clouds. There were surreal moments when we were surrounded, 360 degrees, with animals: zebra, antelope, African elephants, lion, spotted hyena, Grant’s gazelle, Thompson’s gazelle, water buffalo, hippopotamus, jackal, monkey, wildebeest and giraffe.

    At times, you would feel like you needed to pinch yourself to be sure that you weren’t dreaming. The trucks would stop occasionally, especially if we camera addicts were persistent enough, so that we could capture a few photos without the truck shaking. The hard part was deciding which way to turn and what to shoot first.

    (Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya 3/24/12)

  • Grazing zebra, as far away as the eye can see, are a striking contrast to the grasses that they feed upon. After the wildebeest, zebra are the most numerous in the Serengeti migration. Although they’re beautiful to look at, they have a bit of an attitude. Don’t make one mad, or it might come back to bite you! .

    (Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya 3/24/12)

  • These captivating images got me in a bit of hot water. I was told not to take a photo of anyone without his or her consent. So, after asking permission from this apparently unaccompanied young girl, I captured this first portrait. The scene reminded me of something from National Geographic. She was so somber and preoccupied, in spite of the fact that she was surrounded by scores of lively people. The visual impact of her contrasty eyes and face, framed by her dark brown shawl, made me feel like there was a heavy burden of pain inside. Her mother must have been off at a distance.

    A couple of minutes later when I snapped the second shot, she arrived in a less-than-friendly mood. An interpreter informed me of the error of my ways. I apologized, and walked away with the images I wanted. I prayed for her at that time and several times since then, whenever I look at the photos.

    (Kwale, Kenya 3/20/12)

  • Undoubtedly, the most extraordinary mission trip I’ve been on was to Kenya. Each day we’d travel out through the park, to get to our designated mission location, and then back again to our living quarters. Being able to see some remarkable wildlife was an awesome reward for our daily toil. One day we were about ten minutes from home when we noticed a herd of roughly 20 African elephants; bulls, cows, and calves, paralleling our road on a distant trail.

    They were traveling at a rapid pace, when we realized their destination was the watering hole next to our lodging. We picked up speed and arrived moments ahead of them, giving me just enough time to grab my camera, which is never far away. Rather than the typical grey color, they were covered in red clay, which helped keep them cool and protect them from the sun and insects. This was striking, but their texture intrigued me even more.

    (Sarova, Kenya 3/17/12)

  • At over 17,000 feet, Mount Kenya is the highest mountain in the country and the second highest on the African continent, following Kilimanjaro. It’s a tougher and more dangerous climb than Kili, due to its steeper and more rapid ascent. With a faster altitude change there’s less time to acclimate to the thin air and lack of oxygen, leaving you more susceptible to altitude sickness. At the end of our mission work, many of us decided to stay on a few more days to climb Mount Kenya. The problem was that it was recommended to do it in five days and we only had three, leaving less time for altitude acclimation. We had no news (reporting) where we were, and thus, no knowledge of the massive raging fires that had been destroying the mountain forest. I believe some rain helped put the fires out.

    Once we reached the charred areas and walked past regions that were still smoking, we tied scarves around our faces to help reduce the strong burn smell. That didn’t stave off the headaches for some of us. After passing the scorched ground we hit some captivatingly beautiful vegetation. Staying a night at the NaroMoru River Lodge allowed us to spend time with some spectacular Skyes monkeys. As we approached the Teleki Lodge, which would be our last night before the summit, I started getting altitude sickness: headache, fatigue, dizziness, unsteady gait, and swollen hands. I decided to stop at 14,200 ft. because, if you get edema of your brain or lungs, it could be lethal. Early the next morning several of our group, including my son Anthony, made the final ascent to the summit.

    (March 2012)

  • (Rio Negro, Amazon Jungle, Brazil 3/24/2013)

  • Sunsets in the Amazon were often magical along the Rio Negro. The “Black River” was rightly named for the color of the water, which reminded me of dark root beer. It gets its tint from humic acid, due to the breakdown of jungle vegetation along its shores. I set up my tripod on the upper of three decks, just standing there considering the photo opportunities, when I heard the sound of an approaching boat. The scene was naturally beautiful, with the setting sun and the beginning of that heavenly twilight afterglow. However, the composition lacked something that would give it weight, and a visual anchor. These men in the boat would be perfect, but little time remained before they would be out of position. Keeping my camera on a quick-release allowed me to snap it onto the tripod, hit the power and get a single shot.

