Saturday, April 30, 2016

The public lands argument

The current advertising for the National Park system bills them as “America’s Best Idea.” I’m with Alan Spears on that, though. There are many American ideas better than the NPS. But public lands and National Parks are not a bad idea in any way. Which is why the unending attacks on their very existence puzzles me.

Much of this is just pure greed. The greedy want to transfer the ownership of Federal Lands to state governments under a “States Rights” argument. That alone should tell you what you need to know about this movement. “States Rights” arguments gave us the Civil War and the opposition to the Civil Rights movement.

shoot-534Colorado has many fine state parks, but state land is a good example of what will happen if greed wins and federal land is transferred. BLM land is usually used for grazing, with hunting and camping also available. It has the least restrictions on it I’ve ever seen. As far as I know, the rules for being on BLM land are: camp off the water so the wild creatures can drink, use fire responsibly, and if you’re going to park your vehicle for more than two weeks let them know, otherwise they send out a search party too soon. The equivalent state land is off-limits, not that you’d want to go on it anyway. Most if it I’ve seen is being used by fracking operations. Utah has done this with just about all its state land already and so wants the Federal land to do the same with. Never mind the fact that the state can’t afford to administer those lands if they got them.

There are people like the Bundy’s who want that Federal land. They interpret the Constitution’s Enclave Clause and Property Clause in a way that is insane. They’d be easy to dismiss but for the fact they are armed terrorists.

shoot-535Some people are ignorant on the role of these lands. Without sufficient aquifers, there’s not enough drinking water for the cities out here, and water is already pretty tight. Between rapid growth and climate change, it’s not likely to get better anytime soon. But they’re not seeing that, only seeing unused space.

So the opposition to public lands is made up of greed, ignorance, and terror. How are these people getting so much traction? Why are we listening to them at all?


Alan Spears opinion piece on the NPS as “Greatest Idea”

The public lands argument

Saturday, April 23, 2016


I’ve been on the road a lot recently, and it’s left me with a backlog of film to process, and no time to do it. Six day work week to boot. I may just have to give up and send film out to be processed, which is a new experience.

Still, it’s given me new things to see and fodder for photos. It’s good to get out.

I’ve recently had another of my camera reviews up on a bigger website. Emulsive, a fantastic site that’s a great resource for the film community, was kind enough to publish my review of the Canon 7 Rangefinder I love and lug about so often. I’m not big on technical information. I don’t pixel peep and wax poetic about lens coatings or know the names of all the formulas that create them. I’m not always possessed of the most accurate information about a given thing. In talking with Emulsive, I admitted that I really don’t have anything to offer but my experiences with a thing. And it turned out, that was enough.

shoot-532If we’re being honest about it, none of us has more than our experiences. We have things, but those really aren’t our own. Unlike experiences, those can be taken away. We have knowledge, memories, but those are secondary to our experiences.

So when I spend a day on the road, I wake up looking forward to the day’s experiences to come. Looking forward to what I will see and do before sundown and bed in another hotel.

I’ll be in town for a bit, working on a camera and hopefully getting another back from the repair shop, but then back out. This time with my beloved in tow for the first camping outing of the year and some epic scenery to photograph. Experiences like these, I look forward too.

Here’s the Canon 7 review on Emulsive


Saturday, April 16, 2016

Strange Trails

I’m back from a week on the road, and it made a difference.

I tend to stay closer to home during winter. It’s typical. I keep an eye on the weather so as to avoid getting stuck out, sleeping in a high school gym somewhere while the snow flies. I know unplanned elements just add to an adventure, but I spent enough time in those gyms in high school.

But it reminded me of a couple of things.

shoot-529I still haven’t seen all of this state I live in. I wandered over the Divide to the Western Slope, which I haven’t spent much time on. It’s really quite different. Far more rural and sparsely populated, I can see the allure. Aside from some poverty related problems, it wouldn’t be a bad place to spend time or even live.


shoot-531But most importantly, it reminded me I need to spend more time on strange trails than I do. I keep closer to home, so a lot of the trails I ride and hike are familiar in the winter. I need to get out and about and further afield. Weather getting warmer will help that. Being conscious of limiting my own choices will, too. As I rolled along the state highways, I couldn’t help but notice how many trail heads I passed. And I felt the pull of every one, leading me up and away from the road in to the forest.

So going forward, I won’t resist that pull when I feel it. This is going to be a summer of strange trails.

Strange Trails

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Spending time in the woods

We’re planning on spending a lot of time outdoors this summer.

We’re at the cusp of the process that end with us in a home of our own. And as such, we’re saving a bit of money. So this summer will be playing out a little differently.

shoot-527Instead of a big cycle tour, this summer there will be many overnights in the woods. After all, once the gear is bought, the overnights just cost gas and food. Plus, there’s something to be said about sleeping under stars in a tent with the rain fly off. Far enough out you can see the milky way, and experience what dark really is.

We’ll be taking a train trip again, heading to San Francisco for a few days. Hiking about the city and shooting much film. We might run out to South Dakota and ride the Mickelson trail on a four day weekend, weather and all other factors being able to co-operate. But those may be the only long distance miles we bike this year.

Of course, the end result will hopefully be a place of our own with a nice back yard for Steph to garden and a place for me to convert to a dark room to practice alchemy in.

shoot-526In getting there, we will be spending time climbing mountains and hiking down valleys. We will spend time watching the world turn colors when the sun comes up and goes down. We will spend time counting stars, eating off of camp stoves, and drinking the occasional shot of whisky to keep the chill at bay.

