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Two shattered windows are shown where mass shooter Stephen Paddock, of Mesquite, Nev., took aim down on innocent concert attendees.

(copied from original post that appeared on my Instagram page (@rondachurchill) on Monday, Oct. 2 at 10 p.m.)

I still can’t seem to put this day to rest. These are the windows, one with curtains billowing from it, the other several panels to the left of first, where a shooter took aim and ambushed people attending an outdoor festival across the Las Vegas Strip. Last week, I was photographing all day at the same concert venue and stepped out for an hour to capture photos from the rooftop of this same hotel. Security escorted me. The view was breathtaking.

This morning, I was on the Strip at sunrise working alongside friends, colleagues and professionals in this business we call home. We saw heartache, tears, blood and displaced people. After being on scene for 90 minutes, I was forced into an emergency evacuation while editing inside a nearby property. In those first, heart-pounding moments, I thought to myself, “This is it. It’s happening again.” I knew I wasn’t the only one thinking this as I ran with tourists and employees. Everyone was going different directions. I was told to hide in the bathroom or run outside to the pool. Luckily, it was a false alarm, but the incident ignited my veins with fear and adrenaline. This is what those concert attendees felt, but infinitely worse–bullets and chaos and carnage. The most awful part and the most extreme unfair and unkind thing in the entire world is that some of them do not get to write about it to feel better.

For those of you who have suffered great loss today, I hope that you find peace.

1-866-535-5654, for families trying to locate loved ones

lvmpd.com for blood donation sites

Author note: Ronda Churchill is a freelance photojournalist based in Las Vegas for the past 14 years. She is available for assignment anytime. Email: rkchurchill@aol.com

Las Vegas Shooting

Survivors of the mass shooting make their way back to their hotel room shortly after sunrise.

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A single vase of roses is shown on Las Vegas Boulevard the morning after a mass shooting occurred nearby.

Creepy Cuba

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4.30.17 Neópolis Cristóbal Cólon

There are two types of people in this world: believers and non-believers; I am a believer. I am a believer of spirits and the paranormal.

I think a lot people are skeptical until they have an experience that catapults them into the believer category. I was converted a long time ago, but today on this rainy and dreary day in Las Vegas, I will tell you my most recent story that has kept me firmly checking the believer box.

Last week, I visited Havana, Cuba, for a work trip. I have been slowly going through some 3,500 images I shot while also working for clients and visiting with family in town. One of the days I eagerly anticipated editing was the day I visited Neópolis Cristóbal Cólon.

Neópolis Cristóbal Cólon is a massive cemetery in Havana and is the largest in the Americas spanning 140 acres. It was founded in 1846 and is world renowned.

Any time I visit another country or US region, I love to walk in their local cemetery. I feel that cemeteries offer a candid glimpse of how people live today. So much culture can be seen in cemeteries and the living need not be present to see it. You only need to be there.

On the particular day I visited Neópolis Cristóbal Cólon, the humidity was a stifling 80-90% on top of a nearly 80-degree temperature. In fact, most of my days in Cuba were of this awful recipe. I do not fare well in humidity, and every day, I took a “siesta” that included going back to my room, having a cold shower, and resting. This day, I was determined to power through my siesta because of my schedule. I shouldn’t have for I did not feel well.

The expansive cemetery contained aboveground graves topped with concrete slabs. There were also many large mausoleums housing wealthy families’ remains. I recall one point where I was photographing near a statue of a mother. People had walked up behind me and started chanting and clanking the rings on the concrete slabs. Their actions bore right into me, and I staggered backwards. I nearly passed out right then and immediately stumbled to the nearest tree for shade.

When researching for this blog, I discovered I was at the tomb of Amelia Goyri, who is known as La Milagrosa (The Miraculous One) and died in 1901 while giving birth. A marble statue adorning a cross, woman and baby in arms marks her grave. Her body was exhumed years after her death and was uncorrupted, which is a sign of sanctity in the Catholic faith. Her baby, who was buried at her feet, was allegedly found in her arms upon exhumation. For this reason, her grave has become a pilgrimage site of sorts for those who are hopeless and have special requests. I almost passed out at her grave while photographing the shrine around it.

But this isn’t the story I came here to write.

Due to not feeling well, considering I almost fainted two times before I left the cemetery (this is for sure a record for me in all of the hot and humid places I have documented in my 18 years of being a photojournalist), I do not have many photos from the cemetery. In fact, I only stayed about an hour and hoped to return.

That evening, I was talking with a new friend about my time in the sacred place. I retrieved my camera to scroll through a few photos and to ask him a question about a grave and that is when I saw it. There wedged between street photography and headstone shots, were a handful of black frames. What I found so odd was and had me slightly panicking was that the back of my camera had suddenly appeared dead on those  black frames.

To elaborate, I have my gear set up that when I am reviewing photos, I can see the file number, exposure and sequence. An example of such is “1/2025” (photo shot 1 of 2,025). When I came to the black frames, I did not see any camera data.

I was so worried that the camera card was corrupted (ruined card and lost photos) that I took it out of the camera at that moment, stowed it, and grabbed a new card.

But this is where it gets even weirder.

Not only did these frames not show any camera data on the back of my camera in the review mode, but also they were actually exposed in the same exposure as the images that appeared right after them. (I only had changed the ISO from 400 to 250). So, I had shot images outside with the same f-stop, shutter speed and similar film speed as the frames after them, but they came out black. How is this possible? By the way, if you are outside and expose too much, you would get a practically white frame, not black. And no, I do not own a lens cap.