    The black water makes a very effective mirror.

    (Rio Negro, Amazon Jungle, Brazil 3/24/2013)

  • After arriving in Manaus, the capital of the state of Amazonas in the middle of the Amazon Jungle of Brazil, we boarded a triple-decker riverboat. Heading up the Rio Negro, which, along with the Rio Solimoes, feeds the Amazon River. We would travel about 24 hours to reach our destination. Hammocks, hung from the deck above, served as our beds for two weeks. Walls (tarps) would only drop down during a heavy downpour. Many mornings we’d rise early and about 12 of us would load our equipment into a smaller boat that would take us to the local mission sites for the day. Most of the destinations were small villages along the river where we’d offer medical, dental, and optometric services to the local inhabitants. This one particular site was reachable by climbing about 150 steps from the river’s edge.

    There were only a few patients seeking dental care, which allowed us to finish ahead of our optometry team. This amazing woman was 104 years old! She didn’t come for help with her eyes, as they were fine. She was bringing her granddaughter in. When I looked at the lines demarcating the many years of life experience, I just knew that this photo had to become a black-and-white.

    (Rio Negro, Amazon Jungle, Brazil 3/25/2013)

    On mission trips we’re often pushed past our comfort zones. How many people in their right mind would swim in water that could be shared with crocodile, piranha and possibly an anaconda? Well I guess the answer to that is: “It depends on how hot you’ve been all day.” In the tea-colored Black River (Rio Negro) visibility in the water is less than about three feet. Maybe that means these creatures won’t be able to see us! We’re told that the locals will very rarely see an anaconda near their villages, because they dispatch them quickly whenever seen. The crocs like to stay by the shore. We went croc hunting at night, with small boats that we pushed into the shore weeds and a flashlight in hand, to look for the eyes. The rules: if the reflecting eyes are 8-10” apart, stay back. Catching small crocs, 3 ft. or so long, we would tape the mouths shut, so we could show them to our friends back at the big boat.

    During the day some of the boys would fish for piranha off the back of the boat. We’re told that there are some 20 different species of piranha and that the ones in the Rio Negro aren’t the aggressive man-eaters, like those that are found in the Rio Solimoes and the Amazon River. They still had razor-sharp teeth, and even the small ones could snap a pencil in half. At the end of a long, hard, hot and sweaty day, the big boat would head out to the middle of the river, which could be a mile or more in some places. We would bathe, swim, play, and just cool off, as people have done for years in this location. I must confess though, that I was never the first one in the water!

    (Rio Negro, Amazon Jungle, Brazil 3/24/2013)

  • (Dominican Republic 12/27/05)

  • While doing mission work in Dominican Republic, we took a short walk across a bridge, where there is a border crossing to Haiti. The shallow water beneath the bridge was being used for bathing, washing clothes, drinking, playing and as a toilet for people and animals. One particularly enterprising and strong young man had a thriving business, carrying paying passengers across so they wouldn’t have to face the armed, although indifferent, border guards, or even get their feet wet. It reminded me of the song “He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother,” although I’m sure this “brother” had to pay for the service. I’m not sure if it cost the same to get into Haiti as it did to get out.

    (Dominican Republic 12/27/05)

  • We were on our mission trip, Teen Mission Impact 2005, and had taken pause from work on the last day. As we were walking through this plaza in Santo Domingo there was a charming park in the center. People were mingling, eating, visiting, and many children were enjoying the warmth of a sunny day. There was this one little girl who caught my eye as she tried, at first, to catch a pigeon. Soon she began just running after all of them, forcing them to take flight.

    Once they landed, she would turn around and run back again. This gave me a moment to position myself to capture this photo. She’d get so close to the birds that she closed her eyes, but kept that joyful grin. Many people were just standing there, watching her and enjoying the moment. As she ran with her “wings” out, her blue dress, flying in the breeze, matched the blue of the birds. It was one of those “stop-and-smell-the-roses” moments. Maybe in her mind she was just flying like one of them.

