Change Creates Beauty

© Megan Oteri

November is my favorite month, even though it is a very sad month for me as well.  Change came sweeping into my life October 2003 when my father was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer.  It was sudden; it was swift.  November was a huge month, with her arms stretched out wide, encircling my entire life as I knew it.  It was a month of change, of acceptance,  of denial, of love, of hope, of life.  Then December came and November was gone, into the dark of the night of winter, leaving all traces of autumn.

November in North Carolina is a colorful month full of dark browns, cool red hues, and a collage of warm buttery colors.  I do love November in North Carolina.  Perhaps it is because November in North Carolina is so very far away from the 2003 November of Wyoming, when my heart stood still — stood thick, like molasses stuck in quicksand — sticky and sinking.

Change happens.  It is just inevitable.  Nature tempts us each year with metaphor and grace; her cycles a lesson.  I no longer just see color, I smell it.  It contains a small pea of memory.  This pea multiplies and muses me; November is a symphony of this music.  I breathe a little easier once past December 10 or is it 11?  Not so sure anymore, as the years have passed — almost a decade, minus one equals nine.  My father passed in the middle of the night. My mother held his hand as he died.  My sister begged to know the next day if the angels came.  My mother said, “No.  His pulse quickened and he was gone.”  My mother is a stoic one.  She is matter of fact and to the point.  Something I love and also something I get annoyed with at the same time.  She is a New Yorker, born and bred, with an adolescent Illinois backdrop.

Honest speak — we didn’t think my dad would die before my mom.  In fact, my mom had brain tumors diagnosed and brain surgery three years before the October tree began to lose its leaves.  I had been planning on my mom dying before my dad, in quite dramatic expectation.

Anyway, here I wanted to just post some lovely fall photos and I get all deep and depressing.  I don’t care. In fact, I admit I love to soak in the deep water of death, for I have rinsed my hands and wiped my own tears in it.   There is a beauty to death.  Something I am not afraid of, and at times I am almost callous about.  I have had several close friends lose their parents recently.  They are a mess (understandably).  I feel like a veteran, no longer a rookie on the pain of death.

Light Tree

“All that you touch
You Change.

All that you Change
Changes you.

The only lasting truth
is Change.

is Change.”
― Octavia E. Butler

For even in death, there is renewal.  When the tree loses its last leaf — a relief, for now it can rest. Growth will come, spring will awaken in spirit.

I often would pass messages to my father after his death through the birds. If a cardinal would appear, it always meant same day delivery, for cardinals were always my fathers favorite bird.  Well actually, I thought the cardinal was my dad. So I guess that would make it express delivery.


“Therefore, dear Sir, love your solitude and try to sing out with the pain it causes you. For those who are near you are far away… and this shows that the space around you is beginning to grow vast…. be happy about your growth, in which of course you can’t take anyone with you, and be gentle with those who stay behind; be confident and calm in front of them and don’t torment them with your doubts and don’t frighten them with your faith or joy, which they wouldn’t be able to comprehend. Seek out some simple and true feeling of what you have in common with them, which doesn’t necessarily have to alter when you yourself change again and again; when you see them, love life in a form that is not your own and be indulgent toward those who are growing old, who are afraid of the aloneness that you trust…. and don’t expect any understanding; but believe in a love that is being stored up for you like an inheritance, and have faith that in this love there is a strength and a blessing so large that you can travel as far as you wish without having to step outside it.”
― Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

“When we least expect it, life sets us a challenge to test our courage and willingness to change; at such a moment, there is no point in pretending that nothing has happened or in saying that we are not yet ready. The challenge will not wait. Life does not look back. A week is more than enough time for us to decide whether or not to accept our destiny.”
― Paulo Coelho, The Devil and Miss Prym

© Megan Oteri

“The snake which cannot cast its skin has to die. As well the minds which are prevented from changing their opinions; they cease to be mind.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche


“Some changes look negative on the surface but you will soon realize that space is being created in your life for something new to emerge.”
― Eckhart Tolle

I am rather smitten with this photo. I just adore it.

