May 31, 2017 – San Rafael Valley

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To end the month of ‘places’ I figured I’d share a picture that doesn’t really require many words. Sunrise in the San Rafael Valley, in southern Arizona along the border, is some of the most beautiful countryside I’ve ever set eyes on, traveled through, camped in. There’s no other place in the world like this little pocket of heaven; it’s high desert, remote, dangerous, and hot, but it’s also unique, majestic, and largely untouched by man.

It’s the picture of heaven – at least, if you were to ask me.
Farewell, May. Let’s see what June has in store…

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May 28, 2017 – The Lone Tree

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This is a variant of a photograph published on this blog in 2016, but I came across it recently and wanted to take a second run in post-production; there were some color aberrations and soft-focus issues I thought I could improve upon. This was taken in January of last year while I was driving around south of Kansas City. As a general rule, photographers are trained not to photograph into the sun, but there are definitely times when it makes sense to break the rules. Getting this lovely silhouette of a single tree with a mercurial cloud-scape behind it took several tries before getting it right, but I am incredibly pleased with the final result.

Living in the southwest, people always ask me what Kansas was like – or, more accurately, they assume that Kansas is as bland as it’s Wizard of Oz depiction. Living in a valley surrounded by four great mountain ranges here in Tucson, the assumption is that Kansas is flat and boring, which isn’t entirely an inaccurate assessment – the plains states possess an incredibly subtle beauty and you have to have the right eyes to appreciate it.

I’m hoping today’s image is an expression of that beauty that folks can appreciate, regardless of where they hang their hat and what state they call home.

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May 23, 2017 – Whitewater Draw

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Whitewater Draw, originally Rio de Agua Prieta – “the river of dark water” – is a tributary stream of the Rio de Agua Prieta in Cochise County, Arizona. Famously, this is the wetlands where the sandhill cranes migrate to during the winter months. In the shadows of the Chiricahua Mountains in the Coronado National Forest, this remote destination is about a forty-five minute drive from Bisbee, Arizona, the old mining town I once called home.

I used to go out here to photograph the birds and capture these colorful sunsets. One of the great benefits from living in a small town like Bisbee is the lack of traffic and the abundance of unspoiled land like this.

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May 20, 2017 – Western Kansas

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You don’t realize how wonderful it is until it’s gone – isn’t that how the saying goes?

An eighteen-year-old version of myself couldn’t wait to get out of Kansas, to leave the plains behind and start a new life someplace different. I think that comes pretty natural to a lot of folks, but I really couldn’t wait to get away – to dive into new experiences and embrace the discomfort.

That was half a lifetime ago. I’m a man in his mid-thirties now, and the world looks a lot different than it once did. Adventure seems easier and life seems less complicated somehow, even though a lot of the idealism and hope and optimism has been tempered by various broken relationships, job losses, and debts. The upswing is that I have never put down the camera; if anything, the camera continues to fuel my optimism, my love of small experiences, my appreciation of the little details.

Life isn’t perfect, that’s for sure. But how could we ever deny the beauty of a long, slow-burning sunset?

Once upon a time, I wanted to escape the Midwest. Now I enjoy it, more and more, every single time I return. This is a photograph I made driving through the most remote areas of Western Kansas. Completely flat, nothing but farms, unincorporated towns, and a dreadful lack of gas stations. But there is beauty here, that much is certain.

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March 19, 2017 – Tumamoc Hill

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And for just a little break from my Mexico pictures, we’re back in Tucson for today’s photograph.

I moved to Tucson in 2001 to attend the University of Arizona College of Fine Arts and to work at The Center For Creative Photography. In that time, I stayed in cabins on Mount Lemmon in Summerhaven, hiked trails in Sabino Canyon, and I’ve ridden my bicycle up and down just about every road in town. I’ve camped in the pine forests on Mount Bigelow, and trundled along countless canyons in the foothills. In all that time, I have never actually walked the meager one or two miles up to the summit of Tumamoc Hill.

It took a special woman in my life suggesting that we drive out to the base and walk up the trail. I had no idea how popular this little walk is; the footpath was teeming with people of all ages and sizes, heading to the top around sunset.

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February 12, 2017 – Sunset From Sabino Canyon

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I went on a much-needed hike yesterday with the most amazing woman in my life; I probably wouldn’t have made it out of the house if it wasn’t for her kind motivation. It has been several months since I’ve had either the opportunity or (more importantly) the drive to strap my boots on, get out there, and scramble up the mountains. The weather was perfect – just warm enough after several “cold” desert weeks – and the trails were filled with people.

We didn’t hit the trials until the early afternoon and, just as luck would have it, dark clouds, thick atmosphere, and thunder greeted us near the summit of the Seven Falls hiking trail. The four-or-so miles into the canyon were flowing with water so deep that we quickly abandoned the notion of keeping our feet (or our pants) dry.

Walking back down to the car, as the sun was setting, our boots heavy with water and squishing with each step, we watched the electrical storm southwest over the horizon.

Just about any other woman I have ever known or dated would have made it through this hike without complaint. But the time we got home, we were a little sniffly, with itchy shriveled feet and aching muscles. But earlier, at the first sight of overflowing water on the trail, she was the one who insisted we keep going. And when we got home, she told me she was so happy that we had gone out.

That’s my kind of woman. The kind of woman that gives you a great deal to look forward to, and who appreciates the good things that are happening in the present, even when there are setbacks.

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January 19, 2017 – Waterfront

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I’ve often said that with certain types of photography all you have to do is let nature do the hard work. We have all the necessary technology to document the beautiful moments – all one has to do is open their eyes, recognize that the moment is occurring, and use their tools to document it. Sure, it’s a simplistic view, but it isn’t far from the truth. Most photographers are witnesses with useful tools. When we aren’t creating tableaux – constructing scenes with actors and makeup and wardrobe and artificial light – we are witnesses doing little else than capturing happenstance moments.

This was one of those moments. It’s a scene that hundreds of people walk by every single day, and I don’t doubt that many of them take pause, look across the water, and appreciate the view. I don’t doubt that this exact photograph has been made several times over. But this image is mine. It was a great day, walking down the streets of a strange town.

What I have noticed, as a photographer, is that my best moments, almost always, are experienced alone.

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