Pheasant hunters in last light of opening day, Wray, Colorado.

Happy New Year from the West

As the year winds down there’s a tendency to review and reflect – and anticipate with great excitement the upcoming year. The beginning of a new year has always been especially welcomed. Not prone to unrealistic, over enthusiastic expectations, but instead new goals. Fresh starts.

Soon we’ll travel back to Chicago to visit family. After having done this drive for 30+ years now it’s easy to understand those who grow weary of it. For us though it’s one of the highlights. We love road trips – and with the additional hook of using every opportunity to contribute to the 4042n project, even more so – especially during winter months when one may otherwise not be as inspired to get out exploring.

I was doing a little research this morning on a particular item of interest that caught my attention last year on my return on US Highway 34. There is a literal, definitive point in Lincoln, Nebraska where “The West” officially begins, according to lore. This point is marked by a star at the intersection of 13th Street and O Street in downtown Lincoln. While researching the exact location with hopes of finding it on one of our refueling stops I ran across this book titled “The Nebraska Dispatches” by playwright and director Christopher Cartmill. In it he quotes excerpts from a poem by Arthur Chapman titled “Out Where the West Begins,” and thought it a wonderful way to close out 2014 and usher in 2015.

Out Where the West Begins

Out where the handclasp’s a little stronger,
Out where the smile dwells a little longer,
That’s where the West begins;

Out where the sun is a little brighter,
Where the snows that fall are a trifle whiter;
Where the bonds of home are a wee bit tighter;
That’s where the West begins.

Out where the skies are a trifle bluer,
Out where the friendship’s a little truer,
That’s where the West begins

Out where a fresher breeze is blowing,
Where there’s laughter in every streamlet flowing,
Where there’s more of reaping and less of sowing,
That’s where the West begins.

Out where the world is in the making,
Where fewer hearts with despair are aching;
That’s where the West begins;

Where there’s more of singing and less of sighing,
Where’s there’s more of giving and less of buying,
And where a man makes friends without half trying,
That’s where the West begins.

-Arthur Chapman

Here’s wishing you and yours peace, joy and countless blessings in 2015.

 

Crane Hollow Road

Crane Hollow, Boulder County, Colorado

There’s something special about the color along Colorado’s Front Range in late Autumn. The Front Range is where the plains finally begin to rise, turning then into mountains. This transition zone has always been a special place to me. It possesses an understated beauty not found elsewhere; a gentility as one ecosystem makes room for another.

Crane Hollow Road, Boulder County, Colorado (2014)

Crane Hollow Road, Boulder County, Colorado (2014)

The fall is one of my favorite times to be out with the camera – but not for what may be considered the typical subject matter. Brilliant colored leaves tend to attract people from all over the country – and for good reason. Explosions of magnificent, bombastic color creating high drama are everywhere. I photograph these, too – and they’re smashing. The truth is though,  the time of year I look forward to the most is when the leaves fall from the branches and the people go home. Especially when we’re blessed with a beautiful Indian Summer; fall stretching out into the waning days of November and early December – sometimes beyond. The downside is of course lack of moisture. The upside is, there’s virtually nothing green left. It’s then the land turns countless shades of gold, brown, tan, ochre, beige, sienna and red – all laying dormant most of the day, going unnoticed in the high-altitude, high angle bright, Colorado sunlight.

Hygeine Road, Rural Boulder County, Colorado (2014)

Hygeine Road, Rural Boulder County, Colorado (2014)

Towards evening, however, when the sun begins its downward journey and the angle of light changes, spectacular color begins to emerge. It’s brief – the last hour of the day you can feel it building. But what happens in those final moments before the sun disappears behind the foothills west of Boulder is spectacular. Crane Hollow Road is an unremarkable dirt road in Eastern Boulder County. It’s probably no longer than a mile or so, and it travels north to south, connecting Hygiene Road and St. Vrain Road. Earlier in life I would cycle these roads back and forth from Boulder to Longmont routinely, eager to escape pavement on my mountain bike – for safety reasons as much as the aesthetics. Now I drive them, slowly in search of beautiful light. Every once in a while I get lucky.

Boulder County, Colorado (2014)

Boulder County, Colorado (2014)

Ektar is perfect film for this type of work. Its vivid color with a slightly warm bias lends itself well to reproducing dramatic light when it makes is appearance. Its fine grain faithfully reproduces subtle details emerging in the luminescent landscape. One of the unique things about photographing on film is this sense of anticipation and excitement when you think you’ve preserved a moment of beautiful light – but you’re not able to actually see the images yet. There’s a tendency to replay the sequence in your mind’s eye and go over your technique. When you find great light it’s easy to get excited and hurry through set up. Changing lenses, extending the tripod, connecting the cable release, screwing on filters… then quickly getting in position before everything simply disappears. Was the tripod on solid ground or bouncing on bending grass. In the excitement to get the camera in position and ready to shoot, did you remember to carefully focus? Shoot Mirror-Up? Did you bracket your compositions well – wide, mid and tight? Did you set the polarizer properly? Clean the lens? Choose the right lens? Use the right aperture? All these things swim through the mind’s eye as dusk encroaches and you make your way back to pavement, the car’s heater kicking in, then head home. There’s something exhilarating about that moment – when you think you got it right – but you won’t know for sure for several more days, until you’re holding the film in hand. Only then will you know.

Autumn grasses, Crane Hollow Road, Boulder County, Colorado

Autumn grasses, Crane Hollow Road, Boulder County, Colorado

At the end of the day it’s light that’s the star. Great light can turn nearly any ordinary scene into something extraordinary. Those days I’m fortunate enough to be out in that wonderful, glorious autumn light with a camera are good days indeed. Making photographs is as much about the process as it is about the final image.

Terra Firma

Terra Firma

I’m excited to announce a new project – well, less “new” in terms of topic – but more “new” in terms of focused effort. The project is called Terra Firma, and I suppose like so many of my other “projects,” I’ve really been working on this one for a long time.

Rock Cut, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

First Light at Rock Cut, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Terra Firma is a landscape collection on johnbcrane.com (please click here to sit back and enjoy the slide show). I suppose I’ve been working on this project for 20 years or so – but only now feel like I have something tangible to say. Terra firma is a Latin phrase meaning “solid earth” (from terra, meaning “earth”, and firma, meaning “solid”). The phrase refers to the dry land mass on the earth’s surface and is used to differentiate from the sea or air. Considering a reference many of us may already be familiar with, here’s how Terra Firma was first born: “And God said, ‘Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.’ And it was so. God called the dry land Earth,[d] and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good.” (Genesis 1:9-10 ESV). The distinction here is that the land was created to separate the heavens from the depths.