“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” ― Mother Teresa

The photo of the leaf above is my favorite photo.  I have so many photos I have taken, but sometimes I just hit it out of the park with the bases loaded at the bottom of the ninth.  (My dad loved baseball — he would appreciate my hyperbole metaphor and I think he would love this photo too).

It is the darkness that makes the light shine brightest.


Cheyenne Frontier Days is the largest outdoor rodeo in America.  Yep, it’s pretty badass. Always the last ten days in July.  Always.  I have covered Frontier Days since 2001, as a freelance writer and photographer.

I had a press pass every year from 2001 – 2005 and in 2009.  It was pre-digital, or I had no idea what a digital camera was.  So I used black and white film (2001 – 2005).  I truly believe these four hot Julys was my unofficial training in photography.  I went to the University of Rodeo, so to speak.  I love taking photos of cowboys and rodeo.  I find the sport titillating.  I get so excited, and I love being behind the scenes.

There is a certain beauty and poetic element to the life of a cowboy.  It is a lonely road, filled with challenges and temptations.  There are many types of cowboys.  But honestly, and you know me — I am bone honest: every cowboy I have ever met and interviewed or spoke with has always been down-to-earth, courteous, and polite.  I am usually nervous when I interview cowboys.  Never has one blown me off or been rude.  I have interviewed Ben Jones, JB Mauney, Austin Meier, Kasey Hayes, Jerome Davis, Clint Craig, Bobby Mote, and many more.

I have entered a photo in a contest on Talenthouse.  It is of Clint Craig, who is adorable.  He is so cute and so nice.  I was very lucky to interview and photograph Clint with his two buddies, JB Mauney and Lander Creech, at Cheyenne Frontier Days in 2009.    My assignment:  pick the hottest cowboys at Cheyenne Frontier Days and ask them questions like, What’s sexier — cowboy boots or heels? and How does a woman get your attention?  What is your phobia? and Favorite body part.

Tough job, but someone has to do it, right?

The article appeared in Cowgirl in January 2010 for their Valentine’s issue.

Clint is from Mena, Arkansas and a very nice young man.  He does look like Woody Harrleson.  You can see my Clint Craig article in Rodeo News,  published in the September 2009 issue of Rodeo News:

I have also posted a video of him being interviewed about for 93 points ride on Red Onion in San Antonio in 2010.

Clint is in Cheyenne today for the Championship Bull Riding.

Click on the link above to vote for Clint’s photo, “Smile.”

If you are looking for souvenirs of Cheyenne Frontier Days or would like photos of cowboys, please visit my online gallery.  For a limited time proceeds will be going to Team Amber, who is a Cheyenne native and dear friend of mine who was paralyzed recently in a boating accident.

Copyright Infringement Makes Me Buck Like Bodacious

Buck like Bodacious. I Want to Buck the Muck out of Copyright Thieves.

I recently deleted my Pinterest boards with my watermarked images.  I also deleted all my boards until I can honestly know that each image I have repinned links back to the original website, artist, and that I have permission to use the photo.  It is more of a headache to get into this party at Pinterest.  I really should have read the fine print on Pinterest.  Instead, I just wanted to get into the big raging party going down at Pinterest.  After all, it was an invite only bash everyone was talking about.

I binge pinned and ended up getting sick, so to speak.

I have read the fine print (well, I read several blogs that explained Pinterest’s legal Latin) and Pinterest protects themselves, but puts all the legal responsibility on its 10.4 million registered users.  (That’s one big ass keg party!) Anyway, the fine print says that Pinterest users are responsible for all legal ramifications if there is a copyright infringement and lawsuit.  It also says that if you upload an image to Pinterest, it can sell your photo and it is public property.  And even if you request to have it deleted, it will still be available to the public in its server.