    (Dominican Republic 1/4/06)

  • It’s very common to have people watching curiously when we are doing our dental work in various small towns. The kids are especially interested, but prefer to observe from a safe distance. These children lived across the street from our makeshift outdoor clinic. The bars were to protect what little they had in their home from nocturnal thieves. However, this photo left me with the feeling that they were captive, socially, economically and physically. The crack in the wall was intentionally included because it left me feeling the brokenness of their lives. As I look into their eyes, I wonder where they are and what they are doing today. Mission trips are always a reality check for me, and a reminder of how blessed we are to live where we do.

    (Dominican Republic 1/5/06)

    Kids are absolutely amazing, no matter where you go in this world. Some adults run when they see the camera, but children just naturally seem to know how to pose themselves for a photo. All I had to do was grin at them and then hold up the camera to ask if it would be all right to take their picture. Immediately, they smiled in return and started moving together to come up with a pose that I would never have thought of on my own. What lovely faces!

    (Dominican Republic 1/1/09)

  • Although there were several other children watching us from behind a barbed wire fence that surrounded our temporary clinic at the local school, this particular little girl seized my attention. No doubt several of her friends were patients of ours that day. But, I’m not sure she was one of them. So often the harsh contrast between human frailty and the austere prison of their circumstances would evoke emotions that might catch me off guard. I would go back to “my reality” in a few days. However, she would remain captive. “But for the grace of God, go I.” John Bradford

    (Dominican Republic 1/1/06)

  • I had finished seeing dental patients for the day when I walked outside to see this entire family of seven posing on one motorcycle. But, this wasn’t just for the camera. They actually drove off this way, while I prayed that dad wouldn’t have to stop too abruptly, so they wouldn’t end up back at our medical clinic. I’m disappointed that my camera at that time didn’t have a video option. As these kids grow he may need to find a sidecar.

    (Dominican Republic 1/6/06)

  • (Machu Picchu, Peru 5/11/10)

  • We were heading back from our mission work in Pucallpa, a city in Peru surrounded by the Amazon rainforest and the Andes Mountains. Thanks to some contaminated food, I was just getting over being intensely sick. Without painting a detailed picture, let’s just say I was hardly able to stand at times. Our first flight took us back to Lima, where we parted ways with our leader, who had to fly out of the country. About 25 of us had elected to go on to see Machu Picchu, the 15th century Incan ruins situated at about 8,000 ft. in the Andes Mountains.

    For reasons I still don’t quite understand, I was asked to lead the group on this adventure and then back to Lima for our return trip home. It was my first trip to Peru and I spoke only enough Spanish to get by in the dental arena, but I agreed to do what was asked of me. We flew to Cusco, which used to be the capital of the Incan empire, and sits at about 11,000 ft. elevation. The next morning we were to leave at about 5:30 am and walk to a bus that would take us to the train station. Since the recent earthquake and mudslides had demolished much of the tracks, we boarded minivans that would take us about 2 ½ hrs., over switchback roads. They had potholes that could have your front axel for lunch. We finally got to the train, where the tracks were “safe”. After an hour or so on the train, we would catch a bus that would take us to the point where we could climb Machu Picchu.

    About five minutes before I was to lead this adventure, I was still on my knees in front of the toilet, praying (and that’s not why I was on my knees) for an answer to this problem. After a slight recovery, I experienced a major relapse. Having been up all night, it made no sense at all to consider going on a bumpy road trip, let alone be in charge. There were many other qualified people that would gladly help me out. But, I kept getting the same answer to my question: “get up and go.” After resisting the Lord for a bit, I decided to follow His instructions. I was amazed as I found myself getting better and better, rather than suffering more from travel sickness. By lunch I was tired, but not sick, and was able to eat. It was an amazing experience that I would have missed had I not been compliant. Yes, I did get the stock-photo shot of the ruins. But, I really enjoy seeking out the unconventional perspective to a greater extent.