Cape Flattery, Olympic National Park, Washington

Cape Flattery, Olympic National Park, Washington

Like many landscape photographers I’ve had a passion for the outdoors for many years. Since the first time setting foot in Colorado in 1977 as a high school student I’ve never left the wilderness. Physically perhaps – but mentally, emotionally and spiritually – no. When I returned home to Illinois after our first backpacking trip to Highlands Camp in the Indian Peaks Wilderness I moped around the house for weeks. All I could think about was how to get back, as fast as possible. I’d tasted wilderness – true, honest to goodness wilderness – and was spoiled for anything else from that point forward.

John B. Crane in the Weminuche Wilderness, southern Colorado's San Juan range, 1985

John B. Crane in the Weminuche Wilderness, southern Colorado’s San Juan range, 1985

Years later, in May of 1980 when Mount St. Helens erupted in the Cascade Mountains I had joined REI, received my first Jansport backpack and ice ax and was turning sofa cushions over in the house looking for enough money for plane fare to Seattle. As fate would have it I never made it out to photograph the mountain exploding – which is why I’m still alive today.

I devoured books by Robert Service, Barry Lopez (Arctic Dreams, Of Wolves and Men), Peter Matthiesson (The Snow Leopard, Men’s Lives), Farley Mowatt (Never Cry Wolf), Edward Abbey (Desert Solitaire, The Monkey Wrench Gang) John Muir and John McPhee (Coming into the Country, The Control of Nature, Basin and Range), and developed a particular fascination with the Rocky Mountains, the Cascade Mountains, and the Pacific Northwest. I followed the classic, black and white photographers and while I appreciated the art form, decided I was more interested in color photography.

A particular fascination with Alaska developed and upon graduation from Colorado State with Bachelor of Fine Art, my dog Max and I caught a ride to Seattle, then caught the Alaska Marine Highway to Alaska’s Southeast for my first true foray into the wild where I lived and worked the salmon for the summer, wandering the Alaska’s inside passage between shifts.

Scow Bay, Petersburg, Alaska

Scow Bay, Petersburg, Alaska (1984)

That summer was filled with far too much to attempt to summarize here. Suffice it to say, that trip to Alaska took the beginnings of a fascination with wild places and emblazoned into my very being a thirst for which there is no quenching. Here so many years later I can see and hear and feel almost everything from that trip; the pull to return to Alaska is incessant – like gravity.

Today, a body of work has formed. While I enjoy flipping through images and the memories they trigger – I’ve come to believe it’s somewhat of a responsibility to share these images. The world has changed dramatically over those same years since 1977. Wild places continue to be eaten away by industry and development, and people today simply don’t understand – can’t comprehend – what has been lost. I’ve done my best to not be the pessimist; attempt to find the remaining open lands, wild places – and prove to myself that there’s still a lot of land out there, nothing to worry about. Lately, though – it’s getting more difficult to do this. Again – wanting to be a positive voice in the conversation – the approach I can take is to show the beauty of the land. My hope is these images will inspire a whole new generation of explorers, wanderers, travelers, seekers and dreamers to get out there and see this land we’re so blessed to live in.

Fall River, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Fall River, along the Old Fall River Road, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado.

Comprised of color images from around the United States – many of which were made within our spectacular National Parks System – Terra Firma attempts to focus on the land.  A seemingly endless variety of landscapes lie within Terra Firma. Topographic features from slot canyons to grand canyons. From ant hills to foothills. Front mountain ranges to still, quiet valleys and everything in between. Not all images have been made in our beautiful National Parks; many have been created in no-name stretches of empty land – between notable destinations –  because the light was right or the feature simply would not let me pass without demanding an image be recorded.

Lory State Park, near Fort Collins, Colorado

Lory State Park, near Fort Collins, Colorado

CONTENT, NOT PROCESS
I suppose like many photographers I use a variety of different cameras and tools to create different images. This project is a earnest attempt to – once again – step away from the process and instead focus on the contents of those four, intimidating boundaries constructing the edges of the frame. I want everything the viewer sees to communicate something about the land – not the process. To that end, you’ll see no mention what so ever of whether an image is recorded digitally or etched on film, and you’ll see nothing about what type of camera – or the technique with which the image is created.

I hope you enjoy Terra Firma, and more so – hope it inspires everyone inclined to get “out there” into the wild – while the wild still remains.

Peace to you, John B. Crane

 

Elephant Revival, New West Fest (2014)

New West Fest

For the past 10 years now the city of Fort Collins, Colorado has sponsored, in conjunction with Bohemian Nights Music, the New West Fest; essentially a birthday party for the city and fall jamboree for Northern Colorado, focusing heavily on live music. The scale of the event is difficult to grasp. The city blocks off the core of famous Old Town and people wander freely with children, strollers, the occasional huge stuffed animal won at a carnival game, and open containers. It’s a truly great event we’ve come to enjoy more each year.

Elephant Revival, New West Fest, Fort Collins

Elephant Revival, New West Fest, Fort Collins (2014)

This year we met friends for Saturday night’s Library Stage line up and first to play was a band from Nederland, Elephant Revival. I can sum up our feelings about Elephant Revival in one word: utter bliss. OK, two words. Elephant Revival hails from the small, mountain community of Nederland, Colorado – at the foot of the Indian Peaks Wilderness and hovering in the clouds 30 miles above the city of Boulder. Years ago while working in Boulder I had the good fortune to live in Nederland and can attest to its unique, authentic, Colorado vibe – perhaps one of the reasons Elephant Revival resonated so much with me. Surely some of you have felt this before so hopefully it’s not a new phenomena I’m trying to describe and you can all smile and nod your heads as you remember… but every so often there are bands and performances that create something really special for you. Somehow, through the combination of elements produced in a show; the atmosphere created by the actual music’s rhythms and tempos, instrumentations and arrangements mixed with the musicians and their artistry, countenance, performance, expressions, posture, dress and demeanor all – viewed through a modest use of light and a whiff of atmosphere – something  special happens – and the audience is transported to another time, another place. That was Elephant Revival for me on Saturday night. Thank you, Elephant Revival. For that brief period I forgot the rest of my life and vanished into your world.

Shatterproof, New West Fest

Shatterproof opened this year’s Behemian Night’s New West Fest.

