Saturday, August 20, 2016

From a moving train

shoot-556There’s something about taking pictures from a train. You get to take shots you can not take any other way.


I always spend time looking at the window and shooting. West from Denver is the absolute best train ride in America. The tunnel district with thirty tunnels, leading to the seven mile long Moffat Tunnel. The Big Ten Curves climbing out of Denver. The steep granite sides of Glenwood Canyon. The vastness of the deserts of Utah and Nevada. There’s nothing like it I’ve ever seen. Only the trip to Machu Picchu on Peru Rail comes close.


shoot-555You pass through Ruby Canyon and see things you can only see from a train. You go through ghost towns like Cisco, Utah and Hazen, Nevada that you would probably never see otherwise. Small town America, rolling through back yards and road crossings and along rivers. It’s a part you can’t get to from the interstate off ramps, and it doesn’t even register from thirty thousand feet. These are opportunities you’d never know existed any other way.


shoot-553Oh sure, it has it’s faults. The windows are always dirty. The footing is never certain, and centrifugal force is always waiting to trip you up. Things are bouncing, rocking and rolling. The sun is always throwing reflection on the windows and trying to fool your meter in to a bad exposure. The deck is stacked against you, from the words “all aboard.”


shoot-554It’s always nice to get a shot when the deck is stacked against you. I never feel like I’ve won a confrontation or anything, I just feel like my skill has been tested and I was up to the task. It makes me smile. And the feeling of nailing the shot from a moving train just makes the discovery that much sweeter.


Photos taken on FPP Retrochrome in a Contax RTS II with a 45mm/f2.8 Tessar and Kodak Portra in an Olympus XA.



From a moving train

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Back to the backcountry

For a while there, we weren’t spending enough time in the backcountry. I’m glad we fixed it.


As far as I can tell, backcountry as an idea is an American thing. It’s defined as “a geographical region that is remote, undeveloped, isolated, or difficult to access.” I find all of those traits desirable. The outback in Australia is much the same, I think. I’ve never been there, but I’d love to go and see what their wild places look like.


There are parts of it some people don’t care for. Some of them are the very things that I find attractive.


shoot-550It’s lonesome in many of those places.  That bothers some folks. I think it’s a good sign. When you trudge along on a trail, You’ll see categories of people. First, folks who have just popped out of their cars for a minute, looking at things. Then day hikers with small packs, out getting away from it all for a few hours.  And finally it thins out to the last two.


After three miles or so, you get backpackers, folks who are spending a night or two out in the wilds, recharging. Bigger packs, more food, usually having a bit more fun. It’s a spot of adventure, and they’re mostly all smiles. Beyond that, if you’re on a trail that leads somewhere, you get through hikers. Thin packs on thin people, whittled clean of any excess fat. Most of them are either totally silent or will stop and talk because you’re the first person they’ve seen in weeks. If you run in to them in towns, they are inhaling an impossible amount of food.


shoot-552These days, we’re mostly backpackers when time permits. One day, we want to through hike. But now, we’re in the backcountry as much as we can be. I always like it when we get far enough back that we’re beyond the day hikers. It feels like a demarcation point, passing from civilization in to the real backcountry.  It feels different, like we’re in a new country, and the trail is unrolling out in front of us, stretching on forever and always, leading somewhere we’ll never find. It’s ok we’ll never find where it goes, as long as we get to keep going, discovering, and being back in the backcountry.



Back to the backcountry

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Sharpening tools

Many years ago, I knew an old carpenter who had taken up preaching in a now defunct church. A kindly man, wise, and understanding. The sort you hoped would turn out to be a preacher. We’d talked about working wood, and about the proper use of tools, and many things, but rarely about much more. He asked me how I was doing one afternoon, and I expressed frustration.


I’d had it with my career at that point. I was rethinking everything I had ever done. I was burned out, and wanting a change. I was finding my day-to-day existence tiring and I felt like I was getting nowhere. It was making me a bit down, and he listened patiently to my frustration while he put away his pocket knife as he had just finished whittling.


After I was done, he smiled at me. “Time spent sharpening your tools is never wasted.” he said. He patted me on the shoulder, got up, and walked away.


Sometimes, things are just that simple.


I’ve been unsatisfied by what I am producing, and so I’ve gone back to sharpen my tools.


shoot-547I’ve had a consistent issue in my developing that has plagued me for years. I finally sat down and reread some books and experimented, and now I am well on the way to fixing it. I’m fixing another problem I have had with c41 at the same time.


I’ve been sharpening my literal tools as well. I’ve torn down and rebuilt my 4×5 camera. I’ve cleaned lenses, replaced glass, scrubbed, re-timed the shutter, and replaced a few parts. I’ll have it out soon, and perhaps this time around the results will be worth seeing.


shoot-549I’ve been shooting with new glass, and making other changes as well. I’m trying to look at things and see them differently. I’ve been in the back woods, decompressing, and straightening things out.


I think they’re sharper now. Let’s see if that time paid off.



Sharpening tools

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Still alive

Yes, I am still alive. Thank you to those who wrote and asked.


I’ve been taking some time away from this website. Frankly, I wasn’t happy with the quality of what I have been writing and posting. So I stepped away.


