Saturday, November 21, 2015

Coffee Days

Unforeseen snow on the ground, a bite in the air, and winter is here. I was considering going out, and wondering if I should, but I think it’s going to be a coffee day.

I love coffee days. They’re productive, but in their own specific way. They usually start when I have the last cup in the pot, and then decide that wasn’t enough. A second pot is a luxury. I never get one before I go to work on the weekdays. It’s rare I have the opportunity to have the time to enjoy a second pot. When I do, it’s something I always savor.

Without coffee days, this website wouldn’t exist. One happened early in January of 2014. I had been considering doing a web site for a while, but I thought about how many pitfalls it entailed. How could I come up with new content on a consistent basis? What if I was so boring no one cared if the site existed? So I decided, on the second pot of the day, that I wanted to find out.

I always get good ideas on coffee days. The first bicycle tour. The dedication to complete a novel. The decision to leave the worst relationship of my life and the decision to begin the best one.

I’m not hip enough to frequent many coffee shops, but when I do like one, I’m dedicated to them. This morning’s coffee is Danger Monkey from Pablo’s. I’ve had cups there on random walks and before camping trips and hikes. I drink a lot of Huckleberry coffee as well, exposed to it on a whim one afternoon. My only field trip to Boyer’s school house cafe led to their coffee being in the cupboard often. I’m lucky there’s so many options in this city. I’ll be busy trying new places out and adding to my repertoire for a while yet.

shoot-469So what’s today’s coffee day going to lead to? It’s too early to tell. There’s some development to finish and a final edit of images for a project to be done. The 90,000 word goal of the novel isn’t going to get closer without putting some time on the laptop. There’s some travel planning that needs to be attended to. And, looming in the background of it all, the mountains are calling me and I feel that soon, I must go.

But first, coffee.


Pablo’s Danger Monkey- an excellent dark roast

Huckleberry Roasters- no bad choices here, but I love the Ethiopia Ardi

Boyer’s Coffee- Site of the first Rocky Mountain Film meetup

Coffee Days

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Temptation of the path

I can resist a great many things, but not the temptation of a really good path.

I mean a good path. A really good path. Not some urban ramble of a couple of miles of sidewalk. Not some ambling squiggle though some downtown park where you never really get out of the sounds of traffic and car horns. That’s pretty much what I think of as commuting. And while commuting by foot is good for you, it’s not inspiring to the soul. It requires headphones and podcasts to distract you. It is the brussels sprouts of the offerings on the plate of hiking and biking.

Some folks really like brussels sprouts. If that’s your thing, then more power to you. But I can always look at them and say, no thank you.

Even if you cover them with cheese.

shoot-466A really good hiking path is surrounded by pines, and scrambles across rocks. It has a nice spot or two to just sit in the sun as the wind blows past and allows you to look down on a valley or river. It switchbacks when the grade gets tough, and gives you a nice spot or two to stop and look around while you catch your breath.

A really good bike path is mostly gravel or chat. It can give you some pavement, preferably asphalt, just to make you appreciate how smooth and beautiful it can be. Just enough to make up some time and get closer to lunch while you listen to the thrum of your wheels along it as you kick it up a notch and cover ground. But mostly, it needs to crunch as you go.

shoot-468It needs to connect something. A town or two, a good picnic spot, a nice overlook or lake to sit by are preferred. It needs to have character. The really long ones that can string all of that together are what I like best. If you can add in cool air and the crunch of leaves under your wheels, then you get bonus points.

And if you can throw in a good spot with a mean burger or tasty pizza along the way, well, I’m sold. I can’t resist it, and if you’ll excuse me, I need to be on my way.

Temptation of the path

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The one that fits- revisiting the Nikon F3

“Digital photographers buy cameras because they’re better than last years model. Film peeps are just looking for the one that suits them best” Dan K

When I first started this site, the very first Gear Wednesday post was an ode to the Nikon F3. I’d used one back in the day, and lusted after one, and finally gotten one. And it was a perfect fit.

An out take from this summer's project shot on the F3 with a 35mm f/2 on Rollei CR200

An out take from this summer’s project shot on the F3 with a 35mm f/2 on Rollei CR200

I tend to put some cameras down and not pick them up for a long time, and some just go away from me as a result. But this one gets picked up over and over again. There are many reasons. It’s about as bullet proof a camera as I have ever used, electronics and all. It’s not a young camera either, the serial numbers indicate it was made in December of 1983, so next month it will be thirty two years old. It’s been given a CLA once to my knowledge. I think the seals are original. I change the batteries in it once a year. The LCD works well, although one segment is getting a little dim.

