Is there anyone out there? Anyone listening?

I think it’s time to, once again, kick the tires and light the fires here at Smogranch. Now, let me be very clear. I NEVER thought I would post here again. Yep, I was done, over it, moved on, mentally in another place, and in many ways I STILL am. However, I can’t bear the idea of starting over again and building a new site. My Tumblr site is interesting, but MAN, if my attention span was horrifying before five months on Tumblr it’s FAR worse now, and that is something I REALLY can’t live with. I know the target audience of Tumblr is 16-30ish, which is great, fine, awesome and filled with some hyper-talented folks but I’m OLD and SLOW. I’m a guy that likes the smell of glue. I think social media is bullshit and I think collectively we are regressing as communicators even with all these these new outlets of “connection.” There, I said it.

My advice is DO NOT read this blog. DO NOT follow this blog. Go outside and do something, or make something or just sit there and learn to be still, mentally and physically. You will be FAR better off in the long run than you would be if you read the garbage I am about to unload on the world. I am not doing this blog for you. I’m not. I’m doing this entirely for me. I need an outlet for words. If you want to follow along I’m glad to have you, and I’ll continue to correspond with you, but I am sucking the marrow from Internet because of selfish reasons.

Speaking of posting. This is not, and will not be a blog about photography. First, I don’t have much interest in professional photography. I haven’t picked up a camera in anger (on assignment) in THREE YEARS, and not one percent of one percent of my body or mind misses ANYTHING to do with being a photographer. You can interpret that anyway you deem fit. Plus, most photography sites are a little predictable, especially ones that are attempting to gain audience because you know what you have to do to gain audience…

Over the past few months I’ve begun making illustrations, mostly ink on paper, and I’ve begun painting. I’m feeling around in the dark with my only training being reading half a book about drawing, and it appears I don’t seem to have much talent for either of these things, but the learning process has been humiliating and incredible at the same time. I’ve also changed my life in other ways. I no longer carry a camera on a daily basis and I haven’t really made any new documentary images in five months, nor do I have any real desire to make any in the immediate future. I have reconnected with my “old life” which is rife with things like hiking, paddling, fly fishing, cycling (even more than before) and a general foundation in all things nature and the outdoors. Remember, I grew up in the country and have now completely hit the wall with all things city, city-living and modern, first world. If I could somehow swing moving to Alaska in the summers and remote New Mexico in the winter I would be gutting, skinning and cooking a wild beast of some sort. Oh, scratch that. I’ve also been vegetarian since returning from Australia, so I would be gathering plants of some kind and probably freezing my ass off due to the lack of pelts.

I want to start over here people. That is easier said than done. You will probably see posts that look and feel familiar, Blurb type things for example, and others that will probably have you headed for the “Unsubscribe” button, if in fact I still have a “subscribe” button. You have been warned.

It’s been a while since we have had a chance to talk, and I feel like I’ve learned a thing or two. What I was doing before, what I was thinking before isn’t good enough. I need to be better. I need to take more creative risks and we all need to embrace creative failure as much as we do success. Again, easy to flap the gums and talk zen, but the proof is in the creative pudding.

Most importantly, by returning to this blog I DO NOT have to buy new leather bags and a new journal cover, or change the homepage image because my bags and cover were imprinted with “Smogranch.” However, if you do change your life, and your imprint, you can find the official bags here. Talk to Arthur. There are four sizes. I’m working on him to create a backpack next. He said “I’m not making a backpack,” but I will be such a pest I’m hoping he makes one just to get me to leave him alone.

So, if you are new here, welcome. And if you are a returning friend or contact, welcome back.

This is a new series. Sixty-second films with voiceover of journal entry from when I shot the footage. This first one is actually only 38 seconds, so you will get off easy. Think cheesy art school film.



In short, I deleted my subscription service for this site.

I know this might be a pain in the ass for some of you, and I also know I’ll lose followers because of this, but I’m okay with that. Hunting a huge audience isn’t my goal here. There is a reason I’m doing this. As with any other site in the world, people come and go to Smogranch. When they go they need to be able to just hit an easy unsubscribe button, and with NO HASSLE, be gone. I feel this way because the first thing I do every morning is unsubscribe to the masses of things I somehow get subscribed to. People are digital, low-life scumbags these days, not to mention out-of-control marketing animals, who don’t seem to have ANY issues by subscribing people who don’t want to be subscribed. Not only would I never do this, I would also never try to make it difficult for you to unsubscribe. Over the past few months I’ve had people email me saying, “Sorry but I can’t unsubscribe to your site.” This drives me crazy. It SHOULD be an easy system, and I honestly don’t know why some people can and others can’t, but I can’t live with the mystery so the service is gone. From now on if you want to get here you gotta aim here and get in. No more email updates. Again, sorry, but I can’t stand the idea of someone continuing to get emails they don’t want.

These days we live in a world where the boundaries of decency and taste have been run over and crushed. People post political s*** to my Facebook timeline, they send ads to my Twitter feed and try to link their sites to mine via comments. And this doesn’t include the normal spam for drugs, sex and crazy s*** that now seems far less annoying than being put on a mailing list from a gallery I’ve never been to. I’m SO CLOSE to pulling the plug on ALL of it, including this blog, that I literally think about it every day.

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE blogging. It is clearly the most entertaining and educational thing I do online, but I also realize the world is out there, spinning, and it doesn’t care about ANY of this. I’m just a speck in cyberspace, something I’m happy to be because I know the important s*** is here on Earth, right in front of me, waiting to be explored. I know I’m a pain in the ass, but those of you who know this site figured that out a long time ago.