F#$%balls, I f$%&ed up again.

I created a Pinterest account to reclaim my photos that I have seen all over the internet, from a gay guy’s cute faces website, to a Southern Romance Writer’s Guild website, to a facebook fan page for women who love cowboys, to a Russian mail order bride website advertising a “Wild West” party, to multiple Photo Bucket users, to a professional bull rider’s Facebook profile (it’s a portrait photo I took of him) and fan page profile, to the pop culture website — Zimbio, to a Deviant Art user that had the audacity to copyright my images and sell them.  I think I am more pissed she copyrighted the images than selling them! That is just a sample; there are more unfortunately, and so many more I don’t know about.

Here are some photos that have been seen all over the internet.  I have added watermarks in on them, using this free, easy, and right brain friendly site:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

In fact, it this blatant copyright infringement makes me about as mad and mean as a rank bull!  Chicken on a Chain and Bodacious, I’m channeling you! And I want to buck the muck out of these careless, disrespectful copyright thieves.

This is a video of the legendary bull, Bodacious.  Caution — kind of scary in the fact that this badass bull did some serious damage to bull riders. He shattered Tuff Hedeman’s face pretty much. So you have been warned!

Maybe I am old school — maybe I went to high school and college without the internet, but I know, thanks to my high school English teacher, Mr. Anderson, that you better damn well find the source of something you are going to quote or use, or it is OUT RIGHT PLAGERISM and copyright theft. Period.

Ever heard of the DIGITAL MILLENNIUM COPYRIGHT ACT? (This is a link to the official PDF from the 105th Congress Report).

© means something!

I have been thinking about how I feel like I am spinning my wheels in thick mud, and I’ve been thinking about Pinterest and if it was a mistake to start using it (since you can change the URL website on images and it is such a copyright infringement fest).  So I did what most people do when they need information  and are obsessing on something — I googled!

I googled, “Pinterest and photographers copyright,” I started reading this article first,  Is Pinterest a Haven for Copyright Violations which was linked to, among many others, very informative articles about Pinterest, copyright, and the law. I highly recommend reading and bookmarking this article, as it has many helpful and informative links.  I read this article too, Pinterest Enables Copyright Theft on a Global Scale, written by the owner of FineArtAmerica.

And then I read this article, Why Photographers Should Stop Complaining about Copyright and Embrace Pinterest, which is completely on the other side of the issue, with a stance of give your best photos away in high resolution, without any watermarks and good karma will come your way.  The person that wrote the article, Trey Ratcliff, also has the #1 photo blog on the internet.  With the income he generates from his website alone, he can afford to give away photos.

My friend, who is helping me with the legal stuff, made a good point:

memomuse: Well, at least my name got credited on this website (at We Heart It). But it got credited to the website I had to take down. (www.meganoteri.wordpresscom)

Friend: When the electric bill comes, you can’t tell the electric company, “I will credit your name to pay for the bill.”

So I ended up staying up until 1 am last night, reading about copyright and Pinterest and outraged photographers and photographers taking the side of Trey Ratcliff, and going with the give your photos away and good karma will come your way. Then I ended up at Living Locurto‘s website.  I read this article on her site first, Information for Bloggers and People Who Use Pinterest, which linked to another one of her article’s, Pinterest Is Changing the Way I Blog, and left this comment (in italics below).

I hate watermarks for this very reason (they look cheesy), but go ahead and try stealing this photo!
Megan Oteri © All Rights Reserved

I used to have a website dedicated to all things rodeo and cowboys (and I don’t have to remind anyone how attractive cowboys are, especially when they are ready to get on a wild animal, in fact, cowboys are beautiful and so are cowgirls and I really believe rodeo tells beautiful stories).

