Captioning: a first for the Grand Ole Opry

26 06 2009

One of the events at the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) Convention 2009 was a night at the Grand Ole Opry, a radio show that began in 1925. Before the show, several of us were treated to a backstage tour of the Grand Ole Opry, including the back entrance where the artists enter, the mailroom, the green room and historic Studio A—where the music variety show Hee Haw was filmed. At the end of the tour, we got to stand in the background on stage during the first performance by Little Jimmy Dickens and the Opry Square Dancers.

Although we weren’t allowed to shoot photographs during the tour, I saw a photo opportunity tailor-made for HLAA when the Grand Ole Opry’s vice president and general manager, Pete Fisher, was introduced to us by our tour guide, Jamie Hulet. For the first time in its 83-year history, the Grand Ole Opry would be real-time captioned. I saw an opportunity to get a shot with some of the people who got that ball rolling. We were granted permission to shoot, and Fisher called Jimmy Dickens over to join us. The Opry was treating that night’s show as “somewhat of an experiment” and may continue the use of captioning in the future.

Thanks to Karyn Menck of Tennessee Captioning and her team of CART (Communication Access Realtime Translation) writers, the HLAA staff, and to the Grand Ole Opry management, we enjoyed the show with real-time captions. Associated Press picked up the story about the captioning and the news spread across the country. Read more about the use of captioning at the Grand Ole Opry and HLAA’s involvement in this article on

On the entertainment roster that night were: Jimmy Dickens, Jimmy C. Newman, Vince Gill, Hal Ketchum, bluegrass vocalist Rhonda Vincent and the Rage, Allison Krauss with The Whites, Point of Grace, Jim Ed Brown, bluegrass legends Jesse McReynolds & The Virginia Boys, John Conlee, singer/songwriter Sammy Johns (who wrote Chevy Van, a hit in 1975), comedian and banjo champ Mike Snider (of Hee Haw fame), and the Opry Square Dancers.

My sister Debbie and I couldn’t get John Conlee’s 1980 hit song, Friday Night Blues, out of our heads after that night! We realized just how old we were when we remembered the words to that song and his 1983 hit, Common Man, which was also written by Sammy Johns.

Here’s a fact I didn’t know—if you’re inducted into the Opry Hall of Fame, you’re paid just $600 for your performance. If you’re not a member, you earn just $300. Clearly these artists do it for the love of the Opry and its history and their love of performing!

Kudos to Nancy Macklin, director of events for HLAA, for putting on a fantastic convention. I could hardly believe it when I learned this was her first time planning a convention—she was organized, professional and less stressed than any convention planner I’ve ever encountered—wonder what her secret is?

I’ll have more stories and photos to share from our evening at the Grand Ole Opry. See photos from our first visit to the Opry in 2008 on my blog posting here.


Photo, from left: Brenda Battat, executive director of HLAA; Pete Fisher, vice president and general manager of the Grand Ole Opry; longtime performer and oldest living Grand Ole Opry member Jimmy Dickens (then and now); and Barbara Kelley, deputy executive director of HLAA and editor of the bimonthly Hearing Loss Magazine (which I design and produce for the organization). Barbara wrote in a recent press release, “It was fun to be a part of history, satisfying to have communication access, and rewarding to know that the work of our organization and others is paying off. Thanks to the Grand Ole Opry for looking forward. We hope it continues.”

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.


Chantell and Austin on the pier

26 06 2009

I had such a blast photographing these two on the beach the day after their wedding. Both were spontaneous, up for anything, clearly crazy about each other and photogenic to boot. I had complete creative freedom, trusty assistants (the groom’s parents), a tropical backdrop, magical afternoon light, and easy-to-direct and very appreciative “models.” This assignment truly could not have been more ideal! I’ve photographed over 100 weddings in my photography career (most during and after college in Texas), and this one was the most laid-back, go-with-the-flow, low stress events of any of them!

Be patient and one day I might share an image or two and some really crazy stories about some of the most memorable weddings I have photographed. I shot one wedding during a tornado alert! I actually have photos of the mariachi (Mexican music) band swaying in the fierce winds with a turbulent navy sky in the background—at 4:00 p.m. on a South Texas afternoon. The bride and groom were so much in love and anxious to marry that they were apparently oblivious to the impending storm. Then there was the bride who paid half down, then went off to work as a migrant worker for a year. (Half down was $75, if you can believe that—I never charged more than $200 for a wedding—at the time, “top” photographers charged anywhere from $500-800. Those were the days, huh?) She came back with the balance in a piggy bank— we had to break it open to get the money (I can still hear the quarters, nickels and dimes as they rolled across our coffee table). Sweet couple—although a little slow on pickup and payment! Trust me…I’ve got the stories!

