Creative: August Self-Publishing Project, Chapter Six

Wyoming: Day One

My goal here is to give you a sense of this place through images that convey a specific mood.

Several things have changed.

1. Didn’t think I was going to use Hasselblad, but I now KNOW for sure I won’t be using it. Too many techniques.
2. No Instax. Sorry FBJ. Again, too many techniques makes it too crazy.
3. ONLY using Fuji for stills and motion.
4. Writing A LOT.
5. Goal is ONE image per day for the book, designed as doubletruck, with copy over.
6. There is no way I can get done what I want, but that’s okay. And I have no choice.

This technique of using digital and “live booking,” or creating one or two spreads a day while in the field, is something I’ve not thought that much about, but over the course of a 600 mile day I had plenty of time to think about it. The idea of attempting to make ONE great image per day with accompanying copy block is such an enticing thing to ponder. It makes things SO much more enjoyable because I now have a target. Will I make more than one image per day? Yes, hopefully, but when it comes to the book do I really need more? Will my family pay attention to more than that? The answer might not be something you want to hear.

Funny, cool or strange things that happened.

1. The weather was unreal. Everything. Rain, hail, sun.
2. Took the truck through some great country. Lots of mud. Even got mud INSIDE the car.
3. Desperate bartender comes us and just flat out asks “Who are you and why are you here?” I explain. She says, “Finally, someone who knows how to dress.”
4. Drunken guy at table next to me says to his friend. “I think I wanna fuck that guy up,” as a tourist walks down the street.
5. Laramie and surrounding area has not changed that much. Locals might differ but I was shocked.
6. Within a quarter mile of my hotel is a truck stop. Within a hundred yards of this truck stop I saw four mule deer, one whitetail hawk and various other creatures. Nature still fights on here.

This entire trip is about the book. Don’t forget that. The book drives my truck, my mindset and my plans. This might seem crazy but it’s actually quite fun and incredibly educational if you are someone who wants to put a story into the world. This trip is also a luxury but I can’t pay attention to much else, including the fact our country seems to be coming apart from the top down. So I work.

How is your book coming?


Creative: August Self-Publishing Project, Chapter Five

So the book is coming along. A Blurb, 8×10 portrait book, designed in InDesign using the Blurb plugin.(It is awesome!) I’m thinking of using Proline Uncoated stock, and I’m also keeping in mind something NEW that Blurb has coming in September.(hint, hint)

I would describe this book as ugly and strange. Not a classic book by any stretch, but again, the only audience for this little publication is my family. I’ve designed about forty pages so far, maybe more. There are six chapters, some dealing with historic imagery and others dealing with things like paintings.(What I’ve had the most fun with.) I’ve also got a truly horrible looking section at the back that details the history of the bookmaking, including the blog posts I’ve created to cover this story, something I’ve never done before. I’m also toying with using Google Earth for a section, just to make things even uglier…IF THAT IS POSSIBLE.

There are spreads with simple, full bleed imagery, spreads with all copy and each new chapter has a spread. It’s somewhat organized, but if I was going to make this for the public I’d really have to rethink the design.

This has been SO much fun, and I can’t wait to surprise the klan with it. Let me remind you why I’m doing this. Primarily it is to show people how easy and rewarding this kind of bookmaking really is. There is no pressure, no “right way” of doing this. There is only doing it or finding some reason NOT to do it. Creating books like this makes you sharper as an imagemaker, a storyteller, a bookmaker and all around creative. It’s liberating actually. You solve one section of the puzzle and suddenly a door opens up and you see something else to inspire you. I just came up with a new idea, for a new book and work making strategy, something I had never considered before I began assembling this story. I’m as excited to try this new idea as I am to finish this project.

Key steps to get this far this fast:

1. Chose trim size based on specific needs, wants and past history of bookmaking.
2. Made material decisions. I’m not stuck with them but it feels good to have a plan for the final look and feel.
3. EDIT, EDIT, EDIT. I made a tight edit of existing family photography and work from prior trips to the region.
4. Came up with general design plan. Again, not stuck with it, but it’s nice to have a target.
5. Worked in short, focused periods of time.
6. Kept ideas and designed focused solely on being as personal as possible, ignoring the “rules.”
7. Never lost track of how much fun this is compared to the rest of life.

Any questions hit me up below. Good luck on YOUR projects.


Creative: August Self-Publishing Project, Chapter Three

Okay, the gear. What and why? My first piece of advice is don’t do what I do. What I’m about to do isn’t recommended, and yet I’m going to do it anyway. If you are embarking on a project just take one camera and one lens. Leave the rest at home and save yourself some trouble. Me, I’m driving my new Tacoma which has become a photo-barge of sorts. And bike barge, camping barge, etc. It’s like a bloated whale oozing it’s way down country roads. I have the space, and I’ve been on the road for several months, so I’ve got a lot of stuff with me.