Photographically I’d made some decisions the day before on how to approach this year’s New West Fest. Friday’s opening act, Shatterproof, also held a special draw for us. Their electric violin player T.J. Wessel’s family are friends, and we stood front row in the hot, late afternoon sun watching this band of talented young musicians go at it. As I looked around at the sparse crowd I smiled upon realizing that 1 out of every 5 had either a DSLR strapped around their neck, or some sort of electronic “phablet” held up – fingers extended – to record. Given my natural proclivity to photograph with film when it came time to plan how I wanted to record this year’s festival – it was a pretty simple decision. The follow up question was, what film. I consider myself primarily a color photographer and for many events and occasions this fits. There are times, however, when choosing black and white film feels like the right move. Don’t ask why because I don’t think I could explain. I just go with it. And so it was for Saturday and Sunday’s outings; as I happened to find myself standing in the crowd, close to the front, transported to this other world.

The Subdudes, New West Fest, Fort Collins, Colorado (2014)

The Subdudes, New West Fest, Fort Collins, Colorado (2014)

One of the tricky things about concert photography – especially in the evening – is low light. It’s no secret todays DSLR’s handle low-light situations very well – especially my D3s – which I can push to 3,200 and even 6,400 with confidence of getting a usable image. Film is another matter. But if you’re working with the right film in the right way, there’s potential for some unique images –  it just takes a little more thought – and work. The black and white film I revert to typically is Ilford’s Delta line. Delta 400 provides deep, rich long tones, deep blacks and dramatic contrast while also rendering smooth tonal transitions and holding sharp detail. If I were to pick one black and white film to head out with I knew would hold up in virtually any lighting conditions it would be Delta 400. It’s a beautiful film.

The Subdudes, New West Fest, Fort Collins, Colorado (2014)

The Subdudes, New West Fest, Fort Collins, Colorado (2014)

The stage’s backdrop is an important part of the photograph. Fortunately those who plan these sometimes elaborate, complex stages understand this. In this case it was a neutral grayish color, probably a stop less than the middle tone of a gray card. The Library Stage faced East, it’s back to the afternoon sun. This was actually good news – providing you were prepared for it. Initially one might be tempted to try and shoot manually. At first glance, light would’nt seem to change much because they’re out of direct sunlight. The problem is, once the lights begin sweeping over performers, everything changes. Spot metering or center weighted metering is the way to go in situations like this. Matrix metering would unnecessarily factor that large, dark backdrop too much while calculating exposure – and cause overexposure of the figures in front. Black and white film has great exposure latitude to retrieve blown or buried data, but it’s always best to get things right from the git-go than have to fix mistakes in post. The solution is of course spot metering and positioning the “spot” on the faces – or other middle value portions of the scene. Easier said than done when performers start moving around. And depending on what lens you’re working with and how far you are from the action – a face or head can get pretty tiny in the viewfinder, making it difficult to get that single “spot” in the right place at the right time. When musicians are stationary – like in the shot below – it’s of course much easier.

The Subdudes, New West Fest, Fort Collins, Colorado (2014)

The Subdudes, New West Fest, Fort Collins, Colorado (2014)

The lens to work with is the 70-200/ƒ2.8 VR. It’s fast-focusing and at 2.8 lets in plenty of light to work at reasonable shutter speeds with 400 speed film. I knew I could push Delta to 800 or higher if necessary, but I was getting between 1/80th and 1/125 typically at 2.8 and deemed it good enough, even at 200mm. If that doesn’t make sense, don’t worry. You want to try to keep the shutter speed at 1 over the field of view of the lens you’re working with. With image stabilization (Canon calls is IS, Nikon calls it VR for Vibration Reduction) you can usually get away with another stop. So for a 200mm lens, you want to be working with shutter speeds around 1/200th sec. With VR, you can get away with 1/125. If you have VR and a steady hand, you can sometimes get away with 1/80th or so. The question you have to ask yourself is, will you get better results pushing the film and shooting higher shutter speeds, or a shooting at rated and holding the camera still. It all depends. I went with the later for Elephant Revival and the following act, the Subdudes, and was glad I did.

Richie Furay Band, New West Fest, Fort Collins, Colorado (2014)

Richie Furay Band, New West Fest, Fort Collins, Colorado (2014)

The next – and final day of New West Fest was the one I was most looking forward to. Richie Furay’s band was on the main, Mountain Avenue stage at 2:30 and nothing could stop me from from being there. Richie Furay is one of the iconic founders of country rock for the past 40 years and is now a pastor at a church near Boulder. Growing up, like so many others, Richie Furay’s music with Buffalo Springfield, Poco and the Souther-Hillman-Furay Band were on my turntable and car’s cassette player nearly every minute of the day. He was and is the sound track of my youth – but I’d never seen him live. For this, Ektar and Delta were in order. I wanted the flexibility to shoot color and black and white depending on things. I reloaded 3 times during the 50 minute set and do believe it’s the first time I’ve ever sang into the back of the camera. Good thing the F6 doesn’t have a microphone like the D3s.

The Richie Furay Band at New West Fest, Fort Collins, Colorado (2014)

The Richie Furay Band at New West Fest, Fort Collins, Colorado (2014)

Scott Sellen and Richie Furay at New West Fest, Fort Collins, Colorado (2014)

Scott Sellen and Richie Furay at New West Fest, Fort Collins, Colorado (2014)

A quick word about metering with the F6. I was again – blown away – at the F6’s metering capabilities. There were a few shots, like the one above, I’d set exposure compensation to -.7 just in case. I knew I could bring it back in post if it were under, but sometimes the Colorado, high-altitude sun was so bright and harsh I was afraid things like light pants and blonde guitars would blow. The F6 tracked everything perfectly – I didn’t need to do a thing except shoot. Turns out the shot above was under by about 2/3 stop. If I’d just trusted the meter I’d have been fine. In camera meters aren’t fool proof or perfect. But I swear, just about every time I’ve second guessed the F6’s meter I’ve been wrong.

The Richie Furay Band, taking a bow at New West Fest (2014

The Richie Furay Band, taking a bow at New West Fest (2014

Soaking feet after 3 days walking New West Fest, Fort Collins, Colorado (2014)

Soaking feet after 3 days walking New West Fest, Fort Collins, Colorado (2014)

Hind site can teach you a lot if you’re willing to look. In hind site… I wouldn’t do a single thing different next year. Choosing the bands and performances I want to listen to – and trying to make good images around those performances – is a great way to enjoy the show and come away with something memorable. Shooting on film is a great way to produce something unique. For the first time, I went to the ‘Fest all three days and my dogs were barking when I finished – but it was well worth it. Can’t wait until next year.

