Off Topic Sunday: October 20


Yesterday I was asked to shoot one of the new choirs at Phoenix Children’s Chorus. This is an elite group of singers that are available for gigs in the valley. This is one of my favorites from the shoot.


I am going through a simplification moment in my life. Looking to do more with less, and not being enamored of every shiny object that comes along. Whether photography or design, I am taking a more simple approach and looking to let go of things that are un-needed or simply take too much time and attention. This post at Unclutterer caught my attention.

Using simple tools, when that’s all you need.

I used to be intrigued by all the fancy apps for creating and managing to-do lists, and those apps certainly make sense for some people. But at some point, I realized that for me,  a simple text file was sufficient, and going back to that basic tool made my life easier. Sometimes extra features are a distraction, not a benefit.”



The Italian Opera composer, Puccini could never have known that one of his arias would become a world favorite, and THE audition piece for every male opera singer to ever hit a “talent” TV show. The great tenor Pavaortti made the song a household tune in the late 90’s.

From Wiki:
” “Nessun dorma” achieved pop status after Luciano Pavarotti‘s 1972 recording of it was used as the theme song of BBC television’s coverage of the 1990 FIFA World Cup in Italy. It subsequently reached #2 on the UK Singles Chart Although Pavarotti rarely sang the role of Calaf on stage, Nessun dorma became his signature aria and, in turn, a sporting anthem in its own right, especially for football.[5]Pavarotti gave a rendition of “Nessun dorma” at his final performance, the finale of the Opening Ceremony of the 2006 Torino Winter Olympics, although it was later revealed that he had lip-synched the specially pre-recorded performance (at the time of his Winter Olympics appearance Pavarotti was physically incapable of performing as he was suffering from pancreatic cancer to which he succumbed the year following). His Decca recording of the aria was played at his funeral during the flypast by the Italian Air Force.[7] In 2013, the track was certified gold by the Federation of the Italian Music Industry.”

In 1998, Pavarotti was scheduled to sing at the Grammy’s, but at the last moment became quite ill. The show’s producers, knowing that Aretha Franklin was attending the show, asked her to sing in Pavarotti’s stead. She agreed, and this magical moment occured – live on TV.

While some Opera “aficionados” decried the performance because of the liberties Aretha took, many others welcomed this expression and personally approached rendition as something the classical world could certainly embrace.

I agree. Why not allow the performers to bring something new, their own spin to the songs we have allowed to go unchanged for decades. Jazz players do it. Pop music does it. Why not classical?

I am not suggesting adding a disco beat to the Verdi Requiem, I am happy with letting voices of renown add their color and personal attention to the performance. Perhaps one day we could look forward to hearing Sting in Pagliaci… yeah, that would be cool.


One of John Coltrane’s most celebrated masterpieces was “A Love Supreme”. (Wiki) It is one of the most highly regarded jazz albums of all time, and sold over 500,000 copies in Trane’s lifetime… and hundreds of thousands since then as well.

Here is the incredible Branford Marsalis doing “A Love Supreme” and doing it supremely well.


And this may be actually a bit on topic, but it is very nice little look at Photoshop’s Patch Tool.

Off Topic Sunday…

Off Topic Sunday…

Been reading a really interesting book this past couple of weeks… lots to digest. “The Power of Visual Storytelling” by Ekaterina Walter and Jessica Gioglio is about how visuals are beginning to dominate not only our news and information channels, but the ways people interact with each other on many other social platforms.

If you are a photographer/designer, this is very good reading for you.

Pick it up for Kindle or in paperback.

Another book I am really enjoying is “The Freaks Shall Inherit the Earth: Entrepreneurship for Weirdos, Misfits, and World Dominators” by Chris Brogan. If you are an entrepreneur in life or in spirit, this book is for you. I am most definitely all those things… and still working on the ‘world domination’ thing…

Also for Kindle and hardcover. I think you will really enjoy it.


Joe Sample passed this week. He was a pianist with a lot of charm, and I have many of his recordings. Funny how you can go back and listen to music made by people no longer with us. The power of technology that continues to surprise me.


Hey, did you know that Photoshop has a “Background Eraser”? Heh… this is pretty cool.




This from Graphic Design Blender:

Freelancing is a legitimate business model, which means you need to treat it like a business. Here’s a brief look at the various roles you need to fulfil in your day-to-day operations:

  • The CEO – the person who does the strategic thinking and calls all of the shots.
  • The Designer – the person who actually puts in the work and ships client projects.
  • The CFO – the person who manages all of the finances for the business.
  • The HR Manager – the person who manages all of the people you bring in to help grow your business.
  • The Administration Assistant – the person who takes care of all of the emails, bookings, file management to ensure things are in order.
  • The Marketing Manager – the person who actively markets your business to ensure you always have new leads coming in.

