Saturday, September 29, 2012

Comfortably Numb

Yes, I'm still in the Pink Floyd vortex (see previous posting).  I'm trying to get out, but forces keep pulling me in...

The Wobbleboxes

  A couple of weeks ago, I photographed R. Jon Tester's annual farm fundraiser bbq, and the best part of the day was the great band pictured above.  They call themselves the "You Name It Band."  

From their facebook page: "The band was originally formed in 2000 and quickly adopted the tradition of changing our name to better fit the gig or current events. Some of our favorite incarnations include: The Dimpled Chads, The Swinging Pulaskies, The Neverland Ranch Hands, Larry Craig & the Stall Tactics, Viagra Falls, Concrete Pinata, The Pre-existing Conditions, Whistler's In-laws, The Earth Tones, Granny's Bathwater and The Nightcrawlers."  For those of you who are not farmers or engineers, a wobble box is a mechanism that converts rotary motion into reciprocating, and is used to drive the cutter bar of a combine.

At the end of the event, when my work was over, and the band was packing up their equipment, my friend Daren asked me how I liked the band's Pink Floyd song.  I was apparently otherwise occupied, and had not heard it, so I went over to the band and asked about it.  The result of my inquiry was unexpected--bass player Deb Halliday offered an encore performance of Comfortably Numb, just for me.  Mary Hollow added vocals, and it was fantastic!  Many thanks to them for making the day worthwhile.


Unexpectedly, I ran into Victoria in the Walmart parking lot.  I hadn't seen her forever, and wouldn't ya know...she even had "Money" in her hand.  She's pretty cool....

In an ongoing attempt to ween myself off of the Pink Floyd, I switched to the Flaming Lips cover of the Dark Side album.  This was like switching to moonshine so as to drink less beer.  In fact, I recently accepted a bottle of moonshine in lieu of cash for an engagement session, so I know of what I speak.  Anyway, the photo below is representative of my brain after too much Lips.


This photo is part of a new series I'm working on.  The working title is "Dirt and Stuff".  I'm accepting suggestions for a different title.  In fact, if your suggestion is selected, I will send you a 10" print from the series.  Send your suggestion to or post to my facebook page.  Offer expires October 23.
Here are a few others to give you a clearer idea--




Friday, September 7, 2012

Wish You Were Here--Harvest 2012

Welcome to the Machine

The harvest of 2012 is complete.  A typical harvest in most respects--fought some fire, fixed things broken, fought off flying hoards of insects, slept too little and ate too much.  But this harvest was very different in one major way--it was our first harvest without my dad.  This farm's first harvest without him in 92 years.

Delicate Sound of Thunder

Us and Them

I spent the first days of harvest on a swather, cutting down the wheat before the insects did, and putting it into windrows.  I spent four full 16 hour days listening to Pink Floyd non-stop, thanks to the Pink Floyd channel on satellite radio, as well as my own collection of albums.  The jury is out as to whether or not I have permanently damaged my brain, or enhanced it.  It doesn't matter really, as long as I can refrain from quoting lyrics as if they are scripture.   However, I can confidently advise against repeated listenings of the Flamings Lips remake of Dark Side of the Moon.  

Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun

Heart Beat, Pig Meat

The Great Gig in the Sky

Alan's Psychedelic Breakfast

A Momentary Lapse of Reason

Brain Damage

The Final Cut

2012 Cast of Characters

Wish You Were Here

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Foreign Lands

Prevailing Perspective

Last weekend, my wife and I once again had the opportunity to travel to western Montana where we were delighted and amused by the theatrical ability of Russell Moes and the Whitefish Theatre Company.  This time, it was a play called "The Foreigner."  The main character is a foreigner visiting the American South.  He embarks on a journey filled with new ideas, new friends, exciting peril, and ultimately, the anticipation of happiness.  When I travel west, I feel like a foreigner—I am blue collar, entering into a world of recreationalists, gay Canadian bikers, and strange beings that wear necklaces made of human hair.  

In the course of the journey, I leave the reality of my home world; quickly pass through the despair of the Montana Democratic Party headquarters, and emerge into the idealism of a western resort town.  A place where people have jobs that don’t leave perpetual dirt under their fingernails; where women don’t wear sackcloth dresses; where everyone lives a bacchanal life of wine and song.  

Midnight at the Pin & Cue

When we leave this place, filled with foreign foods and strange laughter languishing in the pit of our stomachs, this prevailing perception evaporates like a summer shower on the prairie.  We head east with the wind at our backs and the nascent smell of prairie dirt in our nostrils.  No spurring necessary—just the reality of home and the realization that true happiness is knowing who you are and where you come from.  