Street Photography in Memphis with the Nikon F6

Walking in Memphis

Memphis has been the subject of many a discussion between my son and I for a few years now. We love road trips and just being in the car together, so when ever we’re hunting for a just barely out of reach, crazy destination to spontaneously shoot off to in the middle of the night (from Colorado) – Memphis has been a part of that discussion. Alas, common sense has prevailed and Memphis had remained unvisited – until this past July. As we planned our route to a family reunion in Nashville I was delighted to see Memphis sort of en route on the way home. I tend to drive any place I visit not because I fear flying – though who wouldn’t these days – but because I prefer to pass slowly through places en route to any destination – not zoom over places at 300mph in an aluminum tube with wings. So it was settled: Memphis on the return leg.

It’s hard to determine the origins of my fascination precisely, but strong contributors are Marc Cohn’s “Walking in Memphis,” John Hiatt’s “Memphis in the Mean Time” and of course the father of color photography, the incomparable Mr. William Eggleston – one who unbenounced to him – was instrumental in helping me shape and refocus how I approach the art of color photography. Elvis and Graceland may have a little something to do with it too, but not being quite as ardent “King” fans, they’re certainly not the strongest draw.

Graceland, Memphis, Tennessee (2014)

Graceland, Memphis, Tennessee (2014)

Graceland is Elvis’ old home and no trip to Memphis is complete without at least a drive by. We didn’t feel the need to go in – but were a little curious. Vans jammed with people cruised in and out of the gates while a number of folks simply stood out front by the brick wall surrounding the estate. My wife and I agreed it was a little creepy – not sure how else to describe it… The wall was very interesting to me, containing “high-school yearbook” style insignias and drawings of Elvis along its 100 yard length. I walked it several times marveling at the influence this one, charismatic man had on so many people in his life cut short.

Graceland, Memphis, Tennessee

Graceland bussing people in and out of those fabled gates for a peek at Elvis’ mansion.

After Graceland we headed into the city center. It was a sunny, hot Sunday afternoon and we found a place in the shade to park near the bottom of famous Beale Street. As is usually the case on trips like this I’ll have my D3s and bunch of other gear buried beneath blankets in the car to keep everything cool, but leave it all in the car, choosing instead the F6, a 50mm ƒ1.4D and  some Portra 400 to carry while I wander. I like to minimize attention while shooting as much as possible, and carrying a lot of gear gets uncomfortable – especially in the heat. While it’s true there are times were a few extra frames would be nice to have – I find I focus much more intently while shooting when I’m working with a finite number of shots. Something I’ve discovered after years of editing – I hate sitting in front of the computer after a trip trying to decide which one of 10 or so images in a burst is the “best one.” I’d much rather decide which the better image is while shooting. This requires patience, and being willing to pay the cost: sometimes being wrong and missing a shot. The benefits include more finely tuning your process to identify and take advantage of opportunity.

Memphis, Street Photography

Street Flipper, Beale Street, Memphis, Tennessee (2014)

The street flipper is a great example. There were two young men providing the afternoon’s entertainment, flipping down the gently sloping grade of Beatle street. Amazing, actually. I stopped and watched the first guy and overheard another young man walking past me saying to his girl friend, “yeh, I’m pretty sure I could do that…” I thought it would be cool to get a shot of him in mid-flip, hopefully in the air, so I walked up the street a bit and found a good spot. There were trash cans lining the street, and the one across from me was brightly colored, different than the other, black trash cans. I didn’t want it to be the brightest spot in the frame and distract from this guy’s athleticism as he flipped through the frame, so moved up the hill just a bit more. Working with the 50mm produced a lot of background that I couldn’t control. I could minimize it though by shooting as shallow as I could, and ƒ4 provided me with 1/1250 sec. shooting Portra 400 at ISO200. Plenty fast to stop the guy in mid-flip were I lucky enough to time it right. Focus might have produced a problem at this point. Acquiring focus as the flipper flipped through the screen wouldn’t be feasible (he was a fast flipper), and if I just settled for what the camera wanted to do I’d have been focused on the buildings across the street – making the foreground flipper blurry.

What to do… Here’s where de-coupling your focus from the shutter release is a really fantastic idea – and I think everyone should do it. Because I usually shoot like this I was ready – to dig into the camera’s menus there on the street and fuss with CSM Settings would have taken too much time and attention away from all that was going on around me. In the F6’s CSM Menu, Custom Setting A4: AF activation: “AF-ON Only” allows the camera’s auto focus feature to be activated using only the AF-On button(s – plural if you use the MB-40 grip as I do). The camera’s default setting is “Release/AF-ON” which means if I’d used this setting to pre-focus on a certain point, the camera would try to focus again when I pressed the shutter to make the image. This would have resulted in a blurry image because the camera would have focused on the buildings across the street – instead of the flipper flipping through in the middle of the street. At ƒ4 there’s not much room to miss before the image is out of focus. Not what I wanted. Using the AF-On button I focused on the street in front of me where I suspected the flipper would land, then raised the camera to frame the shot and waited. Almost immediately the other flipper came flipping through the frame and I fired one shot, hoping I got him. A little thought, a little planning and a little camera knowledge goes a long way.

 

Beale Street, Memphis, Tennessee (2014)

Beale Street, Memphis, Tennessee (2014)

 

After a little asking around we found someone to point us towards one of the most famous destinations of the area, the Lorraine Motel – where Martin Luther King Jr. was shot on the balcony outside room 306. The Lorraine Hotel has been turned into and maintained as The National Civil Rights Museum for all to come experience. This was one of the most powerful – yet non flamboyant – destinations I’ve visited in recent memory. People hovered around and the air was reverent; respectful – not a lot of goofing around and selfies going on amidst the large group of kids who’d gathered in the shade across the street. The depth to which I was moved at this location was unexpected and we explored for nearly an hour, taking it in. The museum’s doors were open and the air conditioning felt great, and they always appreciate donations to keep the doors open and lights on.

Lorraine Hotel, National Civil Rights Museum, Martin Luther King, Memphis, Tennessee

National Civil Rights Museum, Memphis, Tennessee (2014)

Speaking of the heat, I was a little concerned when I grabbed the last role of Portra 400 from the console of the car. It had become warm despite the AC running while we drove. I put it in my pocket and hoped for the best, and was delighted when processing revealed no issues what so ever. Sometimes I’ll carry a cooler for the film but most of the time I’ll simply protect the stash from direct sunlight and call it good. I’ve never had any problems, even in the extreme heat of the Caribbean.

