Smogranch is moving……

Hey Everyone,

SMOGRANCH IS MOVING TO SHIFTER

I’m giving notice. Not a thirty-day notice mind you, more like immediate, fleeing the country with NSA on my heels notice. Only I’m not fleeing. Just consolidating. I’m going to start posting my Smogranch stories on my Shifter.media site under the “Read” Category. I can’t just sit here and play on the dolphin all day. I’ve got work to do. Same stories, same style, just in one location instead of two. Shifter will be undergoing changes in the coming weeks, so stay tuned for that. I’m sure you will all be anxiously awaiting….okay, probably not. Get your asses over there people!

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Two Days Away

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“Time off” is a strange concept.

It’s odd to me that many people spend decades in jobs they might not enjoy or respect. This has been the human story since the beginning of jobs. Think about the person who had to leave the cave to gather firewood when they KNEW that right outside that safe, stone cavern was a dazzling range of animals who loved nothing more than to dismember you, lap up your entrails and use your shinbone as a toothpick. I’ve had some horrific jobs over the years starting with my first job ever, picking up nails. Imagine an expanse of land that ran from one edge of the horizon to the other, located at 8000 feet with unpredictable weather and its own assortment of angry and dangerous animals. Bucket in hand, staring at the ground, hour after hour….picking up nails. I got a penny apiece. I was promoted to “tractor greaser” which also proved to be less than ideal, and over the next few decades I made my way though hot tub installer, fragrance model, model-model (for one day), bouncer (for about an hour) and even on to newspaper photographer at a tiny paper where I shot, printed, edited, shot halftones and did paste up. This last job was as bad as any of the others.
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My current job is the best job I’ve ever had. My title still has “photographer” in it, but I rarely do any photography for my employer. I do…different things, and those things change from time to time. This job is challenging, fast, fluid but also puts me in fun places with interesting people. I’m fortunate. I think I get two weeks vacation a year, but I’m not really sure. I don’t take a lot of vacation. In fact, in eighteen years of being with my wife I don’t really think we’ve gone on a real vacation. Like where you go sit somewhere warm and get fat. We aren’t really vacation people, but I wish we were. I think about it a lot. I know plenty of people who take two or three trips a year, just traveling, or surfing or hiking or laying buy a pool. I keep thinking I’m going to do that, but I also know I probably never will. For me there is just far too much to do. I’m trying to stop feeling this way, but it’s more difficult than I imagined. I’m 46 and I have an incurable disease. Nothing like reality to bite my vacation pondering self in the ass.
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I was recently in Santa Fe and had just been stung by a bee. Standing there hanging out with some friends and someone says “Hey, full moon June 2nd, we should go to Chaco.” Now, the easy thing to do is chew on this idea for a few days, find a reason not to go and then politely bow out. Instead we all said “Okay, let’s go.” And we did. I actually didn’t make the full moon, had to leave the day before, but it was still damn bright and I got the point. I drove my fully loaded vehicle across roads not fit for man or beast and backed it up to a campsite and pitched my tent. Now, before I go any further I need to let you know that before I left Santa Fe I turned my phone off and place it in the front pocket of one of my leather “Dan Bags.” I loaded a roll of TRI-X in my Leica M4 and twisted on the 50mm.
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Two days later I was terrified. EVERYTHING normal in my life, EVERYTHING routine in my life was dangerously close to falling off the edge of a cliff and disappearing forever. There were moments when I thought about walking into those hills and not coming back. The idea of a telephone, or talking to anyone, or emailing or posting something was ALMOST completely erased from my thought process. I never took a shower, or cleaned myself in any comprehensive manor, and was covered in a fine layer of sweaty grim. And I was positively content, so much so that I realized why I don’t take much vacation. Too dangerous. Too suggestive. Of course it’s all BS because life on the outside is BRUTAL. It’s just the mind game
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Now, to be fair, I was with several incredible artists, inspiring people who make things that I want and need to see. Fire, conversation, physical activity, history carved in stone and elements front and center combined to create a unique scenario. Icy rain on a sunburned back. Shooting stars.
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Today

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“Normally, you need a specific receipt, but I’m going to let you do this,” he said to the cute backpacker girl.

I fill out my form and wait. Three packages for domestic stops and one aimed at the Netherlands. The clerk puts on his sunglasses and hunkers down behind his terminal, “Loco” tattooed across the knuckles of his left hand. “Is this a gift or merchandise?” It all makes sense in here. Just another day behind the Orange Curtain. Sun, blinding white sun by 9AM, cemented and in total control until roughly 6PM when the color begins to creep back in. I need things. Things I don’t have. Bills come in, they are paid. Lists are made, hotels are booked, flights too. While I’m on the site I check flights to Cabo. I’ve never been, but it’s two hours away for less than $200. That’s a weekend. I hear horror stories, but I hear them about Detroit too and I love Detroit. Cabo is warmer. And they have better guac. “Customer service, this is Gwen.” “Our water bill is twice as much as it’s ever been, what’s going on?” This is where things tend to go sideways. Audio and video problems all day. It’s a Monday. To compensate with something positive I shoot the Impossible Roid. My art space. Cluttered and tight. Neglected even. Make something everyday. Yesterday it was a water color so bad it went straight in the trash after I ripped it into a dozen pieces. I should burned it and then lashed myself with barbed chains. I edit my film from Chaco. Four partial rolls in three days. I edit 90 photographs. Some are repeats, but with slight variations and they are of couples who might like them both. Friends. I FTP them to the printer. I don’t email shit like this, I print it. Of course mailing means I go back to see “Loco” again. He seems cool.

Advancing Your Photography with Marc Silber….and me.

Hey Kids,

Was able to stop by Silber Studios in San Jose and spend some time with Marc Silber and the Advancing your Photography team. Not my first rodeo with Marc and the interview, but I ALWAYS like to spend time with people like Marc because within seconds of meeting you clearly understand that photography is part of their nerve center and not just the flavor of the month. Many thanks to Marc and the team for making it so easy. I cringe when I see myself, or hear myself, but the questions are good and we focus on things like film and they key ingredients of great photography. Check out his other films. I just watched the Jeff Johnson clip and am insanely jealous.