    (Machu Picchu, Peru 5/11/10)

  • If you are really into raising goats (just in case you were wondering), you might consider Peruvian goats, which are supposed to be some of the best. They are known for their massive mammaries, giving so much milk that the udders can actually drag on the ground. Sorry, maybe that’s too much information. Although I am a fan of goat cheese and love to cook, my motivation this day was strictly compositional photography. We were on our way to the northern outskirts of Cusco to see Saqsaywaman, (our guide pronounced this “sexy woman”, but I think it was part of the show).

    This was an historic citadel know for it’s amazingly tight-fitting rock walls. As we stopped for a short break, most of our group went into the shop in search of treasures. But, I was more interested in the pursuit of memorable compositions. I saw a herder driving his goats and sheep down a side road. They seemed focused, and moved on with intent. In my first photo, the surrounding background was distracting. But, by zooming in tightly and panning with them as they passed by, I feel like I captured the mood of the moment. The bonus was that they all seemed to smile for the photo.

    (Cusco, Peru 5/10/10)

  • We would usually put in some long, hot days, but our group leaders often tried to incorporate some R&R, especially on Sabbath. Pucallpa is a town on the edge of the Amazon rainforest, so water was never far away. The Ucayali River is a major tributary of the Amazon River. The boats that they used for travel and touring, almost like water taxis, rode very low in the water. They were motorized with what looked to me like a weed eater with a propeller on the end. I was in the lead boat, allowing me a vantage point to grab a few photos of the rest of the group behind us.

    This is definitely the way to see a lot of wildlife without disturbing it. I wouldn’t want to be in one of these during a storm though!

    (Pucallpa, Peru 5/1/10)

  • I find it almost impossible to not pause for a moment to observe a butterfly when I see one. If I have a camera in hand it’s likely to be a lengthy break. The limitless arrays of colors and patterns are captivating, as is the way they almost magically float aimlessly about. Although these photos are not of Monarchs, my wife and children are personally responsible for hatching and releasing hundreds of Monarchs over the years. Sometimes it seems like we’ve become milkweed farmers, creating habitats for the Monarch caterpillar’s only food source. Starting from an egg the size of the period at the end of this sentence, they hatch to larvae that feed only on milkweed. Watching the larva grow into a caterpillar, form a chrysalis, and eventually transform into a majestic butterfly, never ceases to be an extraordinary miracle.

    Considering that my family hatches out and releases close to 100% of the “home grown” butterflies, and in nature only about 1-2% will make it, I think they are personally responsible for the recent Monarch resurgence!

    (Niles MI)

  • A fall trip to Brown County in southern Indiana is always amazingly rewarding. The colors just bounce, especially with a little warm morning light. There were some trees on a hill, in full, vivid, fall splendor. The water below was somewhat shaded, providing a mirror for reflections, while seeing very little of the bottom. A slight, gentle breeze would stir the water periodically, creating an ever-changing kaleidoscope of colors. I would wait for a leaf to periodically slowly drift by, giving this natural abstract some perspective. Cropping this shot from a larger photo, created a little photographic noise (graininess), which added to the abstract feeling of the composition. (McCormick’s Creek State Park, Brown County, IN 10/29/08)

  • This ethereal capture was taken only ten minutes after the last photo (of the floating leaf), but has a totally different feel to it. Also in McCormick’s Creek State Park, the pool of water was in a darker shadow than the last photo, and the surface of the water much smoother. I inverted it for display, since the reflection left the trees upside down. I love how the three-dimensionality stops and draws you in, as you try to determine what you’re dreaming about. Many viewers don’t recognize it as a photograph, but think that it’s some type of a watercolor painting.

    (McCormick’s Creek State Park, Brown County, IN 10/29/08)

  • Although the sun was beginning to set, as I drove south out of town, you might think it was much later in the evening. Gazing to the west, the entire sky was a huge blanket of gray to black ominous clouds. A front was coming in from Lake Michigan, and it was moving right toward us. Left, right, up and down, everything was black. As I took another glance, an opening appeared, completely perforating the clouds and revealing the glorious warm light of the sinking sun. It reminded me of an artist’s rendition of the second coming.