I know it won’t all be picture perfect. We’ll also spend time huddled under a tarp as it rains, and slogging in mud getting back to the truck. I’ll spend time swearing at the stove when it won’t start, or the sleeping bag when it gets wet in the storms. But that time won’t really count.

We’ll be spending time together, out in the woods, on trains, and on bikes. And that is all that really matters.

Spending time in the woods

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Between solitude and surrounded

If you look at the photos I make, you notice something. There’s rarely any people in them.

I seek solitude by nature. I tend to prefer to spend time where people are not. And even when I find myself around people I sometimes frame them out of my shots. It’s my version of idealizing a place.

In the case of shooting at Boston Mine, it was exasperation. I would frame a shot, and another person would step right in to the middle of it or right in front of me with their cell phone. I got a number of shots of the backs of people’s heads that day. I was infuriated.

To borrow a quote from Bukowski, I don’t hate people, I just feel better when they’re not around.

There are exceptions, obviously. My beloved.  A few friends. Fewer acquaintances. But by and large, I prefer mostly solitude. Sometimes I can accomplish it. More frequently I just wish for it.

It wasn’t always the case. There were times I was deathly afraid of being alone in the woods. It wasn’t something I had to actually work on, or a goal that I set for myself to try to get over it, it just happened over time. Walking alone in the woods doesn’t bother me nearly as much now.

It's always the last shot on the roll you get the image you were looking for. In this case it was the one past that. Still works, though.

It’s always the last shot on the roll you get the image you were looking for. In this case it was the one past that. Still works, though.

But I prefer to be with my beloved. I enjoy her company. I like being with her while we discover things together. I love her and simply being with her makes me happy. And sometimes, you do need other folks with you.

There have been times when I was definitely not feeling well that Steph has been a godsend. Times when I needed her company to help me along and prevent me from making errors in judgment.

So here’s the area I want and need to be in. Somewhere between solitude and surrounded. Somewhere between lost and found.

I’m still working out how to find that spot more often.

Between solitude and surrounded

Saturday, March 26, 2016

A strange idea of fun

I don’t have many pictures of paths in winter time. Honestly, I don’t spend that much time on paths in winter.

I have the gear to get out in the cold. Well, except for snowshoes and those are pretty easy to come by. Just jaunt down to the REI and rent them for a day. But honestly, I tend to stay down low and out of the snow as much as I can during the cold spots of winter.

shoot-523Winter changes the landscape. It makes it more challenging. It’s not just the monochromatic snow covering everything and making it a little harder to properly meter photos, it’s the fact it slows you down, sometimes tripling the amount of time it takes to get somewhere on foot.

And somewhere along in the huffing and puffing, I always question my sanity.

“OK self,” I’ll think, “Here you are again doing something dumb. It’s freezing. The wind is howling. You just had to stop for a bit to get your breath back so you could curse at the weather. I’m pretty sure what we’re doing here is not what people generally call fun.”

And in a general sense, it’s true. Most people don’t think it’s much fun post-holing up a trail in slushy snow with a 35 mile an hour wind blowing on you to be an amusing undertaking for a Saturday afternoon. Especially when you’re having to keep an eye on the clouds to the west in case they want to come overhead and dump more snow on you.

But not all exercises are purely for fun. Some of them are just to see what happens. Just to see if I can make it.

shoot-521This particular exercise was not successful. The mountain won, and I trudged back down, disappointed. But even in that, it was at least a partial success. It told me I need to work on some areas of fitness, and it’s time to replace my boots. Extra huffing and puffing caused by taking two steps forward and sliding back was not as productive as it could have been.

And yet, hidden in all the swearing and floundering, I was still having fun. Unconventional fun, but still. Between that and what I learned, I still called it a win, and then trudged back down the mountain.

I’ll get it next time.

A strange idea of fun

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Tired things

I’m up a bit early for a Saturday, and heading out soon. I’ve got some tired things to deal with.

I’m taking a very tired Kodak Medalist to the shop today. It’s a war baby, made during the Second World War, and it’s put in some miles. It’s spent some time in the southern part of the US in a closet, and picked up the characteristic smell of mildew. But it’s avoided getting any of it in the lens, and the camera mostly fuctions, so I’m opting to give it a CLA and see if I can use it. If I can, it’s likely I’ll be putting some slide film in it to take on a few trips this year. Mostly, I want to take it to California and shoot the Golden Gate with it. I’ll need to procure more film, metal 620 rolls, and a 120 case or two from Japan Camera Hunter to carry the re-rolled film in. I bought it for a less-weighty medium format option, and because I like 6×9. I’m looking forward to some bigger, wider negatives in the future.

shoot-520I’m headed up north to have breakfast with Craig and Dan and talk about our project. I’ve some images, but to tell you the truth, I’ve been looking at my own stuff so long I’m tired of the sight of the things. I no longer know if it’s any good or not. So fresh eyes will be a help, and maybe can see what I’m missing now.

It’s been an eventful week. I managed to get some portraits done with a rangefinder, which I’d never done before. And it turned out I like them. There was a one two punch of news I could have lived without, however. First, I can no longer find any Agfa APX 100 fresh in the States. I’ll hit up some sources in Europe and Asia and see how badly the shipping will maim me. I think it’s gone out of production again. Second, Nikon has discontinued service of the F3 camera. I figured it would happen sooner or later, and the F3 did go out of production 15 years ago, but I plan on using mine forever, so I was hoping to get mine factory rebuilt before they quit. I missed out, unfortunately. Still, I’ll keep using it until it becomes a tired thing as well.

Tired things, after all, have been well loved.

Tired things