Saturday, September 13, 2014


A recent trip to the Eastern Sierra yielded a bit of a surprise - Fall colors starting up!

It has been pretty dry this year and apparently the trees have had enough - at least at 9000 ft.  For you color hunters, you might want to move your calendar up a little this year.

Time, tides, and seasons - they wait for no man.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Happy Birthday Benton Hot Springs!

Today one of my favorite places on earth is celebrating 150 years since its founding - Happy Birthday to the town of Benton Hot Springs! 

from the Old House and Inn at Benton Hot Springs B&B brochure 

This oasis in the dessert was founded as a mining town and at one time boasted over 2000 inhabitants.  But times changed, the mines played out, and the town shrank to about 200 as it became a stopover point for locals and travelers. Then transportation and travel habits changed and further decline followed.

But unlike most desert mining towns that disappear completely, Benton had a local family that valued and protected its history.  Today, Bill and Diane run The Old House and Inn at Benton Hot Springs and care for the remains of the town.

This is an incredible place to escape the intrusive sounds and visual noise of city and suburban life.  Yes, it is remote - but that's part of what makes this place so special and allows me to recharge my creative batteries.  It is also my "home base" to explore the area's beautiful desert landscapes and artifacts of abandoned history.  Indeed, many of the pictures in The Lonely Places were taken within 100 miles of Benton.

So HAPPY BIRTHDAY Benton Hot Springs and congratulations Bill and Diane!  Thank you for your wonderful hospitality and hard work keeping a piece of our Western heritage alive!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Photography Show

Pleased to be participating in a group show at The Tong in Walnut Grove, CA.
The opening is Friday, September 5th from 5-8pm.

Where is Walnut Grove, you ask?
It is a small town on the Sacramento River Delta, with all the charms of an old town with a rich history.  Come discover it!

As a bonus, September 5th is First Friday, so the galleries, shops, and restaraunts will be open late.
See you there! 

14136 River Road, Walnut Grove, CA 95690

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Taking Note

Many years ago a teacher told me "A bad pencil is better than a good memory any day."  I have found that he was absolutely right!

This past week I was making an entry into my darkroom logbook and noticed Volume 1 sitting there.  The first entry is dated April 15, 1994.  That was the year I moved to California and had just got my West Coast darkroom up and running; that entry captures details about what worked well and what didn't in the new darkroom.

Twenty years later I am still at it and up to Volume 6.  Every print I make, every solution I prepare, and every problem overcome in the darkroom I record in the logbook.  I do the same thing in the field with my camera, documenting how I structured the image and how to control it in the darkroom to create what I visualized at that moment.

Sadly, the whole art of note taking seems to be fading.  That is sad.  We're in too big a hurry.  Maybe we don't understand the value of taking notes.

But I am a firm believer that if you really want to get good at something, you need to record what you are doing.  Getting good (and getting better) in photography is no different.  Writing it down helps you clarify your thoughts, helps you remember the details later, and compels you to pay attention to what you are doing.

I know people who keep a journal every day - and they can't image a day without it.  I feel the same way about photography and my logbooks.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

New Work

New work will soon be posted on the website.
Actually, I am always somewhere in the process of creating new work, the website and blog simply lag behind.  Mea culpa.

"Fallen Roof"
from The Lonely Places

This image is from The Lonely Places project.   
The roof collapsed on the ruins of a bank building, creating this almost abstract form in the midday sunlight. 

I am working more with abstract forms created in the harsh desert sun.  A natural progression I suppose.

Thursday, July 17, 2014


"Lonely Grave"
from The Lonely Places project
This picture is titled "Lonely Grave" from The Lonely Places project.  It is high in the mountains near Virginia City, Nevada, in a large and badly abused cemetery south of town.

When I first visited this place years ago, I had a vision of how I wanted to interpret this particular grave site.  However, I had to return many times over several years before I found the right combination of light, clouds, mountains, and wind to make the image work.  

Making an image that says just want you want can take a lot of patience and discipline.  But when when you keep at it (and when Nature cooperates) - reward!

Saturday, May 31, 2014


I was reading the June issue of B&W magazine and came across a photographer named Lisa Elmaleh whose work had immediate appeal.  Maybe it is her subject matter - remote and fragile places.  Maybe it is her technique - she does 8x10 wet plate photographs using a darkroom on the back of her truck.  Both are sources for a connection.