    Pulling over, I grabbed my camera and started snapping, trying to avoid all the power lines that would totally ruin the shot. This was the only hole in the “blanket”, making the light that much more distinctive.We can always appreciate the light more when we’re surrounded by darkness. If those same clouds were surrounded by a bright sunny day, I would never have stopped the car.

    (Niles, Michigan 7/13/04)

  • This is what I call “one of those God moments”. My family had hiked all 17 of the waterfalls near Munising, MI, on the southern shore of Lake Superior. The day we arrived at Au Train Falls the sun was already descending to the point that the water was in the shade. Cold, gray, dingy light was not conducive to good photos. As the saying goes: “it’s all about the light”, and it was all gone. But here I was with a camera and a burning desire to capture something of beauty. I was thinking: “There’s got to be a photo hiding around here somewhere. I just have to find it.” Then, looking up, I saw a line of fall trees in all their glory, at the crest of a ridge, and still in the warm setting sun. So what? I’ve got a million photos of colorful trees and I want to include water. I’m here for the water. Thinking for a moment, I started to get lower to see if I could get some reflected light off the water.

    Once I got all the way to my knees the colors just burst into existence, resulting in one of my favorite photos. Some of the trees were still in green while others were dressed with yellow and shades of golden orange. Blue from the sky was a wonderful contrast to the yellow. Looking for compositions in the rocky outcropping and with a lone leaf on a mossy rock, I started pushing the shutter release. Within a few minutes it was over. The moral of the story: sometimes, when things are all dark and gloomy, you only have to look up and get on your knees to see the glorious light that was there all along.

    (Au Train Falls, Alger County Michigan 10/6/10)

  • Standing in my back yard late one March afternoon, I heard the familiar honk and cadence of Canada geese. I knew they were on the wing and advancing quickly, but I couldn’t see them. I don’t remember why, but I happened to have my camera with me. Realizing that they must be coming from behind the house, I turned, readied my camera and waited. After three or four seconds they emerged overhead and right in front of me. Panning with them, and catching the fall tress in the background, I pressed the shutter release to grab three or four shots in about as many seconds, before the moment was over.

    This was by far my favorite. All four were visible and with a variety of poses. The soft focus and movement from panning lend to a painting-like quality. I was blessed to have preparedness meet opportunity that day. This image is now a six-foot wide canvas print by a high window in my living room. It feels like they’re still just flying by. Most people think it’s a painting, not a photograph.

    (Niles, MI 3/11/07)

  • Smoky Mountain National Park is one our family’s favorite destinations, especially in autumn. The sky was intermittently overcast, limiting the harsh lights and minimizing the reflections. There was a hint of purple and blue from above that add some muted color to the water’s surface. Rocks were softened by the overlying water, and even more so by the motion. Moss and various lichen added patches of color, texture and interest, and the sharply focused log provided stability and anchorage. The icing on the cake was the color-in-motion of three floating leaves. My tripod was set up in the water as I waited for just the right moment for the leaves and light.

    God is the creator of art-in-motion. I just froze the image to allow me to view it again later, as well as share with others.

    (Smoky Mountain National Park, near Gatlinburg, TN 10/28/09)

  • “Peggy, you’ve got to pull over. This light is amazing!” My wife will often drive when we’re in what I call a “target rich environment”, allowing me to pop out of the van to grab a quick photo when the opportunity arrives. It was about 7:30 pm and the sun was quickly disappearing. As we came around a bend out of the shadows, there was a gap in the hills that allowed some warm setting sun to poke through and bathe a grove of aspen trees in this wonderful shimmering light. I knew it wouldn’t last long, so I almost had a foot on the ground before she stopped.

    After popping up my tripod, I grabbed a few photos and checked the camera’s histogram and monitor. The images just didn’t convey the feeling of the moment. I decided to try getting creative and selected the camera’s multiple-exposure mode. My first shot was zoomed in allowing me to “paint” some color with out-of-focus leaves. Next, I pulled back to capture some smaller and less-out-of-focus leaves. The final photo was in focus of the tree trunks. The camera compressed these into one image and now I could actually see the result. A couple of throw-away-shots later, I had a composition that evoked the feeling of being there. As fast as it came, the light was gone.

    (Kolob Terrace Road, Zion National Park, Utah 10/14/11)



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