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May 16, 2017
This blog started several years ago and is just now being written. My friend asked when I was going to start blogging. I wanted to know who would be interested in my life. Yet when he told me I looked exhausted, I just related to him the last 4 days of shooting. It started with shooting Blue October, a platinum award-winning Rock back. I got a few hours’ sleep before starting out on a storm chase that led from Amarillo Texas to Medicine Lodge Kansas where I captured a Tornado with my camera. From there to Corsicana, Texas to record severe flooding. I got back to Amarillo near sundown but realized it was the night of one of the biggest meteor showers of the year so instead of sleeping I took pictures of meteors over one of the coolest rock formations I know in the Panhandle. About 7000 photos in a few days. Many of them got published.
In the past 3 months I have photographed from a gondola of a hot air balloon flying with 500 other balloons in Albuquerque, photographed another meteor shower, several amazing concerts, one gorgeous model sporting a new tattoo, photographed the fall colors in Palo Duro Canyon via horseback from the rim of the canyon down and back. Documented 3 story tall machines that create cattle feed and the abandoned buildings of a dairy started in 1907. And honestly, I can’t recall all I did, but my camera count is 14,000 higher than it was 3 months ago. I traveled through to 7 states, one mountaintop, and one canyon bottom and again many of the photos from those trips will be published.
I wasn’t always a photographer chasing adventure along with pixels. In fact, much of my life has been boring doing social work or legal work. But those periods my life was exposed too much of the ugly in the world, in fact largely those times caused me to be very cynical about humankind and the world. I turned to the camera in a long 9 month period of crisis which is a story in and of itself. But for me the camera is a very healing thing, helping me to see the beauty in the world. Most of the photography that I do is therapeutic to help put the ghosts of the ugly to sleep. I am often astounded that people find my creations compelling enough to purchase and decorate their homes or offices.
I grew up the youngest of 5 kids in a very Roman Catholic home. My siblings are all much older in life. I heard my mother joke that she thought she was done having kids for several years but then had what seemed the flu…only the upset tummy wasn’t the flu at all it was me. My siblings feel more like distant aunts and uncles. Mom and Dad moved from Missouri to Texas when I was pretty young and my siblings all stayed behind having graduated from high school. Even though I have 4 sisters and one brother it feels more like growing up an only child as there were largely out of the house by the time I came along.
Growing up in a very religious home I graduated from a Catholic School and actually studied to be a priest. This is one of the most formative times of my life and I credit much of who I am for that time. I traveled all over the United States, Canada, Mexico and Central America during that time. My wanderlust to see new things and cultures were born. When I left the ministry and returned home to Texas, I finished my degrees and set out doing social work. Years of seeing the ugly in life affected me deeply making me cynical in many ways. Much of my time with the camera is “reframing” life, looking for the beautiful.
Another issue that affects my photography a great deal is a chronic pain. My back has been severely injured in two places. I struggle a great deal with severe pain from my knees down and not a few mobility issues. In fact, when I came to Amarillo in 2013 I used a quad cane. The pain is constant and because it’s neurological there are very few things that affect it. One of the things that allow me to deal with it is my camera. Often, and I can’t fully explain it, when I am looking through my viewfinder, it’s not that the pain is gone but rather it becomes less intrusive. The viewfinder has become for me a magic window where I can focus away from the pain. The harder I focus on framing what I see in the most beautiful fashion the less crippling the pain is. As I went to Palo Duro Canyon and looked at the canyon through this magic window, I walked further and further. Eventually one photo hunt, I got back to the car without my cane. The camera is my cane often to help me not give in to the pain. Dorthea Lange once said, ““The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera.” This has been so true for me.
Now I spend a lot of time looking at the world without my camera as if I have my camera in hand. This has changed my life. Often times, I now find myself distracted by the things I am looking at. A saltshaker on the table in the morning sunlight becomes magical. The way the shadows play over a door jam in the alley. Deeply becoming aware of the art in the common helps me cope with the pain. But its not just about the way things look, it's allowing the beauty to bring me joy.
Recently my work was criticized for not being photojournalistic real. Unless I am working for a client, most of my work is not about showing anyone what I saw with my eyes. Rather my whole goal is the creation of an image that relates an emotional state that I was in when I was using my camera. Given what I shoot often, that emotional state is awe at the beauty of the universe laid out before me. I am very proficient with my camera. Most of the time I can tell you what the settings should be in any given light. I am no longer really interested in a simple straight photo. I want to be able to show you what I am feeling. To me, that is the real challenge. How do I convey in visual terms an emotional state? So to answer the question, yes most of my images are photoshopped.
My camera has taught me much. I never realized the life lessons that trying to record and portray as art life via the lens would teach me. I hope you enjoy the ramblings and musing of an old worn-out social worker looking at the world fresh through the lens of Pentax K1! Oh fair warning, I am very dyslexic so if poor grammar and spelling are an issue be warned.
UPDATE: each year I try to photograph the Perseid meteor shower. HERE is the time-lapse created from chasing it in August 2017:
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