TAMPA — It's become one of the local staples in the Tampa Bay area, showing up like clockwork every December.
It might arrive in a plain manila envelope, but it's not as mysterious as it sounds. The sender's name is printed on the front of the gift: a Tampa Bay events calendar wishing “Best of health to you and yours” from David Lubin, M.D.
Every month features a photo by Lubin of a Tampa-area scene, iconic image, event or maybe people. Different days of the month highlight national holidays, local events, scheduled games for local professional teams and the moon sightings. There are reminders for Daylight Savings (“Set your clock back!”) and specialty days, such as World Toilet Day and the Great American Smokeout.
And on the back cover are stamp-size pictures of local residents holding up the calendar in locations all over the country and world. Copies have traveled as far as Tasmania, Iceland and Peru.
For the 2014 version, a few of the standout photos include a fireworks display over Tampa (July), two adults and a child in shadows waving goodbye to a beach sunset (September) and a close-up of a tiger at Busch Gardens (November).
This is the calendar for locals, and the work put into the publication is impressive. So who is this David Lubin and why has he been producing this annual calendar, now in its 23rd year?
Some of you already know him. He's a family physician who has practiced in Tampa his entire professional career. After 37 years, he saw his last patient and took down his shingle for good just last month.
“It was time,” says Lubin, who is married and the father of two grown daughters. With the health care industry in such flux, he says there was no better time. “Electronic records, insurance, authorization, the intrusions. Not to mention all those patients, even the noncompliant ones, who want you to fix them now.”
After taking care of patients for nearly four decades, Lubin, 66, can concentrate on his other passion: taking photos.
He picked up the hobby in the late '70s, before his youngest daughter was born. His first camera was a Canon A-1. Though technology has changed dramatically — he grudgingly is getting used to digital, but doesn't prefer it — one thing has remained the same: He sticks with Canon, now using a T3i model.
His signature photo is a striking double exposure of the University of Tampa minarets with the moon in the background. And that, he will tell you, was done on film.
“There are some things that film just does better,” he says. Not surprising, coming from a guy who owns a “semi-smart” phone and still drives his 1981 300 SD turbo diesel Mercedes with 250,000-plus miles.
He came up with the idea of a calendar after seeing a version put out by St. Joseph's Hospital in 1991. He already was sending out holiday cards to patients, friends and local businesses. Why not a calendar with his favorite photos teamed with local listings? Those he didn't give away he could sell at a reduced price as a marketing tool to promote his practice.
The calendar's popularity grew each year, as Lubin added more local tidbits and information. His skills improved as a photographer. What started as a casual outlet to the demands of doctoring became a passion.
“Everything I look at now, I look at through the eyes of a photographer. How would that picture look in the calendar? Is it a picture someone would want to look at for an entire month?” he says.
He's taken his talents to other areas as well, serving as one of the official photographers for the Gasparilla Distance Classic, and shooting photos for corporate brochures and publications. He also agrees to the occasional “fun” wedding — but no formal affairs, thank you very much.
“Too much pressure,” he says. “This is a hobby, and I take it seriously, but I want it to bring pleasure, not anxiety.”
He now prints about 13,000 to 15,000 calendars a year, giving away about 1,500 and selling the rest to local businesses or professionals. They buy them in bulk at a reduced price and imprint their own names and messages on them as a way to promote their own businesses. He also sells individual copies by mail for $6.
Even though he's worked steadily for nearly four decades, Lubin thinks he will adjust to retirement easily, mainly because of the outlet that gives him such joy. He plans to do more aggressive marketing for his events calendar, and catch up on episodes of “Family Guy” and “South Park.”
His patients, on the other hand, may find it harder to make the adjustment.
“I really thought he'd be signing off on my death certificate,” says Joseph Joeb, who made the drive from Lutz to see his family physician. “He's been my doctor for 30 years plus. He's the kind you can open up to and talk about anything. You just don't get that anymore.”
The two also have become friends over the years, sharing a mutual love of photography and a friendly rivalry over who can get more letters published in the “Letters to the Editor” section of The Tampa Tribune.
“Really, I've watched him evolve over the years, from a point-and-shoot photographer to a true artist,” Joeb says. “So as much as we will miss him, I think he's going to make good use of his free time. He's got the talent and now he can really concentrate on it.”
To see more of Lubin's work, or to contact him about ordering a calendar, go to www.dajalu.com.