I’m working on some changes. I need to move a couple of websites to a new hosting provider. I also need to start a couple new sites. The coming year is going to be busy, but I hope to have a lot to show for it.


After the move, which should happen next week, I hope to put up the new website for a new project about my beloved Inter-Mountain West. It should be a life long project, centered in Colorado but working up and down the Rocky Mountains, maybe as far north as Canada and south through New Mexico. I’ll post a link up as soon as it comes together.


I have another project I hope to bring online but I haven’t gotten my co-conspirators up to speed just yet. That might happen this summer as well.


shoot-545I’ll return to ride reports, tales of rails, and Gear Wednesdays. I’m still out there, still among the tall pines and wandering trails. Sleeping under stars and having coffee under the big sky. I’m rolling through life with my beloved, and every day is something new and wonderful. You folks hang steady. I’ll be back soon.



Still alive

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Realization

I hate going through negatives. I’m not much of an organizational person. However, I just received the best gift going through them. A realization that I have been working on a project without knowing it.


You know the realization. You like a certain type of image, a certain subject matter, and then you look though your shots and see a theme. You didn’t go out hunting for this type of image, but you found it anyway, and the theme just happened.


shoot-542In my case, I think I subconsciously knew I was doing it. So I was chasing the project before I knew what it was or what I was doing. But now it’s coming together.


It’s no secret I’m in love with the Inter-Mountain West. I moved 1,800 miles to be here and I consider that the smartest move of my life. I looked back through my negatives and realized, what I have going is a love story with the mountains.


By Wednesday, I’ll have a new pack, the last piece of gear I wanted before hiking and camping season. Since the high mountain passes start opening on Memorial Day, the timing is pretty good. I need to either get my Canon 7 CLA’d or get a backup body, and the repair guy needs to finish up with my Kodak Medalist, and then I can dedicate some serious time to the project. There’s going to be a lot of time under big skies and a lot of miles on foot and some on bicycle involved. And hundreds of frames, if I have my way.


shoot-543So I’m sharing this realization in an attempt to keep myself honest. I’ll need to work on it every possible moment I can. And if I tell folks about it, I have to go do it. So you should get some previews. These shots from a cheap plastic pano are the first step. The thrill of that realization should carry me the rest of the way.



Realization

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Waiting

Spending a lot of time waiting and not particularly enjoying it. There’s a lot of “fixin to” going on now. Repairs, new camping gear, and checking on plans seems to be the new rut I’m in.


I suppose there is value to proper preparation and all that, but I’m getting a little tired of it.


The Medalist I dropped off for repairs a couple of months ago hasn’t been touched yet. It may not be touched for a month more. I’m kind of worried he’ll just decide he doesn’t want to fix it and tell me he can’t and to come pick it up. The new pack isn’t available in my size and desired capacity now. Parts are being shipped, and then I can replace the scratched ground glass in my 4×5, but shipping from the east coast seems to take forever. It feels like everything is just out of reach no matter how hard I pedal.


Really, I’m ready to get on with it already.


It’s marathon weekend. In spite of being sick, Steph is running anyway. After this weekend, we’re out of reasons to stay in Denver, though. Hopefully, weather will co-operate and we’re out and off and running. We may just do some day hiking out and back from a campsite just to get started and give the new tent a test run. A small amount of progress would be good, and might do wonders for my waning sanity.


shoot-539I have the feeling I’m going to get sick of waiting and just decide “the hell with it, let’s go!” one afternoon. Which will either be epic, or tragic, depending on luck. I miss being out and up and away. I’m getting twitchy.


Waiting is the hardest part. Or so said some singer in the 80s, so it must be true.



Waiting

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Lost time

I’ve been down with the roughest encounter with influenza B I’ve ever had in my life. Two weeks lost to feeling like crap all the time and hacking up a lung. Half the office has had it, and coughing echos through my apartment building as well. Nothing to do for it but just outlive it, so I have been working on little else. Fever dreams and a crushing weakness to cap it all off.


I’m feeling better. Steph, who came down with it as well, has turned the corner and is on her way to recovering. So now I’m trying to get it together to make up for lost time. Oddly enough, the film development backlog didn’t work itself out while I was sick. Nor did the horribly neglected scanning and cataloging project. Stupid elves or fairies or whoever was supposed to surprise me with getting everything done while I was bedridden didn’t actually do it. Fired, I tell you. They’re all fired.


The best thing about losing time is it inspires you to make up time. So this summer, I am going to start a project I have been putting off for a while. Steph and I are going to go camping often this summer, and the gear has been laid in to do it. We cashed in our REI dividend, and now have the nicest tent I have ever owned. I need to sort a new pack and some odds and ends, and we’re off. Trips to the Colorado National Monument, a return to the Lost Creek Wilderness, and an exploration of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison are in the offing this summer, among other places.


If everything co-operates, I want to ride the Mickelson Trail in South Dakota as well. Easier when camping it.


shoot-538The project is a love story with the American west, capturing it as well as I can. I’ve been pouring over maps, pulling out old lists, and finding new places. This project will take more years than I have to finish, but a thing worth doing is always hard and the best ones are impossible. So I’ve been turning it over in my mind and making choices. Yes to here, maybe to there, narrowing it down a bit.


As soon as the virus dies, I am going to hit the ground running  and see what I can do. Making up for lost time.



Lost time