I logged some serious hot Wyoming Julys documenting with old school 35 mm film the biggest rodeo in America (Cheyenne Frontier Days). I had photos from 2001 – 2009. I uploaded high-resolution photos and created a right-click dream. I have had to take that website down because of the photo piracy. I have had my photos stolen and reposted on all kinds of websites. It is really disheartening as an artist to see my work posted on other people’s website and not have even my name credited. It’s funny how people will take credit for other people’s work. I follow a hard core artist code — blood, sweat, and tears and a lot of heart, produced and created those images.

I literally had bullshit slung on me and my camera lens to get the photos I took. Since I have been finding the photos all over the place, I actually thought I could reclaim them by putting up watermarked images on Pinterest (from my online print on demand gallery — It was my big dramatic shout in the crowd — these are mine! Since I am still learning how to put a watermark on, I used the watermarked images from my Artflakes gallery.

The whole thing has taken time away from my family, trying to track down photos and contact people to take down the photos and made me a jittery basket of nerves and depressed. I am usually very upbeat and I like to use my photos to inspire people.

Samantha’s quote from “Sex and the City” to Smith Jarod, came to mind — “First comes the gays, then the girls, and then the industry.” I thought something positive would happen since my photos were stolen and posted on a gay guy’s cute faces website, a Russian mail order bride website advertising a “Wild West” party, and a bunch of other ones. Heck, a professional bull rider is using my photo that I took of him in Wyoming, as his facebook profile photo and for his fan page.

I am waiting for the industry to contact me! I actually have a whole advertising campaign for Wrangler!

Is my name credited on any of these websites? NO. I thought Pinterest would help me. Now I have another headache to worry about now that I found out Pinterest owns all my photos now and can sell them and even though I deleted my boards of my photos, they are still available in a public server. It is such a nightmare. What I think it totally wrong with Pinterest is people can change the URL site. They don’t have to keep the original source. It’s like an honor system gone bad, real bad.

It makes me want to take my toys and go home. But it makes me think about how can I benefit from this? I feel like I am missing something?? Am I? Or is the new internet fueled by the non-renewable resources of artists’ hard work. Does artists’ work just get burned up in a Pinterest sharing fest? What would Picasso and Monet have to say about this if their paintings and works of art were being shared without their name. They had enough smarts to sign their paintings.

I think I should just cut and paste this comment and make it my next blog post!

The final kicker for me was seeing two of my photos posted on Deviant Art  and she actually copyrighted my images as her own and is selling them! Talk about salt, lemon, lime, tequila, alcohol, and a scorpion bite all to the wound.

I don’t know if I have the left brain skills to sort through all this nonsense. I do have a friend (thank goodness) who has legal knowledge of copyright to help me through this internet nightmare.

The ironic thing, is I posted the photos with the intention of sharing my art, visually, and trying to make a name for myself as a rodeo and cowboy photographer.  My photos went viral, without any credit to me, and the people that pirated them were the ones who got the credit (like in the Photo Bucket users).

But that is my art. I created it. Anyway, I do have my photos posted at, where the site has flash so people can’t copy it. I sure hope people can’t copy it. I guess they can with screen shots these days.

I am rambling on. Sorry. This is a hot button topic for me. I have deleted my Pinterest boards with my photos (even though they had watermarks from Artflakes), And I am deleting all photos that I am not sure I have permission to post. Pinterest kind of sucks by putting all the legal responsibility on the users. I think the people using the site have no idea what they are doing and the repercussions for the very people that are providing them visual inspiration (the photographers who take the pictures). In the meantime, I am sticking watermarks all over the photos I do put on Pinterest. Thank you for this post and I am sorry if I rambled on too much about this. My facebook community is sick of hearing me whine about this. I hate it when people say, “Well, you shouldn’t have put it on the internet then.” Thanks for letting me share.


This is a favorite photo many people love to claim as their own. It was taken at Cheyenne Frontier Days in Cheyenne, Wyoming at the PBR nightshow.