In those days the contemporary photojournalistic style wasn’t in use at all—we had a checklist of posed images to get and then we could play after that. I love the new approach and it suits my shooting style so much better. And we shot print film then; digital wasn’t available yet. Having immediate feedback makes the job much more enjoyable and guarantees you get the shot. It almost makes me want to hang out my wedding photographer shingle again. We’ll see.

You can view the previous Key West/wedding photos here, here, and in the posting below this one.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

Pier Collage

Muchemore redux

25 06 2009

Here we go again! More photos finalized from Chantell and Austin’s June 1 wedding in Key West…even more to come (I’m editing and prepping photos in a folder that contains almost 1,000 images)! Special thanks to the groom’s parents, Kathy and Kevin, for their creative sand art creations for the photos.

You can view the previous Key West/wedding photos here and here.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

Wedding Collage 3

Big sky on I-81

25 06 2009

I shot this image Tuesday afternoon en route from our trip to Nashville. We drove down the previous week to get set up to photograph the Hearing Loss Association of America Convention 2009, June 18-21. We had a great time meeting and photographing so many HLAA members. We also got three new covers in the hopper—member Lois Johnson from Houston, Texas; member (Ret.) Cpt Mark Brogan from Knoxville, Tennessee; and member Jennifer Thorpe and her family from the Nashville area. There will be lots of photos and stories coming right up! As my dad ( always writes, “I’ll get back to you later with more details.”

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

I81 Scenic lorez

Shelley’s stunning cloudscapes and Texas skies

16 06 2009

With her express permission, I’m taking this opportunity to brag on my blog-buddy Shelley’s stunning storm and sky photos. I’m always amazed at how huge the sky is in my home state! 

I stumbled onto Shelley’s pbase gallery in December while I was in Texas visiting my family. Shelley is a certified storm spotter and is fortunate to witness the most beautiful, turbulent, storm-filled skies of the Panhandle (and lives to tell the tale and share these stunning photos, too).

Click on the link below and be sure to double click on each photo to enlarge.

My friend Jeff is headed west to join a storm spotting expedition and I wanted to give him some inspiration for this upcoming photography jaunt. Bring ’em back (alive), Jeff!

Photos below © Shelley D. Sparks

Shelley's Photos

Hey! What are ya? Deaf in one ear?

13 06 2009

The long and short of it
I’ve had about a 20% overall hearing loss since I was a toddler, and although my parents bought me a hearing aid when I was about seven or eight years old, I wore it just a few times and gave it up, much to their dismay. Then I lost the hearing in my right ear in the spring of 1993 due to some known and unknown causes (years of scar tissue build up in the ear canal caused the stapes to no longer work or something medical-technical-ish). It most certainly wasn’t an easy row to hoe at first (have you ever seen an x-ray of your skull? Talk about surreal. Gone are fantasies of immortality when you witness your skeleton).

I eventually adjusted to life without hearing in that ear. So now I had a 20% loss in the “good” ear and no hearing at all in the other. The biggest problem I have with the complete loss in my right ear is that when I do hear something, I can’t tell what direction the sound is coming from. I assume it’s coming from my left side! This causes me to do a lot of spinning around to locate the source. And this happens regardless of whether I’m wearing a hearing aid in the “good” ear. People with normal hearing can talk on the phone and when one ear gets tired, they can move the phone to the other. I haven’t been able to do that for 16 years.

Imagine what it’s like when someone wants to share a secret with me and starts whispering in the “bad” ear. Yep, it will remain a secret that way, that’s for sure. If I don’t hear it, I can’t spread the word anyway, now can I? It’s foolproof! (And a note to all my friends—Sue, in particular—who are sensitive to my hearing loss and always accommodate me by being on the left side or facing me when they’re talking without my asking—I sincerely thank you for those thoughtful gestures.) I also get overwhelmed if there is too much noise because I can’t block any of it out as a normal-hearing person would—there’s just too much distraction and I can’t focus on what I do want to hear.

Humor on the high seas
Fast forward just a few years after I lost the hearing in my right ear. I’m on a Caribbean cruise with my friend Norma and we meet two gals and end up spending time hanging out with them at dinner and other social events. One evening we’re sitting around in a semi-circle in the piano bar and I’m listening to Norma, who is on my left (the good ear), talking away. One of our newfound friends is trying to talk to me on my “bad” side and for obvious reasons I can’t hear her. (#1. Got no hearing in that ear, lady and #2. I’m engrossed in conversation with Norma, so I’m focused on that task). She knows I’m listening to Norma, though.

Eventually she taps me on the shoulder and asks, “Hey! What are ya? Deaf in one ear? I’m trying to talk to you!” I realized she phrased the question that way in jest, of course, but imagine the look of horror on her face when I turned to reply, “Ummmm…yes, as a matter of fact, I am deaf in one ear.”

What are the odds of that happening again? She spent the rest of the evening apologizing profusely.

In the studio: Micah Doughty

12 06 2009

Just a few images of Micah Doughty from the photo shoot yesterday morning

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

Micah Doughty