Spring Storm

We know what awaits us there--wind, thunderstorms, and an environmental harshness that is tactile and sustaining.  You cannot rely on the skills of others--you must develop your own.  Skills that are innate and demand to be exercised.  So for us, it is out of the mountains, onto the rolling hills and finally free on the flat prairie that we call home.

Home Sweet Home

Artistic Filler



Friday, April 13, 2012

Cool Girls Rule (The Scheimpflug Principle)

Cool Girl Having an Amazing Time

A while back, my wife and I traveled to Vegas to attend the Wedding and Portrait Photographers International convention.  Otherwise known as WPPI, it's a great convention, and is attended by more than 8000 photographers.  6000 are women, and about 80% of the women are what are called "cool girls."  Young women 21-35 who wear knee high boots with their jeans.   Over the years, I have noticed their steady increase in numbers, and I now conclude that they rule the world.  At least the photography world.  The work of photography once belonged exclusively to laborers--a small number of dedicated workers who struggled over image-making hurdles to create something special, something unique, and something profitable.  As a group, we wrestled to balance an awkward bundle comprised of creativity, technical issues, and social skills.  

Cool Girl Photo Shoots...
Cool Girls Use White Lenses

Someone Forgot Their Boots

Those days are over.  The cool girls have taken over, and they are better than you and they are better than me.  I am not kidding about this--they are more creative, more fun, more interesting, more appealing, and more, well, cool.  Empowered by that knowledge and also by an icy disregard for it, they bring a cool aesthetic to photography that is  unencumbered by creativity busters such as guide numbers, circles of confusion, and the scheimpflug principle.  They are bold, social, and fearless.  They are amazing.  They are part of a generation who was raised to believe that they can do anything they want, and they are still young enough to believe that's true.

Mildly Obese Middle Aged Man 

I, on the other hand, am not so fortunate.  I have actually applied the scheimpflug principle, and, alas, enjoyed it.  I will never be a cool girl.  I will not be asked to join in their cool photo shoots.  If present at their photo shoot, I will be asked to leave.  No, I am destined to focus my lens--literally, figuratively, and sometimes manually--on the uncool.  Subjects forgotten and forlorn, and yet, I hope, still somewhat relevant in the uncool corners of the world. 

My Photo Shoots...

Do not think I am sad about this.  I am, of course, but it doesn't help you to think I am.  Besides, my wife and I had a great time in Vegas.  We saw cool girls, cool stuff, a cool show, cool architecture, and ate some great food.  She had to wait for me a lot, but she was cool about it.    

Self Portrait

The Original is Unfaithful to the Translation

My Wife, Waiting

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Rattlesnake Tequila

I had intended to publish this post months ago, and when that didn't happen, I figured I would include it in a year end wrap-up.  Sadly, the year didn't deserve additional acknowledgement, so here I am, publishing this post months after the fact.  The subject of this entry is, more or less, 8 Mile Bench and men who occasionally inhabit it.  Located 33 miles from Big Sandy as the crow flies and about 50 miles by road, the bench sits high above the Missouri river.

Looking North

Looking South

The men of the bench come here every fall--a ritualistic road trip.  But there is only one road in, and there is no way out.  As members of the 50 to death demographic, they spend their time here as if they have nothing to lose and little to gain.

Bench Men

Many years ago, I came of age here in this treeless wilderness that is NorthCentral Montana, and I participated in a ritual that many young men endured.  It involved holding a live rattlesnake in one hand, and drinking a shot of tequila with the other.  After the shot glass was empty, you then “milked” the snake into the glass.   It involved 4 other guys, 1  bottle Jose Cuervo, and 1 angry rattlesnake.  Snake was carefully passed from one to another for their turn until the bottle was gone.  It was exhilarating.  It was dangerous.  It was terrifying.   It wasn’t very smart.  Every time my turn came around it was a new adventure, a new danger.  The person whose shot finished the bottle won, the person next in line lost, and he was charged with getting rid of the snake.  At the time, and even now, I suppose, it seemed important to our development as men.  To do things filled with uncertainty and danger is, according to Voltaire, what makes us men.

That was long ago, of course, but in the many years since that day, I have done other things that are, in some ways, comparable.  One of those things is my annual trek to 8 mile bench to visit the BenchMen.  I am fortunate to be invited, but I am not one of them--I am not an animal.  They are an unpredictable and volatile bunch, and every year I feel lucky to have made it out alive.

On the surface, they are a hunting party.  But they are much more than that.  One year, they wore only loin cloths until they successfully killed enough animals to clothe themselves.  Another year, they ate only what they killed, and squab didn't count.  Recently, they did not hunt at all, but instead played high stakes Bocce Ball up and down the Missouri River breaks.

Zafis & Moes, The Early Years

They are, metaphorically, snake handlers.  Fearless and brave, or collectively occluded with biofilm?  I don't know. I don't want to know.  Just because the cat had kittens in the oven doesn't make 'em biscuits.