Unlike almost everything else from that era, the ergonomics actually work. That is a testament to the genius of Giorgetto Giugiaro. Not much else from that era has any ergonomic utility at all. It’s still a  joy to use. When I pick it up it simply fits my hand. The viewfinder gives the right amount of information, and all of the controls are exactly where I expect them to be. Even though there is only a simple spot meter, it’s perfect every time. It’s the most automated camera I own, and I think it’s just the right amount. Anything more than this and I would be leaving it on the shelf instead of using it.

shoot-463I’ve only picked up a couple of lenses for it. A Nikkor 50mm f/1.4 and a 35mm f/2. Both sharp and well built. They fit my style of storytelling. I toy with the idea of a wide, like a 24mm or maybe wider, and I’d love to pick up a 85mm for portraits. I doubt I’ll ever get anything beyond that, though.

It still sounds like a love story when I write about this camera. It’s the one that suits me best.


Dan K’s images. And his Twitter.

The one that fits- revisiting the Nikon F3

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Inclusive photography

I was looking back on some of my reviews, and trying to see if any of the things I loved were worthy of revisiting. I did decide on one, the Nikon F3, and started to do a little more research on the camera, and why it still appeals to me after all this time. I will still revisit the camera in a future review, but the research derailed me. I looked at the referring data on the present review, just to see what search engine queries had brought people to it. I was curious to see what people wanted to know about the camera. But one that I found set me off. “Nikon F3 good for girl to use” read the query.


One of the worst things about photography is that it is a boy’s club. The reasons are legion. Photography was invented at a time and place when women had no real rights. Photographers were men. Photography was serious work and women did not do serious work. That attitude didn’t start to change for quite a while, and it still exists.

But here’s the thing. Just because something is a certain way doesn’t mean it should be.

Photography needs to change. Photography has to change. The majority of human beings on planet Earth are female. Discouraging them from being photographers isn’t going to help the longevity of photography. Inclusive works. Exclusive dies.


The rocket ship statute that looks like a laser cannon. That Shanghai film was lousy, but it works here.

Yes, there are many, many other things that are unequal and they all need to be addressed. Every single damn one of them. But photographers can start in their own area. It’s pretty simple to do. Just don’t be a dick, and stop looking down at people. In fact, those are pretty good things to do in general. People don’t generally hang out in groups that don’t make them welcome.

So to the person who wondered if the Nikon F3 is a good camera for a girl, I’m pretty sure you’re making assumptions I don’t like. Are you worried it’s too complicated for a girl to use? Are you worried it’s too serious a tool for a girl to use?

I’ll tell you the best camera for a woman to use: the one she likes. If she wants to give a F3 a try, stop being condescending and get out of the way. If she likes the F3, then it’s for her. If she doesn’t, she’ll try something else.

Photos today by my beloved, Stephanie. She is really good with a Holga (that in-camera diptych up top is one of my favorite ever). I need to replace her broken one so she’ll shoot more!

Inclusive photography

Saturday, October 31, 2015

The season of the graveyard

Over the years I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve strolled through a graveyard taking shots. From all the way back to strolling through Mount Olivet in Nashville with the Sisters of Mercy blasting on my headphones to wandering through Saint Louis Number One in New Orleans. If Denver has a shortcoming, it’s that it is not old enough to have an really interesting grave yard.

shoot-456It’s the season of grave yards. All Hallows Eve.  Although, in my neighborhood, if I want to go to the nearest spot people are buried in, I don’t go to a grave yard, I walk Cheeseman Park. Every time they repair the sprinklers, they find more bodies in that place. It was originally a graveyard before it became a park, and the people hired to remove the bodies didn’t. They just pocketed the money and left most of the graves in place after removing the markers. There’s a rumor some of the bodies were just moved under the marble band stand, but I don’t know if that is true.

shoot-457I do love the small towns out in the mountains, though. Their graveyards have character. Some are still in use and a source of civic pride. They will be perfectly maintained and some even have large monuments like Cripple Creek. They have a Huey helicopter over the graves of the Vietnam War dead. Others are left in a state of benign neglect, like Central City.

