Near and Fargo: New Mexico 20140831

“I haven’t ridden since May,” my friend said.

“Good.” “I want you fat and slow,” I replied.

The goal was just twenty-five miles of hilly, New Mexican gold. My house, north of town, east of town and then back into the guts of the city. But this was my first ride with someone else in roughly a year. I knew we would ride fast, too fast, because neither of us knew the correct pace. I on the Fargo and he on his road bike. The route begins straight up. Within ten minutes neither of us can speak as we gasp for anything we can. “I can’t talk anymore,” I said. “Give me ten minutes.”

Cold to hot and the sun begins to show it’s face. Strong enough to tan my arms through sun sleeves. Lips chapped. Legs on fire, but the conversation, when possible, is fantastic. That’s one of the great things about this pursuit. Time in the field. Time to think. Time to talk. Time to wonder if coincidence is really that or something far more.
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Heading west from a small bridge. “Now we have a nice, long downhill,” I say lowering into the drops and crouching just over the top bar. The road is rough, vintage New Mexico, with dirt, glass, broken road shards and other debris. The bike is so stable and rolls supremely over everything in my path. Rounding at corner at high speed I nail a medium sized rock lying in deep shadow. It fires off the tire like a gunshot into the brush but the bars never tremble or move.

By mile ten my legs are good. Solid. Ready. A short stop for a bite and then back to finish the ride. Done.
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“Will you ride with me now?” my wife asks as I roll to a stop in front of the casita. “Sure.” “Why not.”

Bikes on the back of The Duck and off south of town where the road ends and the dirt begins. She is tentative, still learning, but the trail is perfect. I air down the Conti’s but she doesn’t want me to TOUCH her bike. A short, steep drop and the trail begins. Twenty-five miles of rolling singletrack. It’s beautiful. Truly beautiful as the wind from the east assures us a tail wind on the return trip. A few steep, sandy dips but otherwise packed to perfection with the wet summer.

This is my first real trail work on the Fargo, and I’m amazed at how solid it is, how smooth. Even with the new tires, and the sand, the ride is fantastic. My seat post and saddle making strange popping noises, but I pretend they are bird sounds and enjoy the ride.

Near and Fargo…….Ti

While I have yet to discover a cure for Lyme Disease I have found a wonderful distraction. This distraction happens to come with 29r tires, a titanium frame and disc brakes. The new beast has arrived. The 2014 Salsa Fargo Titanium, drop-bar, adventure touring bike. I know what you are thinking. “Milnor, you live in Newport, get real man, there is no adventure in Newport outside of bombing the stairs at South Coast Plaza or Fashion Island.” You are nearly correct, but just as this bike is a distraction from the battle with Lyme it is also a permission slip to dream about the future.

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The idea is a long tour. Originally, my idea was just across the United States, Washington to Maine on the Northern Tier Route, and I might do this, but I’ve also got ideas for a longer, more exacting route that I don’t want to divulge here, at least at the moment. It’s a secret and it involves doing my photography thing as I go. I got on my bike today and my wife asked,“You ready to go?” I said “Mentally, I’m already gone.” The reality is a tour like this is not in the cards for me at the moment simply because I love my job and I do not have the time required to even begin to think about something like this. But think I do. Almost every single day.

So, to satisfy my curiosity, when time and location allows, I will be taking short trips, three to five days if I can time vacation or holidays with being in the right location. So far I have made four short excursions on this new bike. All four were what I would describe as Newport excursions. Now for those of you who routinely ride across the Yukon or places like Mongolia, don’t go thinking Newport is a breeze. No. Sorry. Newport is as dangerous as any location on Earth.