And then as I looked through more of my take, it happened again both times only at the cemetery, and then the rest of the day’s images were fine. I am missing most of my cemetery take because of this.

When I open the image in photoshop, I can not pull anything out of the frame when using curves or levels. I find this very odd too.

Camera mishap is actually not the first time something has happened with my gear while visiting a somewhat eerie place, but I won’t launch into that story now. In fact, you can read about it here: http://dailyegyptian.com/31215/archives/devil_10-9_cm-death-by-a-broken-heart/

In the end, I was not able to return to Neópolis Cristóbal Cólon due to time constraints. I know that I will return to Cuba in the future, and when I do, I will be visiting the cemetery again and brining a newfound respect.

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Contact sheet from 4.30.17. Street photography images prior to shooting at Neópolis Cristóbal Cólon, which starts with blank frames.

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Camera data for back-to-back photos black frame (top) and statue shot (bottom). Exposure in blue.

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Offerings for Amelia Goyri, “The Miraculous One.” Here is where I nearly fell to the ground from heat.

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A mausoleum I was intrigued with. Note see the three graves were broken into.

Bling Bling Icing

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Acrylic rhinestones and faux gold embellishments are shown in a case.

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Colorful boas (left) and felt squares (right) are displayed.

It is the perfect stop for all things fun and pretend. The moment you walk through the door and round the corner by the counter, adult worries and everyday life are replaced by the endless possibilities of a child’s fantasy. Creativity comes to life with each touch of a feather, each glimpse of fabrics and trimmings and every peek into case after case of tiny jewels.

Want to be a pirate? Done. Want to be a king? Done, done. Want to be a showgirl? Absolutely done!

Williams Costume Company is the treasure chest; what will be your booty?

If crafting is not a strong point, there is also an entire apartment-sized room stocked with multi-piece and custom-made costumes ready for rent.

The store, which has been a neighborhood anchor for 60 years, receives customers of all kinds. A clerk told me that “anybody and everybody that has a creative side” are clientele. Customers include: theater people; costume and clothing designers; street performers; crafters; jewelry makers and students.

On a rainy Saturday a couple hours before closing, my sisters, husband and I were lost in the store calling out to one another rows apart to come see what we had found in our corn maze of creativity.

With my iPhone only, I started to document my discoveries; I hope you enjoy this little gallery of treasures.

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Miscellaneous metal and acrylic notions are displayed in a case.

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A showgirl headdress, masks (left) and wigs (right) are shown.

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Colorful chains (left) of different sizes available for custom length is shown, Sister Michelle (right) poses for personal photograph with Marilyn Monroe next to funky Elvis painted on store exterior.

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Feminine fancies are displayed in a case.

Participant

 

Women's March Vegas

Ashely Hardy burns sage and records video on a cell phone while participating in a women’s march to protest newly inaugurated President Donald Trump Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017, in Las Vegas. A crowd of some 15,000 people marched downtown for a rally at the Lloyd D. George Federal Courthouse.

“Raise your hand if this is the first time you have ever participated in a march?” A woman said to a thick, buzzing crowd clotting Las Vegas Boulevard on a sunny day.

Raised hands went up everywhere around me and were like stars you can finally see so clearly in a country night sky when you get out of town and all of the pollution is far away.

In my 14 years as a full-time photojournalist, I have covered many marches, protests, strikes and cause-driven community gatherings without bias. I pride myself on my ability to remain professional, to cover all sides equally and above all to be impartial. In fact, I enjoy spending time at events where people are so passionate; it strengthens my appreciation of our beautiful, diverse world.

However, the day after President Donald Trump’s inauguration, I found myself not booked for an important day in our nation’s history and decided it would be the first time I would attend a politically-driven event as a participant. I brought my camera, because I can not turn “that” off ever, with the hopes of making a few nice frames that may lead to an editorial blog post.

So here we are. Back to Sunday.

I walked alongside people of all ages, genders, races, and minority groups. I passed signs written in Spanish, people playing musical instruments and even a woman burning incense. Some participants even donned creative costumes and many wore homemade knitted pink caps. It was clear that everyone had one common drive: passion.

Women, men and children gathered throughout the world in solidarity. I can not speak for the people who marched in one of more than *670 events worldwide that day, but I can speak for myself and why I chose to participate:

I marched because I am not okay with a president that does not believe in the first amendment. I am not okay with a world leader who makes fun of a handicapped person on national television during his campaign for presidency. I am not okay with a world leader who wants to take away certain women’s rights in healthcare. I am not okay with a world leader who does not believe that the world is in a dire stage of climate change. My list of grievances is hefty, and these are merely a few.

To my friends, colleagues, and those who happen upon this post, thank you for making it this far. I know that we may not feel they same way and our political views may not align.

I only ask of you this:

Please think of one thing–anything in the world–that matters the most to you in your life. Think of that thing now in your head and create an object that represents your important thing and put that object on a pedestal. Now think of someone, lets say your boss, saying derogatory things about the item on your pedestal. Let’s go a step further and say your boss makes threats to hurt the item on your pedestal and prevent you from having it, touching it, seeing it, or letting the item thrive. How would you react?

This was how **half a million people in Washington DC alone decided to react Sunday in order to protect their item on their pedestal.

* According to Washington Post

** According to Associated Press

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People march on Fremont Street past historic neon signs.

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People chant, “Stronger together, we won’t fall. Justice peace and equality for all.”

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A woman holds a plastic figurine of Hillary Clinton (left). People cheer at the start of a rally outside the federal courthouse (right). 

Women's March Vegas

People participate in a women’s march to protest newly inaugurated President Donald Trump Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017, in Las Vegas.