Story Behind the Photos: Kman Does Texas BMX

The infamous Kman, not happy at having to stand still for this picture.

I did what I thought I was supposed to do. Yes, after all these years, I still do this.

My nephew, the infamous Kman, races BMX. In fact, he is a total badass with a room full of trophies to show off his 65-pound prowess.

So I go to visit the family and find out I’ve landed on race night.

I have options.

I think to myself, “This is racing action, I’ve got to get that peak moment, I need a motor drive, long lens, etc,” so I grab the digital body and long lens and toss it in the truck.

And then, more out of reflex than anything else, I toss in the Blad.

The track is easy. A small place, and being Texas people are relaxed.

“Hey, my nephew is racing, can I stand in the middle of the track?”

“Sure, go ahead.”

And with a smoking gun the races begin.

I’m hammering away, motor drive humming, mirror clanging up and down. But I’m distracted. Not by something around me, but by something inside me.

“What am I going to do with these images?”
I begin to ask.

“Do I really want to sit down and edit through all these motor sequences.”


“Why am I doing this?”

“Do I really want to archive these, label these, tag these, etc,etc?”


Don’t laugh, this is how my troubled mind works.

I began scrolling through the images on the camera, something I HATE doing. I know hate is a strong word, but it fits here. I DETEST looking at images right after. I think it completely KILLS the idea of being a photographer, BUT I CAN’T STOP MYSELF.

I’m like a total crack monkey with the preview window. I can’t stop. If I turn it off, I just turn it right back on. Hopeless.

I suddenly realized, with slight sadness, I had no interest in even looking at the images I was making. The images didnt’ feel like they were mine.

There were a dozen parents in the same area, all with similar gear, banging away. They probably had the exact same stuff, only of their mini-warriors. And I think there was even the dude that shoots every kid and uploads every single image online so that the one parent without their camera can buy a print.

“Well, I know my brother will like these, or my mom,” I said to myself, making excuses for the images, while I took a quick peak at the refreshment stand wondering what delicious treats they had hidden behind the counter.

I packed up the gear and headed for the car.

Right before burning dust in the parking lot I saw the Blad.

I loaded the relic and grabbed my dreaded tripod. Yes, my tripod, and headed out into the world I had just retreated from.

At least 10% of my mind was still thinking of the refreshment stand. I have to be honest.

Suddenly there were whispers around me.

“Honey, look at that guy with the old camera.” “What is he doing?” “Is he allowed in there?”

“Hey, dude, what the f%$# is that thing.” “Holy S%@#, haven’t seen one of those in a while.”

And suddenly I was in my own world. I could see again. I grunted and shuffled around the pit area like a deranged ape.

Things were clear. I dissected with my eyes, and then framed the pieces. A story began to build.

The kids in the pits were like ants invading an empire, merging in lines and shadow, with harsh artificial light painting their movements with razor sharp shadow. The sky was glowing.

Insects pierced the night. Colors were bright. The wind picked up. Darkness and light. Passion.

I don’t remember much of what was around me. I was “involved” let’s say. I was involved in a 6×6 space that started in my medulla oblongata and ended at the tip of an 80mm.


Minutes later.


This was MY work. My mind. My vision. My moment. This was the work I need to be doing ALL THE TIME. All supplied by following the Kman.

I thought about history. I thought about family. I thought about the light. I thought about what these pictures would mean. I thought about who would have them in 100 years. I thought about Kman and what must be going through his mind.

I was away in that place that photographers go when they are working.

And then. Clunk. It was over.

14 responses to “Story Behind the Photos: Kman Does Texas BMX”

  1. sean says:

    More photographers need to think like you. While I may not be shooting much film this days (which is unfortunate but necessary), after years of shooting film, watching you, Paul and others, I work in a similar fashion. It’s all about a story and in that story are moments. Moments are a single frame. A single, meaningful frame.

    A couple of days ago, I was swimming in DOH surf just down the road. Swimming with a camera in hand. Duck diving. Swimming. Duck diving. Searching for that one frame. That one moment. I thought I found it then didn’t but found others. Headed back out in a few minutes to see if I can find what I’m looking for. Not sure if I will but it’s the searching that brings me the most enjoyment.

    • smogranch says:

      Oh man, don’t know about THAT. One of me is enough I think.

      The search is in my ways the best part. Looking, hunting, knowing something is there, but your not sure what, finding the place you need to be and then boom, you get it. Or not.
      For me it’s with film, but for many, many others its digital. Whatever works and gets you out there waiting is the key.
      Film forces me to turn my brain on, and I like the lifestyle, the cameras, the negatives, the tactile aspects of working this way. And I’m not in a hurry, don’t ever want to be again.

  2. suzannerevy says:

    Excellent post, Daniel!!

  3. Robert says:

    Loved reading the post … nice to see a kid with a passion. And I mean both of you!


  4. G Alan Myers says:

    Great posting with beautiful images. Film is the ultimate media for me. The look, the feel, the process, the tactile quality of it is what has always inspired me.

    I can appreciate your progression on this shoot: I tend to use my digital camera first then bust out the film at the end. This leads to film images that don’t always meet the grade because I’m rushing and the moment I liked has passed. I have a self-assigned shoot today, think I will start with my film camera and leave the digital in the bag!

    Thanks for the inspiration and for making me think.


    • smogranch says:

      Thanks Alan.
      I use both, but I use the digital less and less, and frankly, don’t really need or want to use it for my “commercial” work any longer. I’m in no rush, don’t need to overshoot, don’t need to retouch, and would much prefer to have the ability to archive a neg, and print a neg. And, my film is processed and scanned at the time of process, so I still have the digital workflow. I ran five rolls in my kitchen sink yesterday, it was a blast.

  5. Brooksley Williams says:

    As you know, I am not a photographer and in fact have no artistic talent whatsoever. I really don’t know what a “good” image is. What I do know, however, is that I always love your pictures the most, and that somehow your images define “different” to me. They are unique and seem to capture my kids in a light that I never quite get to see. I’m not sure if it is because you use some ancient camera that looks like it is going to fall apart, or real film, or just your discerning eye, but your pictures capture our life in a nutshell. Thanks.

    • smogranch says:

      You get the prize for my responding to my newsletter! Actually, don’t sell yourself short. You have creative talent, I can see it all around you, and most importantly, you have the desire to think about creative things, whether it be the images we work on together or the events you do for you kids. Trust me, you’re way ahead of the game.
      And now that you are commenting here…I LIKE YOU EVEN MORE!!!
      Fingers crossed to the shoots of the future. Thank you.

  6. mom says:

    News! The Kman now has his first motorcycle, very close to the first one his dad rode. Dad is teaching him to ride. They come to practice in Grandmas’ woods and on the private roads that allow anything. Better grab your film and camera and come back. Times are changing. The Kman rides again.

  7. Missy Callero says:

    Was happy to get the newsletter but I’ve been reading your blog for a long while now. It goes without saying I enjoy it. Glad more will know about it.

    Love hearing about the family members and seeing through the eyes of Uncle Dan.

    Finley is 7 1/2 months old – time for another shoot. She is changing so fast. Only you can capture the moments I really want to remember.

  8. I’ve been following your blog for a while and wanted to say, keep up the good work. We met in Hawaii 5 years ago during one of those Canon meet and greet.

    • smogranch says:


      Thank you for commenting, and thank you for reading. This place is about to be remodeled….stay tuned. Hope you are well and having fun.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *