sunset

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.

Mesa Arch, Canyonlands

Mesa Arch, Canyonlands

Mesa Arch, Canyonlands

Mesa Arch sits 1,200 feet above the Utah desert, the Lasal Mountains in the distance. In winter–the best time to shoot there, in my opinion–those peaks sit snow-covered and veiled in evening lavender colors as the sun sets in the distance. On this evening, clouds on the horizon lit the sky even after sunset, illuminating the arch and the vast layers in the distance in broad crimson and purple brush strokes. It was one of the most magical moments I have experienced in the outdoors, and making a strong image was icing on the cake.

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.

The PlainSky, Nebraskans Show: The Complete Works No. 12

Death on the Plains: Plainsky Nebraskans No. 12

Death on the Plains: Plainsky Nebraskans No. 12, 24″ x 16″ on Red River Arctic Polar Luster Paper

My daughter and I found this cow’s skeleton at evening, glaring white in the light of the setting sun. Sheltered in a draw with the last clouds of a passing storm front as a backdrop, I had only two minutes to compose, evaluate and create the image, and I left feeling as though Ansel Adams’ ghost had been sitting on my shoulder helping the process.

The PlainSky, Nebraskans Show: The Complete Works No. 4

Bales and Storm: PlainSky, Nebraskans No. 4

Bales and Storm: PlainSky, Nebraskans No. 4

As I continue publishing the finished pieces from the upcoming PlainSky, Nebraskans show opening on March 1, it’s important to note how long this series has taken to create: four years. Because if one takes time to look, there is beautiful symmetry in our daily lives, and in Nebraska, it is punctuated by our weather, sky, and long horizon.

PlainSky, Nebraskans Bales and Storm: Color or Black and White?

I’ll be honest. I’m shocked about the response to Bales and Storm: The photograph had laid ignored in a folder, and I skipped over it several times, saying, “Meh, it’s nothing anyone will find interesting.” Clearly, I should be “taken out back of the barn and shot.”

Yesterday, after raving about how much she liked the Bales and Storm black and white image, someone talked with me about whether or not I had the image in color; I said no, since my landscapes in the PlainSky, Nebraskans project have been exclusively black and white images. But, in the interest of discussion, I prepped a color version, and am posting the two images here for comparison. Tell me what you think.

Bales and Storm (Color)

Bales and Storm (Color)

Bales and Storm (Black and White)

Bales and Storm (Black and White)

PlainSky, Nebraskans: Tribute to Hernandez, Harrison

Tribute to Hernandez, Harrison

Tribute to Hernandez, Harrison

Like many photographers in the past 80 years, I defined my early career in landscapes through the imitation of Ansel Adams; though unoriginal, my photographs were informed and sculpted in their content by careful observation of Adams’ use of tone, surfaces and layers. Twenty years later, I still make careful use of Adams’ and Archers’ zone theories (though not as applicable for digital) when I compose, and some of Adams’ compositional techniques, albeit subconsciously.

Thus, on a winter day at sunset in Harrison, I walked south of town on the highway and found the same warm light glinting off the headstones of the Harrison cemetery, much the way that light did for Adams as he passed the town of Hernandez, New Mexico, so many years ago.

Thanks, Ansel.

Heceta Head Lighthouse, Yachats

Heceta Head Lighthouse, Yachats

Heceta Head Lighthouse, Yachats

I used to live on the Oregon coast, and amid the cacophony of photographic opportunities, I was often drawn to the lighthouses and their inherent visual romanticism. The Heceta Head lighthouse, with its precarious position reaching into the Pacific, was about 40 minutes north of my home, and I visited often, looking to express the essence of the place. One evening, as a westerly storm drew nearer on the horizon to the south, with its gale winds tearing at my tripod, I made this 30-second exposure of the lighthouse, the Pacific ocean smoothed into giant, glass-covered swells.