Newport excursions include things like dodging financial dudes in 4×4 Rovers with front axle breathers who have never seen the dirt but have no issue driving like they are in the Paris Dakar. We also have soccer moms in black Escalades with 22-inch, black spinners who have the innate ability to navigate a car full of kids doing 60mph in a 30mph while simultaneously TEXTING and drinking a $13 cafe latte half cafe decaf with acai. And not to be outdone by other generic urban centers, EVERYONE on EVERY TRAIL, at ANY time of the day is on their phone, walking serpentine like a drunken felon on weekend furlough. I once saw a puddle of blood, one shoe and a broken cell phone on the trail. Like Ron Burgundy says, “You gotta keep your head on a swivel when you find yourself in the middle of a cockfight.” I couldn’t agree more. Newport might not the Divide Trail, but I’ll take a grizzly over a high school girl on Instagram ANY day of the week.

A few observations.
I had always heard about the ride quality of titanium. Oh, I forgot to mention. Anyone who still thinks this is going to be a photography post can sign off now. Titanium is like…like…well, like your Grandma’s 1982 Le Sabre. It’s smooth. Combine this with a carbon fork and a Thudbuster seat post and you have a ride that equals my full suspension mountain bike, at least over dirt track, fire road, etc. When it comes to single track or insanely rough places the full suspension bike is the king, but for everything else I was amazed at how smooth the Fargo is. Also, the bike is, by far, the most comfortable bike I’ve ever had. I’m riding a large, which I initially thought was too large, but it’s actually perfect. The drop bars combined with the sloping top tube, mountain bike style frame is the perfect merger of siblings who never knew they were related. They are, and they play nicely together. My first time with SRAM shifters which took about 1.75 minutes to adjust to. All frame bags are made by this Canadian character, otherwise known as Porcelain Rocket. I have since added a handlebar bag as well as bottle mounts on the front forks and down tube.

There is an upside of Lyme Disease. Lyme made me rethink a few things. The reality of a medical world mostly unconcerned with the disease. My overall health, and oh ya, EVERY SINGLE THING I DO ALL DAY LONG. Lyme has given me a perspective about life. Funny how disease does that. Makes you realize there is lip service about life and then there is the actual marrow. Whatever it is you feel you MUST do in life, must be done. One way or another.

This bike for me is a reminder. A reminder that when I wake to the sound of birdsong, something I do each and every morning here in California, I need to stop and enjoy those sounds. When I take that first sip of coffee, the real black fluid that powers our culture, I should stop and enjoy it. Appreciate it. Someday this bike will aim in an unknown direction and take me to places I never thought I would every be. Until then this bike serves as my reminder there is light at the end of the tunnel. There are corners in the road I can’t yet see beyond.

Get on your bike and ride.

Countdown to Peru 2013: iPhone Three

BACK BY POPULAR DEMAND…MORE PHONE PHOTOGRAPHS. OKAY NOT REALLY.

Since my last post about the upcoming Peru trip I am holding fast to my goal of black and white only during the 2013 trip. However, something else just creeped into my mind………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Okay, by now you should be getting a good feel for just how INSANELY good these Peru trips are. These are simply phone images, but they will describe to you the route and trajectory of our time together. And when I say, “simply phone images,” as I’ve stated before, I don’t mean that in a negative sense. Remember, if the phone is what you carry then just commit to that. You could create something pretty darn cool and wouldn’t even need to complain about a sore back, tired shoulders or pinched nerve. Power on.

It’s odd, when these trips happen I get wrapped up in the logistics, the conversations and I forget what all we did.

You can’t imagine what it does to me to see these images. The pull of places like Machu Picchu and the Amazon are so overwhelming it’s hard to deal with. Heck, South America in general is so stamped on my brain I’m ruined forever.

Last time I checked we had a few seats left for the 2013 voyage.




Countdown to Peru 2013: iPhone Two

Round two of Peru iPhone snaps. What I think is important is the range of moment and location. Imagine having the time to work these scenes, these places, etc. Slowly, building the days and weeks, image by image, moment by moment. I’m sitting here foaming at the mouth in anticipation. If I could leave right now I would.