In the article written by George Slade, I found two phrases I so often used to describe my own work: "slow" and "deliberate."  It is something people just don't seem to understand, how the tools and techniques you use are so integral to how you relate, understand, and interpret your subject.

Lisa understands.  When you must invest real effort to make a photograph, you go slower and become more intimate with your surroundings.  And with that comes a connection, an understanding.

Visit her website: 

Lisa Elmaleh and her 1996 Toyota Tacoma "Harriet."
Note the darkroom in the back of the truck.
(LE, Hope you don't mind me using your photograph - thanks!)

Monday, May 5, 2014

Catching Up

My how the time flies!  Been so busy the 'ol blog slipped.  Sorry.

Fortunately I can report that I am coming off of a fine weekend of photography.  Spent the entire day Friday in Walnut Grove, CA, photographing the inside of a long neglected, historically rich building that two friends purchased a few years ago with plans to breathe new life into it.

Twas a day of chasing the sun through the building.  No electricity so natural light through the windows was all that was available (natural light is better anyway, wouldn't you agree?).  All 4x5 work this time (I hope to return soon with the 8x10).

Hope your weekend was equally as satisfying.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Happy Birthday, Edward

Nautilus (1927) by Edward Weston
copied from Wikipedia

Today (March 24th) is Edward Weston's birthday.  Born in 1886, he can rightly be called one of the most influential photographers of the 20th century.

If you know who Edward Weston is ... enough said.

If you don't know who Edward Weston is, well, it would be difficult to lay claim to being a serious photographer and not know his work.

Fortunately, and wonderfully, there is a wealth of information out there.  And unlike so many artists, you can build up your own understanding of the man and his work through his own writings (letters and daybooks), many biographies, and even a book by his young wife Charis Wilson.  But most important is the work itself!

So if you don't know Edward Weston, go forth and seek him out.  He is already in your work and in the way we see photographs.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Happy Birthday, Margrethe

Florence Deshon (1921) by Margrethe Mather
from Wikimedia Commons

Today would have been Margrethe Mather's 128 birthday.  She died in obscurity on Christmas Day, 1952.  Her contributions to photography, however, should not be obscured by the passage of time.  Not only was she a truly creative, free thinking photographer, her influence on Edward Weston (arguable one of the most important photographers of the 20th century) was profound.  Weston called her "the first important person in my life."

If you have never heard of Margrethe Mather, I highly recommend reading Beth Warren's Margrethe Mather and Edward Weston: A Passionate Collaboration. 

Even if you do not realize it, Margrethe and Edward's influence is in your photography today!

Saturday, March 1, 2014


"Hopper Building" from The Lonely Places project
There is a place in the mountains south of Reno, Nevada, whose ruins stand like abandoned temples to man's greed.  Massive structures that housed a mill to extract the trace quantities of gold in the soil and tailings in the surrounding area. 

After a brief period of time it was a spectacular failure.

Others have come and gone too.  But the greed mongers persist and even today there are those who now want to destroy entire mountains in this area to, you guessed it, extract the trace quantities of gold.

The Lonely Places project is a study of the shapes and forms as Nature takes back what man has abandoned.  It is not an anthropological study, nor is it a history lesson.  But it could be.  The places I explore have fascinating histories (you cannot help but to get caught up in studying it), and therefore lessons for today.  And lesson for the greed mongers, too.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Body of Work


In black and white nude figure work, you sculpt the body with light.
The possibilities are endless ... as long as you keep an open mind.

Friday, February 7, 2014

My Convertible Lens

I recently purchased a Turner-Reich triple convertible lens for my 4x5 camera.  (For folks not familiar with this type of lens, it has two detachable lenses that can be used single or together to make three different focal lengths).  The beauty of these old lenses is they have a different look and feel than  modern lenses - and because you can attach almost any lens on a large format camera, they offer yet another tool for expression.

Now when compared to a contemporary single focal length lens, my convertible has softer focus and less contrast.  But that does not make it an inferior lens!  Rather, it makes a lens with different qualities that can be used to the photographer's advantage, depending on the subject and circumsances.

We must be careful not to apply a single standard to the tools we use.  That was a common mistake when digital was first trying to establish itself.  Lots of articles about topics like limits of resolution and density dynamic range - all of which missed the point.