As you will see I have three primary systems for this little voyage, but I’m pretty sure I’m only going to use two. The Hasselblad will remain in the bag for the entire trip. The reason? I lost my nine-stop, neutral density filter, which was the ONLY reason I brought the camera in the first place. It’s gone. I’ve looked and don’t want to buy another. So, I’m moving forward with the Fuji Instax, just for fun, and to have something tangible along the way, and my trusty Fuji XT2. This project is comprised of old, analog work and whatever NEW imagery I can make on this trip which will all be done with the XT2.

A lot of you are probably wondering where my Leica is, or why I don’t shoot film on this project. Good questions. Nothing wrong with my Leica, and I have a freezer full of film, but this methodology doesn’t work for my life at this point. I don’t have time for film. The day I get back from this trip I’ll have major projects due for BOTH of my jobs, so shipping film and waiting, getting scans done, paying for it all, etc. is a luxury I no longer have.

Also, I’m not really that concerned about the photography at this point. I’m concerned about story, so the imagery is important, yes, but it’s not the sole focus or purpose. AND THE VIEWING AUDIENCE FOR THE BOOK ISN’T A PHOTOGRAPHY AUDIENCE. The tiny audience is comprised entirely of family members. They are representative of the vast majority of people who will view your work. They don’t care what camera I used, or what my composition is. They are looking for familiarity, memory, surprise and connection. And yes, great photography enhances these things, so I’ll be on the lookout but it won’t drive me like it did in the past.

I need great copy. This is time consuming and challenging but it must be done. I just booked a hotel room for two nights, instead of camping, because I know the hotel will allow me more time to work with less time allotted for building camp, setting up tents, dealing with bugs, etc. I’m on a tight timeline.

Also, as you will see here, the final image is of an acrylic drawing. I am doing a series of these based on the eclipse, which is 1/6 of the entire project. I have little desire to photograph the actual event, nor do I have the right lens. I don’t even have glasses to view it. But I have truly enjoyed making these “paintings.” (My future will have a lot more of this type of work.)

As you can see, all of these items are secured in my Atlas packs which I’m finding to be a perfect fit for my needs. I’m actually backpacking at times so these are perfect, and they don’t look like camera bags. They are light and comfortable. I’ve also got my entire audio setup with me, and will be recording ambient sound as well as an interview or two IF I can somehow find the time. I’m not sure I can do all these things. If I pull off a few stills and some good copy I’ll be happy.

Five hundred and fifty miles tomorrow, the last fifty on dirt. Lots of scrambling, picking up family members, etc. A few days of work and then 1100 miles back to California where my real work awaits. People keep asking if I’m excited and my answer is “no.” I’m nervous. Butterflies. I don’t think this project means anything to anyone else. In fact I know it doesn’t, but it means something to me. I know what it takes to do good work, and I know this trip isn’t setup to afford that kind of time or access, so I will be nervous about making ANYTHING worthy of adding in.

Fingers crossed. Leaning forward.


Read: Great Dream of Heaven

I read this book in one day. Half on the beach in Newport and half in the Las Vegas airport. Not something I would recommend but it was what it was. And Jesus Christo the Vegas airport broke me. It really did. I give our species ZERO chance of survival. ZERO. But that is another story. Back to the book. I think Sam would have hated both the beach in Newport and anything remotely resembling Vegas or the people who would purposely go there for ANY reason at all.

I’m not a short story person either. Rarely do I find these books fulfilling. But I loved Great Dream of Heaven. Sam was an observer, a very, very good observer, and I think I found this book so wonderful because maybe we sometimes observe some of the same things. Small vignettes of his life woven with American life, brief, seemingly inconsequential things that when expanded become poetic nuances of what makes us human. One story in particular about being a party and being asked to go to the store to buy extra basil. He finds himself happy to go so he can avoid being at the party, and my first thought was “Yep, that would be me.”

Observing is an interesting thing, and finding another observer is always enchanting. Because so many of us have utterly lost the desire and ability to observe, so addicted to the screen we are. And sitting in the airport reading is one way of noticing this. Get it, read it and then give it to a friend.


Read: Sam Shepard, A Life

I used to see Sam Shepard in Santa Fe. From time to time. At a bar or in a pickup heading the other way. Never met him, never talked to him, but was always somewhat intrigued by him. So when he recently passed away I thought it the proper moment to dig a little deeper. I knew Shepard mostly through his acting, and even that was mostly through his portrayal of Chuck Yeager in The Right Stuff. I knew he was a writer but didn’t know the extent, and also knew he was in a long-term relationship with Jessica Lange, who literally blew me out of my pants when I first saw her in the 1970’s remake of King Kong.(One of my all time fav’s even though it got slammed in the reviews.) (Jeff Bridges was awesome in this as well. Nikon F2 motor drive!)