There are 6 main roles in total, and in case you haven’t picked up on it already, you are all of these roles. I don’t want to freak you out, but this is the reality.

How we handle all these different rolls of our business persona is all important for the freelancer.

Read this important article here.


OT Sunday: Eliot Carter, American Composer

OT Sunday: Eliot Carter, American Composer

Eliot Carter was my favorite contemporary composer. It was his first and second string quartets that opened my mind to the possibilities of linear melody/rhythm and the transformative nature of time. I discovered his music in my second year of music school and have listened to something of his every week since.

Eliot Carter passed last Monday, November 5, 2012. He was 103 years old.

From the New York Times:

Elliott Carter, the American composer whose kaleidoscopic, rigorously organized works established him as one of the most important and enduring voices in contemporary music, died on Monday in Manhattan. He was 103 and had continued to compose into his 11th decade, completing his last piece in August.

The String Quartets, of which there are five, are some of my earliest loves. The first time I heard String Quartet #1 was in the music building at Arizona State University. The room was quite cool, and the musicians were there to share their new repertoire, and some works that had been commissioned for them.

They decided to share the first movement of the first quartet, and I was simply blown away. I can only compare it to the first time I heard Coltrane… and my life changed forever.

Many of the other music students there were aghast… where was the ‘melody’, why was the music so jarring. For the life of me, I had no idea what they had heard… but it wasn’t what I had heard.

I have nearly every recording made of the quartets, including a couple of imports. I even have the scores to both the first and second quartet.

Photography and music are two drivers of who I am. The polytonality and rhythmic challenges of Carter’s pieces fed my brain its much needed challenges, and it led to other discoveries, both in my music and my photography.

Mr. Carter’s music is not easy to listen to at first, especially for those who are not aware of the 20th century musical progression. But it is a challenge worth taking, in my opinion. Although, the meters and extreme difficulty of the performance of many of his mid-period works led to lots of angst among those who decided to take up that challenge, those who did found themselves quite transformed.


String Quartet, First Movement

A Symphony for Three Orchestras

Variations for Orchestra

The Last Interview with Alisa Weilerstein


I performed his piece, Eight Pieces for Four Tympani, and it left me exhausted. And, exhilarated. The tempos ‘modulate’ through time as though it were a flexible substance rather than a temporal imperative. Damned difficult, and no, I could not play it today… heh.

Shifting meters, rhythm that was both polyphonic and amorphous, melodies that stretched over others with seemingly no relation… it was demanding stuff. And it made demands on the listeners that some were not willing to do. His music was not something most people would leave the theater humming to themselves.

Also from the NYT:

As Mr. Carter’s centenary neared, the frequency with which his music could be heard only increased, making it clear that for at least two generations of young performers, even his thorniest works held little terror. In the summer of 2008, for example, the entire Festival of Contemporary Music at the Tanglewood Music Center was devoted to Mr. Carter’s work, with performances of dozens of pieces from every stage of his career (including several premieres). Mr. Carter attended most of the concerts. There were many such tributes that year, and the attention unnerved him, he said.

“It’s a little bit frightening, because I’m not used to being appreciated,” he said in an onstage interview at Zankel Hall the night after a celebration with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. “So when I am, I think I’ve made a mistake.” 

From the Guardian:

Eventually Carter realised that all the accumulated baggage of his music – the neoclassicism, the madrigalian references, the Greek texts, the Americana – would have to go. In the Piano Sonata of 1945, written the year he moved with his wife into the brownstone apartment he would live in for the rest of his life, Carter retains the massive rhetoric of the American sublime. But the cyclic form, the startling use of piano resonances and rhythmic flexibility mark a huge step forward. The Cello Sonata of 1948 is another leap towards a really radical conception of form. The piece at the end seems to loop back to its opening, in a way that recalls Stéphane Mallarmé’s conception of a book that one can begin at any point. At the beginning, a strict metronomic “ticking” in the piano is combined with a rhapsodically unfolding line in the cello. Nothing quite like this joining of two radically opposed worlds moving at different speeds had been heard in music before.