In 2013 I’m going all black and white, all 35mm. No color on this trip.(This is what I’m saying right now, today, but tomorrow I might tell you something different.) Going to just streamline even more and focus on making the best black and white snaps I can. Oddly enough, what is making me okay with this is the fact that I am contemplating a portrait lens for 35mm, meaning something in the 85mm range. I haven’t had a longer lens like this in several decades, but I’m thinking about getting one now. I don’t want to continue to work in both color square and black and white 35mm. It’s just too much and what I end up with is too easy, to predictable and too fractured. I’ve written about this in the past but color square is a VERY easy way of working because everything looks great. The great medium format falloff, the ease of the lack of composition using the square, etc. Working with the square is a crutch, unless in my opinion, you just entirely devote yourself to that format, which oddly enough in the age of digital has really seen a resurgence. When you work with the square it FEELS good because again you know you can snap a garbage can at 2.8 an it will look great(I actually did this last year in Peru). Black and white 35mm isn’t exotic and it sure as Hell isn’t easy. It takes far more time, more effort and more concentration. It is also, at least in my experience, a far lower success rate. It’s a very difficult decision to do this, believe me. We are surrounded by an industry that screams DON’T DO THIS. I just looked through a catalog from an art-photography fair and there was exactly ONE black and white reportage image. It’s not like there is a huge demand for it.

The industry screams shoot digital so you don’t have to travel with film. Shoot digital so you can have an endless amount of imagery. Shoot digital so you can have color and black and white on every image. Shoot digital so you can see those images at night in the hotel. Shoot digital so you can share your moments with the world as you go.
These are all valid points depending on who you are and what your goals are. The vast majority of my workshop students will be, and are, digital, but for me I like chipping away with a visual chisel. I would not, and am not, suggesting everyone do this. Just me talking here. But let’s move on.

I will no longer have an iPhone. I switched to a Samsung phone, which I feel has advantages over the iPhone, but again this is me talking. There are a bevy of reasons why I like the Samsung/Google pairing more than the iPhone world, but again, this is like debating Nikon vs Canon. Use what you like.

The images here were all iPhone from last year, and as you know if you follow this blog, I’ve done one post already about this work and have another on the list after this. Nothing wrong with these images, but when I studied what they REALLY were, I realized they were simply not good photographs. These images were about software more than photography, moments, light, timing, etc. When you strip away the Snapseed filters you are left with images that simply aren’t great. I feel this way about many of cellphone images I see, but I actually don’t think that is entirely bad, and I also feel this same about the vast majority of photographs I see for that matter. I think these mobile-images, for most people. serve a certain purpose. I think at this point when I see a project being sold as a “cellphone project” I just wonder why we still need to highlight that? Maybe I’m missing something but didn’t Robert Clark do a cellphone book back in the 1990’s? Once I saw that project I was under the impression the genie was out of the bottle, but again, I’m probably missing something. They are what they are. I think we should simply judge them like the rest of photography. Are they good photographs or not?


However, this isn’t why I’m NOT using a phone while I work. I’m not using the phone to make pictures, any phone, while I WORK because I can’t do two things at once. I surely can’t do three, which is what I was doing last year in Peru. Actually, I was trying to do four. I was shooting color square, black and white 35mm, recording audio and using my phone. People, this just doesn’t work. Did I get some decent images? Yes. Did I make anything cohesive? No. Now, to muy credit, I’m teaching, which is priority one, but I wasn’t making it easy on myself, that is for sure. I’m left with the question, “What would I have made had I only done ONE thing?”



I want to make something VERY clear. If you are using, or want to use your phone to make images, than by all means DO IT. I know several people who have fully committed to this device and are making interesting images and then fully utilizing the real-time delivery methods the platform was designed for. My ONLY suggestion is that if you are going to do it then commit to it and don’t do what I did. Don’t multitask because it really doesn’t work, not for you, or me, or anyone else. The bottom line is that the mobile phone has contributed HUGE amounts to the visual literacy of the world, and it will continue to do so. And, the options for how you use it, print it, showcase it etc, will only get better. I just know I have to pick my visual battles, WHEN I’M WORKING, and when I say “working” I mean those rare occasions when I’m in the field with the singular desire to make the best images I possibly can.

