Two Days Away


“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.
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.
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.
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
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.

What I’m Thinking


I’m thinking I need to lighten my load.

What you don’t see in this series of photographs is the rest of my daily gear. Leica, Blad, Polaroid. Why do I do this? Because I can’t stop shooting film cameras. I still prefer the negative to anything digital. I like the cameras themselves, the process of shooting analog, the limitations of analog, which I feel are what make it so great, and the archive of analog. Yes, I’m still trying to figure out what to do with my 40TB of digital data looming over my head. So on the chopping block is the 5D Mark III and three lenses, and in is the Canon s100. Without a doubt the 5D III is the better, more versatile camera that shoots much higher quality imagery and motion. But what is also indisputable is s100 is a lot smaller and lighter. When I started my current campaign with Blurb it was thought I would be shooting a lot of digital, at least at times, but I’m not. What I am doing is creating a stream of images for lesser needs, and continuing to capture most of the good stuff on film.
Speaking of film…On the way to San Francisco last week my film set off the TSA alarm for….explosives I think. Something. Anyway, I got the full court press, which was no big deal, but that was the first time it ever happened. They had me for about 15-20 minutes maybe. I got felt up, which is always great, and they got to see all my personal items. Sadly I had nothing exotic or even anything slightly amiss.

Oddly enough, traveling with film, at least for me, is easier than ever before. It’s such a rarity now that typically I get the “Cool, haven’t seen this in a while.” Followed by “Man, I really miss film.” Now, this does NOT apply when speaking of France or Switzerland where I’ve been grilled, threatened, insulted and yelled at for both carrying film and for being an American. Such is life. I kill them with kindness. Or I don’t say anything. Or I keep asking for a hand inspection until they threaten me with not getting on the plane. (This has happened numerous times.) This actually doesn’t bother me. What bothers me are the new rules about carry on bags. And weight. Returning from Australia a few months ago it was deemed, on a whim, that all three of my bags were overweight. The same bags I’d flown to Australia with no problem. Suddenly all my bags were an issue and they tried like Hell to get me to check my gear bags. I opened them up and asked “Would you want to check this?” “Ahhh, no,” was the reply and they let me on, but those days are fading.

So, it’s lighten the load time. I’m even contemplating an iPhone 6 Plus for my interview and podcast needs, which would allow me to leave recorder at home. If I could somehow get my junk down to ONE bag it would be ideal. I know I’m dreaming here because when my Blurb duties are over and I aim at the open spaces of Australia or Abilene, I’m going to want my film junk. What I will try to do is consolidate my backpack and roller bag into one backpack. Audio and visual gear in one bag. Time to call Tenba once again.

Or maybe, if I buy an iPhone 6 Plus I don’t even need this little camera? See, more confused than before.

Behind the Scenes: Blurb Life

Working for Blurb is an interesting way to spend the day. There is no “typical,” and most days are a high-speed obstacle course of images, words, publications and nonstop communication. It’s fantastic actually. I typically find myself in the San Francisco office a few times a month. Lunch breaks are fast, short and caloric, but sometimes the urge to make something overwhelms us and we venture out for short but intense creative conflict. On this day it was Kent and I. Kent is an artist, designer, writer and photographer. He’s also a stylish little creature. I went with Leica and he went with SX-70. I shot him, he shot me.






One Side to the Other

Images made within moments of one another. Wandering amid the masses of beach dwellers. Just shaking the dust off. A snap here, a snap there. Looking more than shooting. The distance is what is troubling at first, after so long in front of the screen, protected. Not here. Everything is open to the elements, including my eyes which dry and then water like a newborn. My depth is not quite right, but I know it and take visual precaution. My fingers tremble over the dials, a routine that comes back quickly no matter how long I’ve been away, and now, when I look down, the numbers are fuzzy. Yes, I’m that guy now. The one who lifts the spectacles to see what is so clearly right in front of him. Age destroys ego in most, and I can see myself leveling off in regard. “Know your limits,” someone wiser once said. Mine are clearly, or not so clearly, defined. I need no map to see the edges of the flat Earth. One boot hangs on the edge, but the other is dug in, braced and defiant.
The camera allows me to become invisible. I know, I know, that’s impossible, but I beg to differ. A physical meditation if you pursue it long enough. I swear. You are there, and then you blend into the swatch kit of color that life provides. I turn one way and slow the shutter, pan through the railing. People running. A rangefinder so I need to compensate for not seeing clearly the frame I need to see. Who knows? And then a slow path to the other side where a woman in white strikes a pose for me, only not for me, but for someone I can’t see. Thank you.
Spacing. It’s all about the spacing. I know this isn’t something that will live on paper, or even in my mind for any length of time, but this image deserves respect only for the spacing. The elements are there, in harmony with the environment. Open, sandy, spacious, limitless, broad, minimal. Ya, that’s it, broad but minimal. We all have a wheelhouse and this is mine. I like to dissect. Need to actually and when I do I’m so happy it feels guilty. A secret I tell to only myself. You want to know this feeling? Just go. Just go and press the button. Again and again.