Cowboy with Rope Photo © Megan Oteri ~ All Rights Reserved
This photo was taken with black and white film with a 35 mm camera you have to develop the film! Imagine that. I love old school black and white film.

So, I continue to try to deal with this issue.  I am trying to see the bigger picture and use my Aries tenacity to make the best of the situation. I read this quote today that made me feel better:

“Action is the antidote to despair.” – Joan Baez

But the truth of the matter is, I am spending way too much time worrying about this.  And maybe good karma will come back my way (magically).  In the mean time, I haven’t made any money from these photos that have gone viral, nor have I sold any photos in my Artflakes gallery (why pay for them when you can get them for free, right) and I have spent countless hours trying to track down people to tell them to remove the photos.

I am not one to just give up easily when I am passionate about something.  And I do have some issues with a need for justice, as well as, a need for validation.  So the combination of these issues and the blatant disrespect for photographers and their artwork, in general, in our culture — well — it has been a sucky time of it.  I know I am going to hear a ton of people, say — just let it go Meg.  Really, would you just let it go, if your employer decided to say your pay check just wouldn’t be coming because of circumstances out of your control.

PBR Bull Rider, Brian Canter — Photo © Megan Oteri ~ All Rights Reserved
I don’t like watermarks. Unfortunately, they are needed. I really do believe they take away from the art. This photo I have to let go and let it find its way. In fact, it really did find its way — back to the bull rider. So I think the bigger picture is art finds a way. Cause, no offense to Brian Canter, but most of the pictures of him out there make him look like he’s twelve. I think this photo does him justice!

But as you know, memomuse really isn’t one to stick my head in the negative mud.  I like to get out in the sunshine and see the beauty of life.  And I love to share the photos I take.  But now I have to worry about watermarks and all that, which really stops me from sharing the right brain magic.  I really suck at left brain technical stuff.  I wish a left brain fairy godmother would come to my rescue.  I need a benefactor to help me pay for an art show.  That would be cool. Now, we are talking — the dreamer in me is dazzling already — an art show at a gallery.  Heck, I need to be my own fairy godmother.  In fact, my friend, Javaugn, sent me this grant information today to apply to for photographers. So I did get my left brain fairy godmother.  Thanks Javaugn.

I got to stop this ramble.  I am even hesitant to post it (in fear of seeming like a whiner, but why am I feeling this way — I didn’t do anything wrong!  I keep blaming myself for not putting up a watermark, when I copyright the photos individually, in each photo’s caption).  But I know there are other people out there trying to figure out all this copyright stuff, so I will share this post, as it has really informative links to well written and easy to understand articles and blog posts about copyright law. It even has a direct link to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

The bottom line is I have to let go of the cowboys and the bull rope.  Life goes on.  I have learned to watermark.  Lesson learned!  Maybe that is the only positive out of this.  Nah, I think there are a lot of really good people who have passed these photos forward, and they are giving some old cowgirl some joy.  Or even a cowboy (hopefully the cowboy himself or cowgirl) because as an artist, rodeo is my Montana; it is my muse and my wide open Wyoming space, where I see such beauty and such story.

Let er’ Buck“,” they say.  Sometimes you don’t have to quote every source.  Sometimes greatness speaks for itself; no signature required.  Maybe that is the lesson in all of this.  (But don’t worry, I am still channeling Bodacious and ready to buck every little copyright thief on their little greedy backs — just kidding.  I’m exhausted.

I have to move on.  This blog post is my white flag.  As much as I hate to admit defeat — hard lesson learned — I’ve got some darlings out their in cyber land who have found new homes.

Just tell me I’m awesome and I think I’ll be OK.  🙂  I still have my sense of humor and a lot more f%$^ing film and rodeos. And I’ll always have Wyoming in my heart.

This makes me think about: What did artists think of the forgers who forged their work and sold it?  My parents had a painting by one of Picasso’s forgers.

What do you think about copyright and the internet and social media sharing sites like Pinterest?