But it was in the First String Quartet of 1951 that Carter’s new conception of independent musical layers, sometimes co-operating, sometimes clashing in purposeful disunity, came fully into focus. To achieve it, Carter cut himself off from his usual surroundings and moved to the Arizona desert for several months. What survives from his old manner is a heroic rhetoric of wide intervals, as if the American sublime has been sublimated and purged of anything local.”

This music, so utterly grounded in a complex, and for me, an almost visual experience, made my journey into music both a fascinating and joyful adventure, and a disquieting and elusively disconnected vision of what I wanted to do. Both with music and photography.

It is that air of conundrum that drives me today as well.

From the Boston Globe:

“In many ways, Carter was cut from the same cloth as the Founders. Crossing back and forth across the Atlantic with his father, a lace importer, Carter spoke French before he spoke English. At Harvard, he initially spurned music, opting instead for Greek and mathematics and philosophy. He recapitulated some of the background of the aristocrats who founded the United States: a classical education with a French flair. He was a modernist equipped with the intellectual tool kit of the Enlightenment.

He came to be a composer in deliberate fashion; he was well into his 30s before he wrote music he thought worth keeping. It would be another decade before he began to realize his own style. The decisive break came in his first two string quartets, dating from 1951 and 1959, where the four players become strikingly individual characters, with their own motives, articulations, and even tempi, an intricately managed clash of temperaments. Almost all of his subsequent music would similarly straddle the line Thomas Paine drew between society and government: “The one encourages intercourse, the other creates distinctions.” Carter’s goal was to give every instrument in the ensemble its own individuality within the piece’s entirety. ‘‘This seems to me a very dramatic thing in a democratic society,’’ he said. In honor of the American Bicentennial, Elliott Carter even split the orchestra asunder, composing “A Symphony for Three Orchestras,” a work that, indeed, divides that ensemble into three distinct and often disputatious groups. It might have been only a coincidence that the onetime revolutionaries who assembled for the Constitutional Convention in 1787 came up with a similar model for the federal government.”

From the Washington Post:

“Mr. Carter experimented most notably with meter, or rhythm, and challenged audiences to follow multiple instruments that played simultaneously to different beats.

“A piano accelerates to a flickering tremolo as a harpsichord slows to silence,” wrote composer and musicologist David Schiff, describing Mr. Carter’s music. “Second violin and viola, half of a quartet, sound cold, mechanical pulses, while first violin and cello, the remaining duo, play with intense expressive passion. Two, three or four orchestras superimpose clashing, unrelated sounds. A bass lyrically declaims classical Greek against a mezzo-soprano’s American patter.”

Mr. Carter said that his music presented society as he hoped it would be: “A lot of individuals dealing with each other, sensitive to each other, cooperating and yet not losing their own individuality.””

Yes… controlled cacophony. Distilled life sounds played out in a chamber or orchestral setting. Music to live by, think by… create by. Rhythms that seem disconnected from each other are found to have deep relationships after careful listening.

And this music is made for careful listening. It is not Mozart for background string melodies. Nor is it the driving, pulsating, deeply spiritual John Coltrane.

It is music for listening to as an action in itself, for involving ones self within each bar and linear melody. It is for “active” engagement, not background filler.

Perhaps that is what I found so totally and honestly engaging about Carter’s music. It demanded that you listen to it, not daydream or dance or plan the next vacation while it was on. LISTEN to each sound and melody and rhythm – and feel the complexity slide away to reveal simple, intimate truths.

Individuality of spirit is ensconced deeply into his works, and that wondrous spirit was a gift to us all.

If we take the time to listen for it.

I wondered how I would feel when I heard of his death. I know now.

I wish I didn’t.

From Alex Ross:

“The American master, seemingly inextinguishable, died this afternoon, at the age of 103. An entire world of culture dies with him — a landscape of memory that included Stravinsky, Nadia Boulanger, Ives, Gershwin, even Gustav Holst.”

OT Sunday: Hot Shots, Drums, Books and Jazz

OT Sunday: Hot Shots, Drums, Books and Jazz

Hey Hot Shot is a photo competition held by the Jen Bekman Gallery in New York. Featuring the work of up and coming photographers, the competition introduces new ways of seeing to an ever widening audience.

It is certainly one place to go on the internet to see work that may surprise. shock, confuse and delight you. From tranquil to bizarre, photographers working in the ‘fine art’ field deliver a wide variety of interest.

I love to visit on beautiful Sunday mornings like this one.

This Round of Hey Hot Shot features the winner Laura Plageman.