Beale Street, Memphis, Tennssee (2014)

Beale Street, Memphis, Tennessee (2014)

After the Lorraine we slowly made our way back to the car, wanting to savor as much as we could. On a Sunday afternoon there wasn’t much activity outside the Beale Street block and it was nice to casually view the architecture and decor lining our path. The musical legend of Memphis alone is worth the visit, but add to that the food, the culture, the history

BB King's Blue Bar, Memphis, Tennessee (2014)

BB King’s Blue Bar, Memphis, Tennessee (2014)

great color and geometry in signage, urban architecture, interesting people, and magnificent night light only serve to fuel my already on fire imagination with photographic potential. It was tough to leave.

Blues City Cafe, Beale Street, Memphis, Tennessee (2014)

Blues City Cafe, Beale Street, Memphis, Tennessee (2014)

We only had a couple hours in Memphis – hardly enough time to scratch the surface – but I’ll take what I can get. One of the wonderful perks found in driving across the country rather than flying over – it was fun to finally be there if even for just a short time. Hopefully I’ll have the opportunity to return and devote the proper amount of time and attention to such a historically rich city. Happy shooting.

California Coast, Kodachrome 35mm slide film

Kodachrome

I’ve been going through some old images for re-scan and really missing Kodachrome lately. I’ve also noticed how many more vertical images I made before the computer became the standard for viewing. Vertical images were desirable for publication covers. With 35mm film and a good reproduction they were the norm. These days, with the computer’s horizontal aspect ratio dictating how most people view photographs, it seems vertical images are made less – which is another loss for photography in general.

Kodachrome, 35mm slide film, California Coast

Morning along the California Coast (1992) Kodachrome

Unfortunately Kodachrome is gone for good and there’s nothing we can do about it. I’m sure there are digital plugins available for processing that will eventually come close to representing the color cast and complexity of this beautiful film, but as of this writing I’m not aware of them. It also doesn’t help the film shooter diametrically opposed to digitally emulating true film emulsions. Running Kodachrome 64 through a solid, well-used film camera will remain one great joy of living in an era when that was possible.

San Francisco, California, Kodachrome 35mm silde film

San Francisco, California (1992) Kodachrome

Tonopah, Nevada (1992)

Tonopah Test Range, Tonopah, Nevada (1992)

All images were made with a well-worn, black-body Nikon FE2 and consumer-grade, manual focus Tamron 28-70/ƒ3.5 zoom lens.

Kodachrome 35mm slide film

Pinedale,Wyoming (1992)

Kodachrome, 35mm slide film

Logging truck, Centralia, Washington (1992)

Fourth of July Parade, Allenspark, Colorado (2014)

Happy Fourth of July

 

Allenspark, Colorado Fourth of July Parade

Allenspark, Colorado is nestled snugly just below Colorado’s Indian Peaks Wilderness. Each year Allenspark celebrates July 4th with a short but festive parade down the main street.

In years past my eyes have been focused upward, searching the skies above for the real Fourth of July photograph. This year I chose instead to focus on what’s right in front of me. Attending the Allenspark Fourth of July parade has become an annual event. Nestled high in the Rocky Mountains, tucked safely in the shadow of Indian Peaks Wilderness, Allenspark is where we began our married life 20 years ago today – and holds a special place for both my wife and I. As the small parade of locals passed in front of us, people, animals and vehicles adorned in American regalia, I was filled with a new appreciation for the strong character and relationships of this town – and our country. What we stand for, what’s important to us. Some days – especially in the mountains of Colorado – it’s great to be an American.

Fourth of July Parade, Allenspark, Colorado (2014)

Fourth of July Parade, Allenspark, Colorado (2014)

Fourth of July Parade, Allenspark, Colorado (2014)

Fourth of July Parade, Allenspark, Colorado (2014)

Fourth of July Parade, Allenspark, Colorado (2014)

Fourth of July Parade, Allenspark, Colorado (2014)

Fourth of July Parade, Allenspark, Colorado (2014)

Fourth of July Parade, Allenspark, Colorado (2014)

Fourth of July Parade, Allenspark, Colorado (2014)

Fourth of July Parade, Allenspark, Colorado (2014)

Fourth of July Parade, Allenspark, Colorado (2014)

Fourth of July Parade, Allenspark, Colorado (2014)

Fourth of July Parade, Allenspark, Colorado (2014)

Fourth of July Parade, Allenspark, Colorado (2014)

The Thumb, Monument Valley, Utah

Hope, Boundaries and Good Intuition

I’ve devoted considerable thought over the past few years as to why we as people make photographs and frankly have come up blank. I don’t think I could explain to someone why I make photographs other than the simple truth; it pleases me to do so. It’s fun to read the plethora of great essays by others, from the famous to the unknown, presenting wonderful theories and insights. I think I’ve finally concluded however that I’m not sure it really matters beyond the simple truth; it pleases me to do so.

I’ve been making images since I was about 11 years old, when my folks gave me my first Kodak 110 camera for Christmas, complete with the rotating flash cube on top of that tiny plastic body. I loved that thing. My next camera was a Canon AT-1, the manual version of the ever popular AE-1 and from the moment I held it I was a National Geographic photographer. Ruined for life. That was a good many years ago, and though I never actually became a National Geographic photographer, I’m still making images. I wonder what else we do during the course of our lives that stays with us like photography does? For me the answer is not much. It’s one constant – besides my family and my faith – that has endured through the years.

I think maybe most photographers – especially film shooters – are optimists. A musician friend once spoke of “the hope of a picture” in reference to deferring the shooting and editing process to someone who understood – and had the creative and technical ability to realize – such a thing. One of the highs of photography for me is the possibilities. The camera is full of best case scenarios, creative potential and hope. One of my favorite photographers (and writers) Robert Adams once said, “The job of the photographer isn’t to record indisputable fact, but to try to be coherent about intuition and hope.”

Organ Pipe Cactus

Organ Pipe Cactus National Park, Arizona

Hope. Every time I load a new roll of film I get a little thrill. It’s like a full tank of gas for me, the allure of that elusive “perfect frame” possibly hiding in every roll. Like a golden ticket, hidden in only so many Wonka bars. Perhaps that’s one of the things that appeals to me most about shooting roll film; the focused flexibility required to maximize finite opportunity. The digital shooter might counter with some sort of volume equation – like, the more you shoot, the more likely you are to find that golden ticket. I’m not so sure about that..