John Winter’s “Sam Shepard: A Life” gave me what I was looking for. And what did I learn? Sam’s life was not what you might expect. Or maybe it was. His life was messy. Decades long alcohol issues, family drama, work drama and money drama. Messy. But what pulled him through it all was work. He worked. A lot. The acting was the cash register but never the driving force. The backbone of his life was writing. Fifty-five plays, numerous books of prose, one novel and screenplays. Through Winter’s research you learn of just how far Shepard’s tentacles reached at their peak, and how far they continue to reach.

Pulitzer for Buried Child. Academy Award nomination for The Right Stuff. Many others, but I don’t think any of this really mattered to him. He was off kilter and driven in that way that manic, somewhat mad people are. They have something inside and it needs to spill out, and I say “spill” intentionally. Spills are messy but can lead to some interesting patterns.

It’s sad he’s gone but you can feel his legacy building. I have a sinking suspicion he would have hated me reading his bio on a Kindle.


Read: The Hidden Half of Nature

The full title of this book is “The Hidden Half of Nature: The Microbial Roots of Life and Health.” I was originally turned on to this book because it talks about soil health and about how microbes are a huge part of this, but the book takes a turn and talks about the human body where I was greeted with a wide range of helpful, fascinating information. I was getting IV’s yesterday and had a long talk with the nurse about this book. She’s a fan, so am I.

As our culture gets further and further from the land we now have several generations of children who have grown up with zero connection to the Earth. Consequently, things like food, soil, agriculture, etc. are things almost viewed as a waste of time or beneath us.(My point of view not the author’s.) This book talks about the basic science behind microbial health in the soil then goes on do the same in regard to the human body.

I found this book a bit dense at times, to be expected, but when you concentrate you are greeted with a teeming, nearly invisible world that impacts us every moment of every day. I was on antibiotics for two years, attempting to kill Lyme, so just the part about gut health was enough to sell me on this book. Get it, read it.


Adventure: The Rat Mobile

Joe was one of the first people I met in California. He was living in a second floor apartment in Newport Beach, raising newts. He and my wife had worked together at the PX Camera and Appliance in the early 1980’s, so when I first landed in SoCal she introduced us. Joe hailed from Illinois but had been in California a long while. A designer by trade but with a long history and knowledge of photography. We became friends.

At the time, Joe was spending many of his weekends up north, near Mono Lake, where he had good pals and a place to camp. Joe drove a Jeep, and this is where our story begins.

I’m not sure the year or the model number but it was a Jeep. Cherokee maybe. Over the years Joe put many, many k’s on this thing and before long it was nearing the 200,000 mile mark. The truck started to experience that familiar barrage of small things going wrong. A window here, a door there, a broken washer pump. You know the drill. What happens with long, hard miles. But the engine was sound so he kept it going.

Joe lived in a canyon near Laguna, a place where on a given day you might see coyotes, wild dogs, snakes, a few hobos, etc. One day Joe goes out to the trusty Jeep, starts her up and hits the windshield wiper squirter. Nothing. Nada. Just the whirl of the tiny motor but no water. Hmmm. So, he takes her down to the trusty Midas shop and asks “Hey, what gives?” Mechanic pops the hood, peers around and the two of them stare down into the heart of the beast. Suddenly, out of the corner of their eyes they see movement. Something scurries from one side of the engine compartment to the other. “Hey,” the mechanic says. “You have a rat living in your engine.”

The rat, who will remain nameless, had eaten through much of the wiring, so Joe made a plan to leave the Jeep. The mechanic was confident they would undertake a seek and destroy mission to dispose of the rodent, so Joe handed over the keys and began the long walk home. A few days later he gets a call and returns to the shop where he sees the ENTIRE front end of his vehicle parted out on the ground. From the dash forward the Jeep has been dismantled and laid out, part by part, on the expensive Laguna landscape. Only one problem. No rat.

The mechanic explained their tactics but admits the rat is long gone. A day later the Jeep has been reassembled and Joe goes to pick it up. On the keychain, in pen on a small white tag, are the words “Rat Mobile.”

Several days later Joe and I decide to make a run north to Mono. Up the 395, Sierras to the west and open range to the east. We felt good, cocky almost, as the Jeep had just been taken apart, sewn back up and surely had to be in top shape. Or so we thought.

Beginning the climb to Lee Vining the temperature gauge began to rise. We pulled over, crawled under and quickly saw the dreaded drops of coolant hitting the pavement. There were lots of things in the Jeep. Camping supplies, camera equipment, wine, almonds, you know..the essentials. But no coolant. We topped off with water and aimed for the mechanic in Lee Vining.

