National Geographic

Master Storytelling: Icebound, by Richard and Christine Olsenius

Geoff Pope; Photo by Richard Olsenius

Geoff Pope; Photo by Richard Olsenius

I’m fortunate to call Richard Olsenius a dear friend, for he is both a wonderful human being, and one of the most profoundly talented and accomplished storytellers in America. A former World Press Photo winner, National Geographic photographer and editor, filmmaker, composer and musician, he sees, hears and feels the world with open and empathetic eyes and ears. He is a minstrel of both image, word and note, producing myriad visions, endless poems and countless scores, but even the most accomplished essayist has an epic.

The tale of the Sheila Yeates is Richard’s, and it is riveting.

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Published at National Geographic: Vince Connolly, Pleasanton Rodeo

Vince Connelly, Pleasanton Rodeo

Vince Connelly, Pleasanton Rodeo

Last night was a good night: Chris Combs and the editorial staff at National Geographic’s Your Shot chose my image Vince Connolly, Pleasanton Rodeo for the story “The Night.” See the story here at National Geographic.

Are my feet still on the ground? Yup. After all, as Patrick DeMarchelier always says, “You’re only as good as your last photograph.”

Keep shooting.

Sam Abell Makes Time (Literally!)


Sam Abell’s photographs are featured at Time magazine.

One of the great honors of my life is that I have been fortunate enough to have Sam Abell as a close friend and mentor. A veteran of 40 stunning years of making photographs, including for National Geographic, Sam recently published the first volume in The Sam Abell Library, a four volume set detailing his life’s work. After such an illustrious career, one would think little honors were left–but not so. Time magazine has just published a full feature on the first volume of the library, including 25 photographs from the first volume. You can see the feature here.

Sergio, Lusker Ranch

Sergio, Lusker Ranch

Sergio, Lusker Ranch

Sergio is a character cowboy: funny, mischievous and genuine. During a brief respite at the Lusker Ranch branding in May, he said, “You know, I was a National Geographic centerfold.”

Intrigued, I asked for more details; Sergio was featured in 1993 as part of the story “Wide Open Wyoming,” photographed by Richard Olsenius. Sergio was carrying a mailbox across a road, and found it funny that such a picture emerged from his experience with the magazine.

“The photographer spent five or six days with us, and I end up in the magazine carrying a mailbox. Funny, eh?”

I imagine Olsenius found Sergio as photographically intoxicating as I did, and much of the branding, I made images of him. He’s not a Nebraskan, so he won’t feature in the Plainsky project, but he certainly will find a place in others. I chose to publish this one first as a character introduction to such a fascinating subject.

PlainSky, Nebraskans: Cowboy and Daughter, Chadron

Cowboy and Daughter, Chadron

Cowboy and Daughter, Chadron

I once heard National Geographic photographer Sam Abell say, during a presentation, that many people thought the way he created his stunning photographs was by booking a very comfortable hotel room, having a nice breakfast, and simply looking out the window one day to capture the photo. The audience laughed. I laughed. “Couldn’t ever happen that way,” I said to myself.

Then, in Chadron on March 21, it did.

Walking out of my hotel room at 12:30 p.m., I saw this cowboy and his daughter eating lunch in the courtyard, so very displaced from the stereotypical environment we expect to find such people. The arches, the sea of stucco, cement and sterility all struck me as a classic statement of “modern Nebraska history,” as a very good friend of mine called it. This scene was then complimented by the ready-made frame of the window, and my photo was prepared for me.

Right out my door after I had a nice lunch.

PlainSky, Nebraskans: National Geographics and Television in School Lunch Room, Seneca

National Geographic Magazines and Television, Seneca

National Geographic Magazines and Television, Seneca

District Six died more than 15 years ago.

It sits at the top of the southern ridge in Seneca, its Nebraska sky blue north wall peeling paint, its doors ajar, its roof rotted and open to the sky in many places. At the corner of the cafeteria one afternoon, I found these National Geographic magazines and old television, the gold border of the magazines a stark contrast to the brown, sienna and green of decay that dominates the rest of the room.

It is a stark reminder of the future of many small western Nebraska schools, as they face diminishing class sizes, reduced funding, and dying communities.