I guess what all of this boils down to is decision making. I’ve had enough time, both in the field and away, that I know now what I need to do. I know I have decisions I HAVE to make that will dramatically impact the archive I’ll have when my bones turn to dust. For me, in many ways, it’s not about the NOW. But again, to each his or her own. I think it is really interesting to have a workshop class where there is a range of angles working in the background, someone on a laptop, someone building a fire to heat chemistry and someone scouring the Lima streets for flash powder. Come July it’s game on.

Dean Potter

Photography isn’t enough for me anymore.

It pains me to say this but it’s entirely true. In the past, when I was younger, I lived and breathed photography. I still do to some degree, but after “retiring” from professional photography I have been afforded the opportunity to look around a bit more. Literature, art, travel, spirituality, philosophy and a range of other things have suddenly landed in my lap, forcing me to aim critical thought in these directions. Don’t worry, I’m no yogi, so my thoughts are never in one place for a long time, which is why I wanted to share this film, and this guy, with you. I’ve never met Dean Potter, but I’d heard about him for years. In the climbing, base jumping, slack line worlds, Dean Potter is a legend(not without controversy.) This film is the first of a five part series, so feel free to watch all five to round out the coverage if you will. I also think this post is a bit of foreshadowing for the types of things I’m hoping to post more about in the future. Yes, photography will remain the backbone of my site, but I want to branch out a bit more.

Potter, as you will see, is different. He does things that most of us would never even dream of. Watching this film my hands began to sweat and after a few more minutes my FEET began to sweat. I literally had to take my shoes off.

I’m not sharing this film because I want to go out and do what Dean Potter does, nor do I think most of you have any desire to do these things either, but I think we can all learn something from him. What I took from Dean and this film was the idea of mindfulness and meditation. I know ZERO about meditation, so my questions were along these lines.

  1. why does he meditate?
  2. what does meditate mean exactly?
  3. how does it help him?
  4. how could it help me and my photography?

Several weeks ago, while I was shooting a wedding in The Turks and Caicos Islands, I was on a boat with a local guy who was telling us about a woman who set the world freediving record on the Caicos Reef. “She does a special meditation where she is able to slow down her heart rate to thirty something beats per minute,” the guy said. He kept talking but my mind was frozen. “Wait, what do you mean slow down your heart rate to thirty beats a minute,” I thought to myself. I’ve been intrigued since, so this Dean Potter film was a second reminder of something I need to explore. I don’t know about you, but whatever meditation is I feel like I’m a million miles away, and for some reason I don’t want to be that far away anymore. I’m ready to learn.

What Potter does in this video is mind blowing to say the least. His life is literally on the line. Yes, his endeavors are being filmed, but he is basically alone or with a few very close friends, so I don’t see this as a stunt of any kind, far from it actually. It seems that there is something inside of him that drives him to do these things, and this is a feeling I’m very familiar with. I can’t tell you how many times other photographers, friends or my family have asked, “Why are you doing all these things and then never doing anything with the work, or showing anyone the work?” Obviously, I’m not walking a slack line 3000 feet off the ground, but I THINK the drive is the same. I don’t really feel like I have a choice. I HAVE to do these things.

A few weeks ago I was talking with a friend who was on vacation. He was poolside somewhere, reading, hanging out and when I thought about what he was doing it felt completely foreign. My friend has a “normal’ job, does really well, works hard, but when he walks away at night he is AWAY. When he leaves, takes trips, goes on vacations, etc, he is GONE. He isn’t producing anything while away, looking for anything or having to work in any way, which is the opposite of how I’ve spent my entire life.

I think what being away from photography has allowed me to do is step away and then turn to look back on my life, seeing how the “piece” of photography fits into the larger puzzle.
I have to tell you, it feels grand. And now I’m turning to the idea of the mind and what that can do for me, my photography and the other essential parts of my life. I think a lot of us dabble in these mental areas, but few really take it beyond. I’m looking to take it beyond. Can I do it? I don’t know. I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.

Photographers have spoken about mindfulness for decades, but I want to see for myself. We know what zen did for motorcycle maintenance. Perhaps I can find my mind and reduce my photographic heartbeat just a little bit.