I love the Central City graveyard. The roads are mostly gone, and there are just winding social paths through the aspen trees where gravestones jut from the ground at drunken angles, marking the random resting places of the dead. Nature is reclaiming the place and the buried souls within.

shoot-458I don’t walk graveyards and take photos much anymore. I do like the peace of those places, offering quiet and isolation even among crowded cities. Maybe it’s because as I get older I realize I’ll be there permanently soon enough, and so the allure of my amateur taphology has waned as a result.

Still, it’s hard to resist a graveyard photo walk this time of year.

Blessed Samhain.

The season of the graveyard

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Seasons change, the road does not

Abruptly, it seems like fall. Warm weather was late to arrive this year, and it snowed all the way in to May. Late to the party, the heat didn’t want to leave on time, and it’s been in to the 80s more days than it should have been in October. So the arrival of rain, temps in the 40s, and a freeze warning all at once felt like an eviction notice for summer.

I love fall. I love the turning of seasons. If this season could be made a few months longer, I’d love to see it happen. I’ve written how I look to the mountains and wait for fall. This year I felt like I was racing it, somehow.

I’m working on a project and it seems like I can never get enough time to go out and shoot for it. Too many hours at work. Too many days tied up in a thousand other things. But when I do get out, I’m off to a forgotten place, to try to remember it.

I’ve taken to the back roads, and spent more than I usually do on gasoline this year. Everywhere I’ve been has been too far to bicycle. Well, not too far to bicycle in miles, but rather in time. I have to fight my schedule to make a hole for the freedom to go. I’d love to revisit some of these places on a bike, taking advantage of the flat road of the eastern part of the state.

shoot-455But for now, I keep a bag packed and ready. I keep film and camera close to hand for when I can escape. The road is calling me now, but I’m in for the weekend, I think. The next one is up for grabs, though. I should burn some vacation time, since it’s overflowing.

I frequently think of the Tolkien quote about the road being dangerous. That you put your feet on it, and you never know what will happen. You may well get swept away. The attraction of that particular danger, though, is very strong.

Seasons change, the road does not

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Toward Tangible

I’ve got an odd quirk most photographers don’t have. Little tangible evidence. I live in a loft with piles of cameras and a few photo books spread around. The living room contains the typical furniture, but a good chunk of the floor space is taken up by bicycles. Every bit of storage space available- closets, shelves, foot lockers, under the bed- is taken up with gear for getting out there. Backpacks, shoulder bags, camera bags, panniers, seat bags, frame bags all waiting to be filled. Stoves, food, water filters, compasses, maps, and a thousand other things you need when far from civilization are there as well. It’s pretty obvious what Stephanie and I like to do with our time.

But, aside from the camera storage shelves, you can’t really tell I’m a photographer. You don’t see one thing: any of the photos I’ve taken hanging on the walls.

That is changing.

The great photographer Michael Dunn once said, with equal parts wisdom and pith, “Print yo shit.” The hashtag #printyoshit has made the rounds on twitter thanks to him. It’s popular because it’s right. Our work, as he said, isn’t supposed to be pixels on screens, but rather real, tangible things. If you can’t touch it, hold it in your hands, or put it on a wall, the image isn’t a finished product.

I’m awful at hanging things up. I have prints in binders and hidden in the closet, and I’ve sold prints to others, but none are hanging on my own walls. The only thing hanging on the walls in the adventure loft is a hand printed quote of three words: “Dare Mighty Things.” Theodore Roosevelt said it, and it’s priceless advice. But there’s not a single image I’ve taken hanging with it. It’s time to fix that.

MonstroCity, where Steph slid down slides

MonstroCity, where Steph slid down slides

I’ve always had a twofold problem with hanging things. One: it seemed somehow like bragging to hang your own stuff on the walls. I’m not too much in to bragging about what I’ve done. I always liked Imogen Cunningham’s answer when asked what was the favorite picture she had taken. She always said “the one I’ll take tomorrow.” Which leads to number two: I’ve always only seen the shortcomings in my work and not the positives. I always look at my stuff too critically and fail to see anything of value in it, so I really have nothing to brag about.

So I’m setting aside both of those concerns. Things are going up on the walls. Nothing too much to begin with, a shot from the Andes of Peru, some from the Rocky Mountains, one of my beloved going down a slide. Nothing major, but a start.

I’m daring a little thing. I’ll add more tangible things as I go, and see how I like it.

Michael Dunn

Dare Mighty Things

Toward Tangible