Billboard, San Luis Valley

Billboard, San Luis Valley

Billboard, San Luis Valley

What is the role of water in the West? That is beyond the scope of a simple blog post and image, and more the subject of innumerable books, articles and documentaries that still have failed to capture completely a vastly complex topic. But I’ve thought about water for a long time, and the Keystone XL Pipeline problem in Nebraska, as it tried to cross over one of the West’s great water reserves, spurred me to begin looking in earnest for images that expressed this conflict.

This is my favorite. It captures so many pieces of the conflict in interesting ways, and it’s an image of which I am very, very proud. Seemingly simple, it masks a complicated and faceted composition that took me more than 72 hours to create.

Deserted Homestead, San Luis Valley


Abandoned Homestead, San Luis Valley

Abandoned Homestead, San Luis Valley

I came upon this homestead as evening moved into night, the clouds of a passing storm moving off to the east. The loneliness of the stark-white walls against the deepening dark, the distant peaks, and the dry desert left the thoughts of humankind’s relationship with the dry places of the world on my mind for many miles.

Ranch and Storm, Park County

Ranch and Storm, Park County

Ranch and Storm, Park County

I have a habit of venturing out into the worst kinds of weather: blizzards, electrical storms, violent thunderstorms. Why? Bad weather makes good photographs. So as powerful thunderstorms charged with strong lightning moved east of our cabin in central Colorado, I jumped in the truck and sped toward them, hoping for strong evening light as a visual emphasis as the sun broke beneath the clouds.

I turned onto a muddy forest service road, threw the truck in 4H, turned my back to the sun, and composed my shot–and waited. And with the last gasp of daylight, the sunlight broke from the clouds and lit the ranch. Magic, I say. Magic.

Smoke on the Collegiate Peaks, Chaffee County

Smoke on the Collegiate Peaks, Chaffee County

Smoke on the Collegiate Peaks, Chaffee County

I’m in a town library with wi-fi for the moment (as opposed to the cell-phone-service-free location I’m usually in), so I thought I’d take time to post an image from my time in the field thus far. Two days ago, a prolific quantity of smoke blew into the area from the huge West Fork fire near Wolf Creek Pass and all but obscured the 14,000 foot surrounding peaks. But as the sun set, the smoke ignited in a terrifying but stunning show of nature’s color.

Retrospective: Chalk Creek Storm

Chalk Creek Storm

Chalk Creek Storm
July, 2005
7:15 p.m.

I have been known to brave lightning in the hopes of making a memorable image, and in July of 2005, as rains swept through central Colorado for more than a week, I braved on storm in the hopes that the sun in its evening light would illuminate the Collegiate Peaks west of the cabin. It did.

In looking back at this image, I smile as I notice how the tree fits neatly into the saddle of the foothills of Mount Antero, how the light breaks into beams only above the canyon, and how the scalene triangle of three boulders in the lower right corner of the image perfectly assumes the shape of the mountains and sunlight behind it.

Evening light, indeed.

Retrospective: Alley Belle’s Cabin, Colorado

Alley Belle Cabin, Romley

Alley Belle Cabin, Romley
July, 2006
7:20 a.m.

I’ve been coming to the Alley Belle mine for many years, and every time I do, I find new facets to photograph. In fact, many times the place frustrates me as I try to simplify the place into a meaningful image; this image is one successful attempt. A print of it hangs in our house, three feet wide, reminding us of an early July morning, surrounded by the ghosts of a time long past.

Retrospective: A Fall Project

St. Elmo General Store

St. Elmo General Store, September, 2001
5:45 a.m.

I regard this photo as one of my masterworks; it never loses its power for me. The selection and repetition of colors, repetition of shapes, use of parallel lines, metal textures, and the subtle message on the barber pole of “LOOK. FEEL.”

As I was driving home from class in Lincoln, Nebraska, last night at 11:30 p.m., I was thinking about the conversation that our Instructional Materials class had engaged just earlier: “What makes a good design? A good photograph? How do Zen principles enlighten a design or photograph?”

And I realized I had never taken the time to look back on more than twenty years of photography and say, which ones are strong? As my good friend Sam would say, which of these have a life?

So, considering the weight of doctoral work means I have no time to wander the West looking for photos this fall (which is painful, by the way; fall in the West is my very favorite time to shoot, as I feel a palpable energy in the cool breezes and chill mornings), I realize it’s an appropriate time to post images that have life for me.

Feel free to disagree with my choices, or comment freely. After all: If nothing else, art is discourse.

Happy viewing.

New Images Available on

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I’ve added two new (okay, “more,” not “new,” since I shot neither of these this year) images on Bluff and Storm-Sioux County, and Chalk Creek Storm. While Chalk Creek Storm is a standard 100-edition per size print, Bluff and Storm is a 35-edition panorama, the lowest number I’ve ever set for a print.