The point is understanding your tools and learning how their qualities can influence, and be used in,
your work to say what you want to say.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Using the Tool

Autumn shoot in the Eastern Sierra

Al Weber (a well known photographer and important mentor for me) once wrote:

 "Never allow some tool to get between you and your work."

One reason I generally shun clubs and gatherings of photographers is that the conversation is rarely about photography - it's about their cameras.  Endless babble about specifications, and features, and one up-manship about how wonderful their toys are.


The camera is a tool.  As such it has strengths and weakness that influence how you approach your work.  But in the end, the important thing is your work.  What you create and why you create it - that is what interests me.  Let's talk about that!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Editor's Choice

Negatives (developed in pyro) on the lightbox for editing.
I was talking with my good friend T.H. tonight and we got on the topic of editing our work.

As a film and darkroom photographer, careful editing comes part-n-parcel with the business because I have to make the best use of limited time and can't waste energy on mediocre images. In fact, the same is true for any artist producing fine art prints, regardless of the media.

But it can take extra effort for the strictly digital photographer who only shows their work on electronic platforms.  Let's face it, it's just too easy to rack up thousands of images.  And with storage media so cheap there is little incentive to clean things up - at least from the hardware view.

But there are some very important reasons to "clean things up."  Editing one's work is a skill that takes time to master and requires that you take a hard, objective look at your image making skills.  Are you setting too low a standard?  Are you getting images you want or simply settling for images you just happened to get?

I was very impressed with T.H.'s editing efforts.  In addition to cleaning out the stuff that did not make the grade, his standard for "making the grade" keeps getting higher and higher.  T.H. takes his photography seriously and he knows that objective editing is one of most important tools in the serious photographer's toolbox.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Let There Be Light

Photography is about light.  Light is the photographer’s lifeblood and without it we are nothing! 


To be a good photographer is to be always aware of the light.  Always aware of its qualities, continually attentive to where it is coming from, constantly looking for how it interacts with the world around us.  You could say a good photographer has to be able to “feel” the light. 

In Northern California where I live, Winter light has a special quality unlike any that I have seen anywhere else.  A soft, glowing quality that lends itself to crafting photographs any time of day on subjects that at other times of the year would be too harshly illuminated.  I’ll bet where you live the qualities of the light change throughout the seasons, lending itself to particular subjects at different times of the year.

Light is the fundamental building block for the images we create.  It is easy to get distracted and think photography starts with the camera, but that is not true.  Photography always starts with the light.  

If it is not about the light, then it’s not photography.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Congratulations - Now Go Take Pictures!

Congratulations on your new camera!

(Go take pictures! So that when you travel to Death Valley
this winter you are comfortable with your new camera.)
I know there are many of you who received a new digital camera for Christmas.  Maybe it replaced your previous model, maybe it is your first digital, maybe even a DSLR (digital single lens reflex).

Whatever the circumstances, if this is new to you then you might be feeling a little intimidated. All those buttons, and menus, and features, and strange abbreviations - it can all be rather daunting.

I am often asked for advise on how to take better pictures.  My best first advise to beginners is always this:

Go Take Pictures!

I cannot tell you how many times I've been introduced to someone with a new camera and all they can do is brag about the features - but they have not taken any pictures!

Go Take Pictures!

The camera is a tool and you have to get comfortable using it. And the only way to do that is...

Go Take Pictures!

There is time enough to learn more about the craft of photography.  I want to share hints, tips, and  ideas with you here (I am even putting together a workshop just for beginners).  But until then...

Go Take Pictures!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Being willing is not enough; we must do. ~Leonardo da Vinci

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Nouveau Year

The New Year is upon us and with it comes an honorable attempt at sharing thoughts, ideas, news, info ... you know, blog stuff.

Last year saw several very enjoyable and productive trips to the high desert, participation in two group shows, and a partnership in Georgiana Gallery.  Connecting with wonderful artists in different media and getting to know the Walnut Grove community were particularly rewarding experiences in 2013. 

Work on The Lonely Places continues into 2014 and I have recently acquired a Petzval lens, circa 1870's, that I am looking forward to experimenting with.  What else lay ahead for 2014?  Well, let us find a star of inspiration to guide us, set full sails, and find out!

Wishing everyone a wonderful and creative New Year!  May it be challenging in all the right ways!