Tomohisa IKENO, on the Nikon F6* design team, summed it as “the value of unique pictures.” He said, “With a digital camera, the number of pictures you can take is infinite, in the sense that there is no limit in the number of shots to take, unlike shooting with film. You don’t have to hesitate when taking pictures. Just release the shutter… But on the contrary, some photographers reject the prospect of such ease, as they desire a more careful, rigorous approach to making photographs. They want to treasure each picture-taking opportunity by etching their vision on film…a certain degree of respect to taking each great picture.” This careful, rigorous approach can go a long way towards fulfilling the “artist” struggling for a voice in each aspiring photographer.

National Geographic reported the number of digital photographs made in 2006 was 53 billion, in 2011 was 80 billion and in 2015 is projected to be 105 billion. That’s a lot of pictures made. And deleted. If you’ve ever visited flickr, it sure looks like randomly clicking 5-12 frames per second until you stumble onto something creative may seem to have replaced this “careful, rigorous approach.” But I believe as people we benefit from limits. Boundaries.

Architecture and Shadows, staircase, Denver, Colorado

The Staircase, Denver, Colorado (2013)

We pretend to love to hate boundaries. Truth is, though, while we may initially accuse boundaries of cramping our style, they can provide a more creatively satisfying approach through a thoughtful blend of methodical experimentation – with a little “wonder of the unknown” thrown in for good measure. Boundaries may not be mandatory in order to force one to think, but they certainly go a long way in helping us focus. Whether you have 1, 10, 12, 24 or 36 frames  – you have that much-needed boundary; a governor to help steer your thinking into productive action. And in a counter-intuitive way, I’ll contend that boundaries even encourage intentional creativity.

John Szarkowski writes in the introduction to William Eggleston’s opus, Guide, “It’s not easy for the photographer to compete with the clever originality of mindless, mechanized cameras, but the photographer can add intelligence. By means of photography one can in a minute reject as unsatisfactory ninety-nine configurations of facts and elect as right the hundredth. The choice is based on tradition and intuition–knowledge and ego–as it is in any art, but the ease of execution and the richness of the possibilities in photography both serve to put a premium on good intuition.”

Good Intuition. Photography encourages a sort of focused flexibility; balancing logistical boundaries while remaining responsive to the nudges and pricks emerging throughout the creative session. The focused photographer then responds with method, technique, knowledge and bravery. I’ll suggest that all these things help train up “good intuition.” These are the things that make creative film photography a wonderful journey. Sure, there’s math and science involved too; you measure light, choose an emulsion based on creative goals (or whatever’s thawed from the freezer); you communicate through the machine’s knobs and dials your preferences on how best to approach the scene – knowing through intimate repetition how it’ll interpret and render your input. You view, you tweak. Rinse and repeat. Until you get it right. Until you get what you want. Until you’re released to move on to the next thing.

Breckenridge, Colorado

Breckenridge, Colorado (2009)

Again, Robert Adams: “Over and over again the photographer walks a few steps and peers, rather comically, into the camera; to the exasperation of family and friends, he inventories what seems an endless number of angles; he explains, if asked, that he is trying for effective composition, but hesitates to define it. What he means is that a photographer wants form, an unarguably right relationship of shapes, a visual stability in which all components are equally important. The photographer hopes, in brief, to discover a tension so exact that it is peace.” This “peace” usually isn’t the product of dumb luck, but creative intent.

This narrative began as a high-and-mighty dissertation on why people should still shoot film. Then I pulled up some digital images made on a recent outing and thought, you know what? It really doesn’t matter – beyond what your creative intent is. Digital photography has made me a better film shooter, and shooting film has helped hone my vision; my focus. For whatever reason, though, I’m always more creatively invigorated when I pick up my film camera (and I love the quality of the image. tangent: Image Quality is often talked about as only “high” or “low.” I think of Image Quality as a summary of the unique qualities an image possesses).

The way I see it life is one, big art project; sometimes even maybe like a beautiful tapestry: if you’ve ever viewed one of these intricately woven masterpieces from the bottom it appears chaotic;  threads running everywhere, patterns abruptly halting, isolated threads hanging down; far from beautiful. But if you flip that same tapestry over and view it from the top, it’s a masterpiece.

Colorado Pet and Feed, Fort Collins, Colorado (2011)

Colorado Pet and Feed, Fort Collins, Colorado (2011)

As an artist then, I think an important step in recording this “masterpiece in progress” is to find a tool – a medium – that speaks to your creativity. A while back I was listening to a radio interview with Booker T. Jones, the incredible musician known for his unique sound, created with the Hammond B3 Organ. He said about his discovery of the B3, “I found an instrument that I can speak through.” I think that’s really the key to a lifetime of fulfilling, creative photography: finding tools that encourage your unique vision. Then begins the process – as it did for me that Christmas morning long ago when I popped that flash cube on my new Kodak – of getting out there and creating your own tapestry. Though at any given moment the results may not appear to possess coherent attributes; some semblance of purpose or direction; don’t stop. You never know what it’s going look like from the other side.

And yes, it’s OK if your only reason for doing it is simply because it pleases you to do so.

You’re in good company.

postlude: This essay was originally published in Bob Kidd’s “Sunday Street” blog. To visit Sunday Street please click here.

Pine Bluffs, Nebraska

Fear and Loathing in Bushnell, Nebraska

Pine (Bluffs), Wyoming lay at the extreme south-eastern corner of the state, a stone’s throw from Nebraska along the Old Lincoln Highway and I-80. My visit to Pine was late in the year with my dog Henry. Over the course of several months we’d seen Henry begin to slow and knew he’d begun his journey home. Not wanting to miss any opportunities with him I took the Jeep this trip, knowing he’s more comfortable than in the front seat of the Subaru.

Nearly a ghost town, Bushnell, Nebraska sits quietly on the extreme wester edge of Nebraska's panhandle. Though it may appear devoid of life at first glance - it is not.

Though it may appear largely devoid of life at first glance – the sleepy town of Bushnell, on the western edge of Nebraska’s panhandle – is not.

We parked at an I-80 rest area and took an hour-long hike on packed snow and frozen mud to the bluffs overlooking Pine. He labored only slightly, happy and excited to sniff new ground with tail wagging. We climbed back in and continued east along the Lincoln Highway. It was on this trip I was to meet the opposite of the wonderful folks of Nebraska, and catch my first whiff of danger in the region.

