West Nebraska

I’ve been gone a while, but the light has returned. Literally.

Greenhouse, Tryon

Greenhouse, Tryon

Yep, I have been gone a while. Such is the life of a nearly-done PhD student who is working overtime and has a family. But the darkness is gone, and though I feel very withered from a tough, tough semester, I can now return to photographing—after all, that’s what I do.

So I began looking for images to warm my skills again after a 4-month hiatus, and to rekindle my visual emotions. And behind a school in a far-flung county in the Nebraska Sandhills, I found a greenhouse that reminded me how much I love the light.

Breakaway Roper, Arthur Rodeo

Breakaway Roper

Breakaway Roper

I learned long ago the Great Plains is populated by closet feminists, for here women are just as capable (and welcome) riders and ropers as men. Just watch a few breakaway calf roping performances, and you’ll understand that in the wide spaces before the Rocky Mountains, women need not pull any punches. Tough as nails and happy to prove it.

Bravo.

Branches, Thomas County

Branches, Thomas County

Branches, Thomas County

On a cold November day, the humanity and chaos of these branches called to me as the last light of evening faded. Loneliness took me as I watched them, and as is typical for me, an image soon followed.

 

Rodeo Roper Family, Arthur

Rodeo Roper, Arthur

Rodeo Roper, Arthur

A storm rolling in on the horizon, a rodeo roper, his wife, his dog and his portable steer offered a compelling chance for an image with insights into the summer rodeo life in the Nebraska Sandhills.

Diversity

Diversity

Diversity

One of my dearest friends announced his retirement today, and I’m devastated. Heartbroken.

The moment has left me pondering the temporary nature of our perceived permanence; in other words, our propensity to assume, incorrectly, the relative order of our lives. And yet all is entropy in the end.

It made me think of this image, one I made this summer in response to the timeless, yet disparate nature of the scene at hand.

School Bus, Grant

School Bus, Grant

School Bus, Grant

My dear friend and former assistant Liz McCue and I were at an antique-car auction on Saturday morning, and as I told Liz, I went into the event looking for more images that illustrated my ideas about the chaff and decay of humanity’s past as viewed through the present.

Rodeo Cowboys, Arthur

Rodeo Cowboys, Arthur

Rodeo Cowboys, Arthur

Rodeo stops for nothing. Nothing.

A massive storm rolled through the skies over Arthur, Nebraska, for the Saturday performance at the rodeo, complete with massive wind, torrential rains, and…lightning. Big bolts of lightning. But no one moved, especially the cowboys.

And so the festivities continued, and so did I, photographing–and I was rewarded with the storm and sunset and visual drama and…this image.

Returning to the Land of the Living

Cowboys at Anthem, Stapleton

Cowboys at Anthem, Stapleton

I’ve always liked the last line of Tolkein’s The Return of the King: “Well, I’m back.” And so I am, after digging out the studio from a mound of baby clothes and papers after a nearly four-week absence. I had a wonderful group of students at the Santa Fe Photographic Workshop, and I learned more from them than I’m sure they learned from me (which is how it usually works). Since I’ve been back from New Mexico and Colorado, I’ve been on a fair number of shoots as I try to develop the details of my upcoming Nebraska Arts Council exhibition in 2015, but the call of rural rodeos is strong.

Longhorns, Glen

Longhorns, Glen

Longhorns, Glen

I’ve been working in earnest on my new series, Recollections, an exploration of memory as it interacts with legend and tradition. This piece, “Longhorns, Glen,” is an example of how I’ve been visualizing the ways in which that theme can be expressed through symbols of the West.