The New “Smogranch” Bag

Feast your eyes on the prototype of the new “Smogranch” bag.

Handmade, hand-sewn in the wilds of Northern New Mexico. One bag, one photographer at a time. The leather comes from a tannery in Italy and is cured without acid. This leather has personality. Every time I look at this bag it looks different. Designed to be light, soft and simple. Take everything out and this bag rolls up tight or crushes down. It’s thin, simple and designed to hold ONLY the essentials. Slots on the inside and outside hold journal and iPad. Inside main pocket handles M rangefinder, audio recorder, sunglasses, wallet, small portfolio. Outside pockets hold film, pens, cards, music, etc. As you can see by the photos below, my “Smogranch” bag comes with a journal companion as well as a handmade internal “pouch” because I have so damn many loose ends. At home at work or at play, this bag will take you places you’ve never been and will do so in style. Not for the timid. Not for the weak. Boy bands, political pundits and safety freaks need not apply. This prototype was talked out, designed, cut, sewn and eventually born via the fingers of a true master as the moon shown full and the landscape did battle with the elements.

There are many slight changes in the works for this bag. A little more here, a little less there. Like anything organic, I must live with it, learn it and deliver it to the master once again.

Moments after sliding it over my shoulder for the first time the world took on new flavor. And faintly, in the distance, I could hear coyotes yipping and cackling just outside the light from the fire.

Test Film

Okay people, a lot of new on the way here at Smogranch. Heck, a lot of new in my “e” life, but more on that later. I just learned how to make films with Photobooth, something you all probably knew how to do ten years ago. I’m pacing myself. So get ready for more of these. The real ones I am envisioning will have actual substance, unlike this one.

The New Smogranch Leather Journal

Anyone who knows me knows I’m a journal keeper. I started taking notes, writing stories, back when I was in elementary school, but I really began in earnest when I got my first internship at the Arizona Republic newspaper in Phoenix. I had no money to buy books but I lived close to the public library, and during one fateful day I stumbled into a book titled “The Adventures and Misadventures of Peter Beard in Africa.” In short, it changed my life. I had been keeping a journal prior to this day but Beard showed me just how far a journal, or diary, could go. What I was doing, and what I’m doing now really doesn’t resemble Beard in any way. He makes art. I make notes, in both photo and word form. Beard’s books are incredible and beautiful, mine are informational, some might say boring.

Over the years I’ve used just about every type of book imaginable. I’ve used the super-cheap black and white journal books from the grocery store. I’ve used notepads, fancy, leather-bound books and one year I even used a single, HUGE, yearly planner which ended up becoming so large and so heavy I couldn’t actually carry it anywhere. But over the past few yeas I’ve settled on the Moleskine Cahier as my go-to book. It’s small, simple and fits in my shoulder bag.

The Cahier itself is a pretty basic book. Moleskine has a long legacy of famous users and they are readily available in a variety of local haunts. But the book itself was a little “normal” for me, which put me on the lookout for something to spice it up.

A few months ago I got a call from Arthur at Renaissance Art in New Mexico. We decided to meet in a local coffee shop, and when Arthur walked in he had the coolest shoulder bag I’ve ever seen. “You know what will happen if photographers see that?” I asked. “We all have a bag fetish that can’t be denied.” He calmly picked it up and turned it over with an expression that said, “What? “This little thing?” Inside his bag were more leather goodies, each cooler than the next. I salivated a huge pool of drool out on the table in front of me.

Toward the end of our meeting Arthur pulled out HIS Cahier notebook only his was covered in a beautiful leather cover. My eyes went shut and I began breathing in short, gasping heaves. For a brief moment I thought about mugging him in the parking lot.

So over the past few months I’ve been able to spend a bit more time at Renaissance Art and during this last visit I was able to have my own leather notebook covered, cut, trimmed, sewn and imprinted. The leather comes from Italy and is processed without the use of acids. This particular leather is thin, super soft and continues to change and weather the longer you use it.

After the cover was made and placed over the notebook I scurried around Arthur’s workshop looking for the right light to photograph it. “You should do a documentary on this book, make a picture of it every three months,” Arthur said. “Great idea but the first image will start with you.” I answered.

Over the past few days I’ve pulled this thing out at a variety of places and each time my fellow photographers begin their own drooling process. This is only the tip of the iceberg for me. I see many more leather objects in my future. Shoes, bags, covers, etc.

Experiencing the birth of my Smogranch cover turned out to be more than just time spent in the workshop. Not only an expert on all things leather, it turns out that Arthur is also an expert on tea. A short tea experience followed the leather experience and I was exposed to some of the best tea I’ve ever had. People, there are many parts of this experience I wish to share with you, beyond the fact I now have a nice leather cover for my journal. This beauty was made by hand, which for me is so important. In an age of instant everything, an age of mass-produced, sterile, cheap foreign goods, the idea of getting something made by hand is all-powerful. Whether it be a print made in the darkroom, a pair of shoes cobbled by hand or leather bag made to house your beloved M9, for me it makes a HUGE difference. This process is also about slowing down and enjoying the experience of the process. We could have had tea in the parking lot, banged down some cheap leaves, but we didn’t. We took our time, used no less than four different tea cups and Arthur even added in some flute while he was explaining the tea and the reasons behind why it is prepared the way it is. I guess it boils down to intent, to purpose and to meaning.

Okay, and for those of you looking for the bag…….next to my boots.