Bushnell lay a short drive east of Pine. It was a sunny, pleasant afternoon. The wind had lain down just enough to actually allow Autumn air room to breath. We did a few laps through the small, mostly abandon town and stopped to make some photographs. Henry was content in the back seat as I popped in and out of the car, occasionally opening the back door where he’d slide out into a field, wandering and sniffing as I worked. Getting him back into the Jeep was a little humiliating for him. At close to 100 pounds and not much help to himself he’d look at me, ears lowered, knowing what came next. I encouraged him as I lifted and we managed alright.

Near the end of the day in a remote corner of town I’d stopped along a public, dirt road and climbed out to consider making an image. The light was getting nice and the sky was active. Henry remained in the car, the back window fully down, his head hanging out, watching. About then is when I saw a large, Carhartt-clad figure approaching from the distance. With his head lowered, hands in pockets and a distinct and deliberate gate – I could tell he wasn’t relaxed.  My first thought was to get back in the car and carry on, but not wanting to flee, I resisted.

When two strangers approach on a lonesome stretch of road with no others around and darkness coming, the meeting could go any number of ways. We were both heading for life lesson.

When he got within comfortable speaking distance, the wind still quiet, I offered a casual “how are you today?” It was met with a nod, then a glare.

“What do you think you’re doing,” he asked as he approached to within 3 feet and stopped.

“I’m thinking about making a photograph,” I said. “Hi, my name is John Crane,” and offered my hand. Carhartt spit on the ground, turned his head sideways, raised his chin slightly and closed one eye and said, “Is that supposed mean something to me?”

Right about then several scenarios ran through my head. Part of my greeting was designed to expose his hands, revealing what they held. This failed – with hands remaining buried in his coat pockets. I withdrew my hand and smiled. “Nope,” I said. “Just being polite.”

“Oh, I am not a cordial man,” he replied. Then began a dissertation informing me of his version of Nebraska law; ‘the world according to Bushnell Carhartt.’ I listened without emotion. When he finished he nodded to my Colorado license plate and looked at me with the same, one-eyed squint. Taking half a step towards me said, “we don’t like your kind around here… you’d best just go on home.”

antique gas pumps

Antique gas pumps along the old Lincoln Highway, Pine Bluffs, Wyoming.

Now, we all have different personality traits – things that trigger different responses. Some people are affable, fun-loving, happy-go-lucky types. Others are nervous, high-strung and jittery. I’m pretty easy going and do my best to live in accordance with Biblical principles – but God’s not finished with me yet and the numbers one and two hot button issues with me are bullies and intimidation. Especially when they’re not in possession of the facts – or the truth – and are skewing events to support their mission: to bully and intimidate. I hate bullies, of any size and shape, and won’t stand for it.

Henry knew something was up and I glanced his way. The ears on his large, black head were alert and he was sitting up taller in the front seat. Carhartt’s hands were still in his pockets and I took a step forward and said, “I’m pretty sure I can do what ever I want.”

Carhartt looked up, clearly not expecting that response, and casually took half a step back. “This is a public road,” I continued, and I’m not infringing on anyone’s privacy being here. Is this  your land?” I asked, going on the offensive, nodding to the grain bin along the road.

“It doesn’t matter,” he said. “You’re not supposed to be here and no one has given you permission to take a picture.”

“I don’t need your permission to make a photograph on public land,” I said, not backing down.

“You’re stealing,” he said, “you’re ‘taking’ something when you ‘take a picture.’ You’d better be careful,” he threatened – now beginning to walk backwards, away from me, hands till in his jacket pocket.

At this a low growl emerged from the Jeep.

The sudden emergence of unmistakable ignorance changes everything. It’s at that point you realize further discussion is pointless and – one way or another – it’s best if the conversation simply ends.

“I’m pretty sure I can do whatever I want,” I repeated, my intonation unequivocally final. By now Henry was half out the Jeep’s window as Carhartt slowly began his retreat.

“Have a wonderful day,” I said, sensing victory.

What happened next has been a source of regret since. Carhartt’s back shown to me, Henry behind me, I added, “Can I make a photograph of you?”

“No you may not,” he said without turning around. I watched him as he strolled back to the mailboxes at the foot of his driveway a few hundred yards away then disappeared towards the shed.

Antique Dealers, Bushnell, Nebraska

Having recently purchased one of the historic, decayed buildings in Bushnell, this husband and wife were beginning the process of renovation.

I was shaking and wanted nothing more than to get out of there. He’d ruined the day. Up until that exchange I’d had a wonderful time, interacting with another couple in town, even making their portrait in the Antique Shop they’d recently purchased and had begun to remodel. It was all gone now because of this guy. I walked back towards the car, replaying the encounter in my head and realized Carhartt never removed his hands from his pockets. He’d probably been holding a gun the whole time. Shaking now, I climbed back into the drivers seat and sat for a moment – but couldn’t leave. Not just yet. He’d have accomplished what he’d set out to do if I didn’t stay long enough to finish my work.

The railroad ran through town, which always makes for interesting subject matter. I spent another half-hour shooting around there, making very certain to remain on public land. When I was finished I packed up and headed out.

I’m not proud of how I responded to this encounter. The drive home offered a lot of time to rehearse more kind, patient replies – that I’ve since forgotten. Later that evening upon arriving home I told my wife and son about the day – all of it – and realized I wasn’t setting the example for my son I’d have liked. This was humbling. I thought briefly about returning the following weekend to his home, knocking on the door and apologizing. I then remembered his hands buried in his pockets and realized I’d actually have to be on his land to do so – and reconsidered.

Interstate 80, Nebraska

Last light on Interstate 80 through Nebraska.

This 111,000 square miles of “The 4042n West” is big land. If and when things go sideways you’d better have a plan. This event began the process of considering a hand gun and concealed weapons permit – only not concealing it. In the future, allowing a weapon to be visible to all who wish to approach and say hello seems a good way of attracting the right kind of folks.

I’ve always been what I’d consider a socially responsible photographer. The last thing I want to do is stick a camera in the face of the unwilling to provoke such a response as was that of Carhartt. That said, no matter how hard you try it simply isn’t possible to anticipate every unpleasant encounter. One could elect to not risk visiting other small towns, but these people don’t just live in small towns. They’re everywhere. The truth is for every unpleasant encounter there are many others of the opposite nature. Allowing one bad apple to unduly influence decisions wouldn’t be right. Images from the day were mediocre, but the lesson grand: pay attention, keep your wits about you and know the law. Having a big, black dog doesn’t hurt, either.

