Often, travelers in the Sand Hills have only the land and trains to keep them company as they drive the long expanse of Highway 2 from Alliance to Broken Bow. As I passed Mullen, Nebraska, I found comfort in a Burlington Northern coal train’s partnership with my journey for a few moments, and I made this image to remind me of that shared trip.
The Montrose Catholic Church has no heat and no plumbing, but it is a focal gathering point for many of the ranch families in the back country of Sioux County. Time passes slowly here, and the long exposure of this image shows how the lonely structure and tiny cemetery have been silent observers to the myriad changes in the attending and adapting ranching families of the area for over 140 years.
The Sioux County Courthouse serves fewer than 1,400 people in a county of almost 2,100 square miles. On a January afternoon in the building, Morris, a World War II veteran, was part of a group of residents who gathered to have their portraits taken by my Images of West Nebraska students. As he lolled about the foyer, waiting for his next session, I caught him as part of what I believe to be the most complicated, well-constructed image I’ve ever shot.
I think of this photograph as my own M. C. Escher. The stained glass window at the top of the image is a reflection of the window behind me; the diagonal lines, reflections, vanishing points and myriad lighting colors all combine to make a simple image that has a surreal quality. Those are almost always the most complicated, and my friend Sam Abell gave this shot a nice compliment: “That’s terrific.”
I often find the beauty of a location is in the details, and for many newcomers to the Sand Hills of Nebraska, that can be hard to see; after all, other than the Nebraska National Forest at Halsey, there are few, or often no, trees. Makings images here is about opening one’s eyes, and at sunset during winter, the light on this stand of grass caught mine.
Regardless of the time of year, Yellowstone makes for great images. Every time I’m in the park, I find new places, new opportunities, and new vision, and during a summer storm, I did the best thing a photographer can do: turned my back on that which everyone else was staring. Instead, as the tiny trickle of hot water left the hot pool for the cold waters of Yellowstone lake, it created a new barrage of colors; blue, green, brown, orange melded together in a textural composition of rock, cloud and water.
The Wave Pizza Company sits on Walnut Street, right next to an unlikely neighbor: The Farmer’s Daughter Cafe. Between The Wave and Farmer’s Daughter, the clientele couldn’t be more different; piercings and ‘tudes for the staff at The Wave, gingham and love for those at The Farmer’s Daughter. Both sit at the far southeast corner of the area for my PlainSky, Nebraskans project, which is personally limited to the area north of Interstate 80, and west of Highway 281. Though Grand Island is just slightly east of 281, it is an important tool for contrast, since it is urban, diverse and growing; in opposition, Harrison, at the far northwest corner, is rural, homogeneous, and dying.
Near sunset in January, I found a small field of nightshades atop a mesa in northern New Mexico. As the sun set, the warm winter light filtered through the husks of the fruit, creating an infinite family of small, textured natural lanterns, and I made this image.
Many, many photographers love electrical storms: drama, fear, contrast and movement are all possible in spades when storms arise. This thunderstorm passed south of Hastings College this last June, and I rushed to use the lines and lights of the college’s Gray Center, as well as the leaves of a nearby tree (I know, tree in a thunderstorm? Smart.) to create layers and depth.
I found this tree at the base of a mesa near Los Alamos; the winter light bouncing from the red stone onto the tree kept me fixated on the melding of the complementary colors and lines into this image.
I’ve been visiting The Cascades since I was a small boy, so my photographic fascination with them is a lifetime marriage; they change each year as the snow melt moves huge boulders, reshapes eddies and reroutes the creek. This lichen-covered stone was there last summer, but I expect it’s not one I’ll see again.
I used a long exposure with a neutral density filter to capture the movement of the creek, as well as the red evening light bouncing off the enclosing canyon walls.