As we began the massive climb Joe turned on the vent and we were greeted with the great roaring stench of death. The rat was clearly still in the picture, dead and being roasted somewhere in the engine compartment. The only thing missing was fur through the vents. Imagine a portable toilet left in the sun then submerged in toxic waste and you begin to understand the quality of smell. We had to keep the vents open to keep the car from overheating, so there was no escaping we were in for a long haul.

Joe being the talented guy he is managed to snap off a frame of me in the passenger seat.

The story has a happy ending. A new radiator was ordered. We waited two extra days in Lee Vining drinking, hiking, photographing a dead bear floating in Mono Lake, getting eaten alive by bugs and eating ice cream at Mono Cone.

When the truck was repaired the mechanic, someone with few social skills who clearly detested yuppie scum from SoCal, said “Don’t ever come back here in that truck again.” And we never did.


Adventure: Los Poblanos

So I got a chance to stay at Los Poblanos in Albuquerque. I’d heard about this place for years but never had an option until now. The idea was 2.5 days with the wifey poo poo. Just us. No plans. No rushing around the Land of Enchantment. For the most part we held to the plan. This place is a working farm, and one of the options you have is to volunteer to work, which we did for three or four hours the first morning. We picked apples, blackberries then ended up helping to replant some lavender.

I’m not really one to photograph myself in these places, or these moments. Hell, I don’t really photograph myself at all, but I do like to snoop around with the camera to have something to print for postcards at a later date. This is what you see here. I like this place for several reasons. First, it runs along the Rio Grande, and that bosque that runs along the river is tranquil and beautiful. I also like the rooms and saltwater pool. Nothing pretentious or over the top. Quiet, great views, comfy. Also, the staff was incredibly friendly. Food was great and the grounds have some remarkable, peaceful gardens. All in all, a nice few days away and something rare for wifey poo poo and I.

I got some journaling done, some writing, a bit of design, paid some bills, rode our bikes and learned a little bit about farming lavender. What’s not to like. (Yes, caught bee in action in shot below, which means I am a master photographer with countless awards to my name, and I am master of nature, and master of the bee.)


Read: Fencing the Sky

Okay, I doubled down on Galvin, just like I have with various other authors, but unlike various other authors Galvin’s work is so painfully close to home. Fencing the Sky is a beautiful book filled with not so beautiful things. Imagine the theme of the violently changing West with storm fronts of humanity and nature coming to death blows. On a side note, this was happening way back when we we lived in these same parts. I heard a few months ago our original ranch was just subdivided into 40-acres lots. I can’t tell you what this did, and continues to do, to my heart and soul.(It’s never been proven I have either.)

I read this book in one day while sitting along the Rio Grande. It sounds poetic but it wasn’t. Bug bites, lightning, nagging work duties, etc., but the book just kept pulling me back. “I just left you alone until you were done,” my wife said. Thankfully.

If you like interesting characters, beautiful description of the West and having your blood boil over what you know this book of fiction is alerting us about actual fact. Get it, read it.


Read: The Meadow

I didn’t believe this book existed. A friend in Laramie said “You know, someone wrote a book about the original ranch property your family had?” So to learn this book existed was a shock to say the least. Not to mention the author lives part-time in Tie Siding. Another shock. When we lived there Tie Siding was a town of six people. Not sure what it is now, but will find out in the near future.

James Galvin is a well known poet and author and his book “The Meadow” hit me in a way that no other ever has. I’m not even sure where to begin the explanation. My father moved us, part-time, to Wyoming in the late 1970’s. We arrived like strangers to a land that consumed us. We lived at 8000 feet in a log house at the base of Boulder Ridge.

The day we arrived we drove a 4×4 trail south along the ride and within a quarter mile of the house stood the ruins of an old cabin, tack room and still. No roof, no windows, weather worn with a dead cow in the living room. I was in love. That cabin we referred to as the “Wooster” cabin. Or so I thought that was the spelling. This name was the extent of my knowledge of this past family and their relationship to the land.

Galvin provides the background of the actual “Worster” family, but more importantly he describes the changing of the land and the changing of the people. I’m not sure how much of this book is fact and how much is fiction but many of these same stories were told while I lived on property.

I called my mother and asked if she knew about this book, and in a few weeks I’ll see my dad’s old ranch partner and I’m curious if he knows. Galvin is a great writer. I’ve not yet delved into his poetry but his prose is a unique blend of cadence, nuanced description and hyper accurate detail into both the land and the humans who dwell on it.

I’m still a bit in shock, but since reading this book I’ve sent passage to a few friends whom I respect and all have said “Oh man, that book really had an impact on me.” Get it, read it.