Post Script: Early April the following year Henry went home. He can’t be replaced. But when the time comes to fall in love with a new pooch it’ll most certainly be a large, black, labrador retriever. Maybe then together we’ll revisit Bushnell, Nebraska. And try again.

Little Snake River Valley

Little Snake River Valley

I’ve been wanting to explore the Little Snake River Valley for years. The Little Snake River Valley sits along the Colorado/Wyoming state line and follows the Little Snake River as it tumbles out of the western flank of Colorado’s Park Range. The Little Snake is a tributary of the larger Yampa River, meandering westward in and out of Colorado and Wyoming along the state line then gradually makes its way south west to hook up with the Yampa west of Maybell and very close to Dinosaur National Park.


Evening light along Wyoming-Colorado state boundary (2014)

I was so pleased to have my wife join me on this trip. I’ve spent many hours and miles wandering alone out there and was glad for the company. All I had to do was mention fly fishing along the LSR and she was in. Unfortunately, that’s not exactly how the weekend panned out. What we discovered when we hit the drainage was a whole lot of private land. At first glance, access to the river is all but eliminated by ranch after ranch, private home after private home, and miles and miles of fence line with large signs reading, “POSTED: NO TRESPASSING.” While the fishing thing didn’t materialize quite the way we’d envisioned, as in every first time into an area you learn a lot. Getting a feel for the area and traveling the roads is the first step in getting to know it. Turns out there is BLM land up there and river access – we just couldn’t find it. Some follow up calls to the BLM office and GPS will fix that though. We’ll return next time armed with more, better information.


Evening light on Moffat County Rd.7, Moffat County, Colorado (2014)

With our fishing plans shot, my objective was to return to the “town” of Great Divide, a lonesome outpost along Moffat County Rd.7 in the remote regions of the county. Several years ago I’d stumbled across it returning from the Red Desert. At the time it had been a long few days in the car so I took the opportunity to stop and rest for a bit in Great Divide. From a landscape photography point of view light was poor; a typical, blue bird, cloudless, Colorado high-altitude, sunny day (whom but a photographer would deem those conditions poor?). Regardless, I made a few frames, then began the drive south east towards Craig. It’s difficult to explain why but somehow that stop is one of the things I remember most about that particular trip. For some reason the outpost of Great Divide stayed with me for years. Occasionally I’d google it to see what turned up – virtually nothing. It was almost like it didn’t really exist. For years I’ve wanted to get back to Great Divide, hopefully in better light – and see what happened. Great Divide became our new objective.


Wyoming-Colorado state boundary, Highway 13 looking north towards Baggs, Wyoming (2014)

We hit Highway 13 south out of Baggs, Wyoming, and followed it for a mile or so before hooking up with County Road 4, then headed west. The plan was to hook up with Rd.9 and angle down to hit Great Divide for sunset. Even with a sunset calculator you can’t be absolutely certain when sunset will happen. The light was cooperating beautifully. An active sky was producing doppled clouds that drifted between the sun and earth, slightly diffusing the increasingly gorgeous light as it began to sink towards the horizon. Often times what’ll happen with an active sky is a low band of clouds will prematurely obscure the best light at the critical moment and end things early in a veil of gray. This has happened to me a lot over the years. This day, though – it looked like we had a shot at it.

My wife and I talked in the beautiful, evening light, heading down Moffat County Rd. 4 in search of the turn off. I told her as we drove, “when we get there, you’re going to think…” and she finished my sentence: “…I know…that it was all worthwhile and I’ll see how beautiful it is, right?”
“No,” I said. “You’re gonna think I’m nuts – that there’s something wrong with me. There’s really nothing there. It’s just this old building, sitting out in the middle of nowhere. I can’t even explain why I’ve had it in my head for so many years – why I need to get back. It doesn’t make any sense.”

After a few miles on 4 we checked the map again and realized we may have missed our turn off. Briefly thinking about doubling back to look again the decision was made instead to press on in case it was still before us. But it was a gamble. Rd.4 continued to Powder Wash, then angled back south east on Rd.7 to Great Divide. If you picture a triangle balanced on its point, with Great Divide the bottom, 9 would have traveled one length direct of the triangle and put us right there. Instead, we missed that turn and had to travel the other two lengths of the triangle to reach the same point. It was a sure thing; getting us there eventually, but the route was twice as far. And it was getting late. Making the decision, I hit the gas instead of the brakes – ready for whatever awaited. It seemed like an eternity but we eventually hit Powder Wash, picked up Rd.7 then angled back down, towards what I hoped was that lonely remnant of a town in the middle of nowhere, waiting for me in beautiful, evening light.

My memory of the road was a little fuzzy and looking again at the Delorem atlas it seemed like we were doing everything right. A few dusty miles clicked off the odometer as stones flew from new tire treads and hit the underside of the wheel well. I glanced at the sky, then the clock. Crap. We’re gonna be cutting it close, I thought. All of a sudden I remembered the date. It was June 20 – the day before the longest day of the year. A smile cracked my lips. “What’s the smile for,” my wife asked. I told her. We laughed, and my foot eased up on the accelerator as the pond came into view.


Great Divide, Colorado (2014)

The cows welcomed us as the car came to a halt at the bottom of the hill. Directly across the road I glanced up to see the sign: Moffat County 9. We’d missed it, but would take it home when we left. Most importantly – though – after all the stressing about light – we’d managed to hit it perfectly. After a few shots of the pond we climbed in the car and headed up the road to the only junction of Great Divide, where the Mercantile waited.


Old Mercantile Store, Great Divide, Colorado (2014)

It was still there and didn’t look a bit different – which was no surprise. After surviving for so many years alone on the high plains, a few more shouldn’t have made any difference. We pulled over across from the Old Mercantile and climbed out of the car into the gorgeous, still evening. Birds fluttered about. Back down by the pond, cows moo’d. It was serene. Still. There was no wind. The sun had continued its path towards the horizon, seeming to pull up at the last minute and wait – leaving just enough for us. I set up the tripod, picked the shots and went to work as my wife wandered Great Divide’s single intersection for the first time.

Why do places remain with us? Why some places and not others? I don’t know. What I did know that evening was, the second time to Great Divide was better than the first. It was made better by the company, the knowledge gained from the first visit, and the light. I’ll look forward with eager anticipation to our next visit to the Little Snake River Valley. And I’ll have my camera and a roll of Portra loaded and ready.