Photograph by Laura Plageman

Response to Print of Kudzu, Texas, Laura Plageman
We are thrilled to announce that Laura Plageman is our Grand Prize-winning photographer! Laura will receive $10,000, in addition to a solo exhibition at Jen Bekman Gallery and two years of representation from the gallery. She was selected from the 10 Hot Shots of 2011—Michael Cappabianca, Cristina De Middel, Robert Grimm, Phil Jung, Laurie Kang, Brendan George Ko, Kevin Kunishi, Meike Nixdorf, Laura Plageman and Uygur Yilmaz.

She was selected from the 10 Hot Shots of 2011—Michael CappabiancaCristina De MiddelRobert GrimmPhil JungLaurie Kang,Brendan George KoKevin KunishiMeike NixdorfLaura Plageman and Uygur Yilmaz.

Grab a cup-o-joe, or a diet Pepsi… heh, and spend some time with photographers who present a different look at the world than we may be used to.


OT Sunday: Travel, Freedom, Politics, and Donna Summer

OT Sunday: Travel, Freedom, Politics, and Donna Summer


I simply love to travel. I want to do it much more. I am adding to my travel portfolio by doing some traveling this year just for portfolio work.

On the agenda is: Vancouver and Western Canada, Toronto and Eastern Canada, Singapore, Malaysia, Cambodia, South Korea, Spain, Poland, and Italy. In-states travel includes a lifestyle shoot in Santa Barbara, and up the Big Sur coastline, CA Central Valley, Mono Lake, Bishop, and a trip across the hot deserts of Barstow and Kingman.

I follow Chris Guillebeau at his Art of Non-Conformity Blog, and simply admire his ability to travel and work from anywhere. I am working on a plan that may make this kind of lifestyle much more workable for me. I have kids, and one is still at home, so it has to be worked in with careful attention to the details of family.

But I will get there, I usually do. Once I set my mind to something, I find ways to get it done.

BTW – his book,
The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Futureis one hell of a great read. I have it on my Kindle, but I just ordered a hard copy one so I can make notes and mark it up.

Yeah… It is that good.

Whether you are thinking about changing your lifestyle, or simply want a good read to stimulate what you are doing with your current business, this book is well worth the purchase.

Also worth taking the time to read is
The Power of Unpopular: A Guide to Building Your Brand for the Audience Who Will Love You (and why no one else matters)by Ericka Napoletano. She has a pretty saucy, but real way of communicating ideas – and the idea that you can be all things to all people (clients) is non-sense. She shows you why.


Isn’t free.

Recently the DOJ issues strict and very easily understood orders to police agencies all over the country. The basic, easy to grasp message was “It is entirely legal to be photographed by civilians or anyone while on duty and doing their job.” There are caveats about being in the way, creating a disturbance and hindering the duty of the officer, but those are no-brainers and are already covered by statute.

But not everyone is getting the message:

The way this ‘officer’ treats the public and the media says so much.

Listen to them being polite, and willing to comply with legal requirements. Listen to his profane laced babblings about his ability to suspend Free Speech, and incoherent discussions of lawsuits.

It isn’t supposed to be this way. It cannot be this way.

I hope he gets sued, his watch commander gets sued, EVERY COP who was there and ALLOWED an illegal detention to occur should be sued. No pension, no career, no home, no money.

Because if we continue to let thugs control our lives, they will enthusiastically take that as permission to rule our lives.

‘Nuff said.


Damn I am so tired of it already – and we are just getting into it.

But here is a thought… unless you have all the work you need, it may not make much sense to tell the ‘other side’ you think they are all morons and shitscrement.

Ya know.

I don’t care what ‘side’ you are on, spewing hate speech simply gives more information than one should have when thinking about hiring you.

Just think about it. A possible client hits your twitter and sees “Fkn ______ : They ALL hate ______ and are so fuking stupid that I want to hurl…”

Great. That gets you some followers. You get to be all big and bad for your cronies.

But what about the client who may be a member of that group, or party, or affiliation? What does that person then think?

You said “ALL” and that includes her.

Good business practice?

You gotta be kidding me.

I know that a few gigs have not gone to people who have professed undying hatred toward ME in these over-reaching hate-filled diatribes. I work with a lot of people I do not politically agree with. We simply do not discuss it.

I also do not discuss their religion or mine.

What happened to the societal code of not discussing politics and religion with prospective clients and business partners?

So just think about it the next time you want to declare all liberals as mealy-mouthed asshats or all conservatives as brainless zombies… some of those people may be waiting to give you work.

Or… not.

(And, BTW, you are simply wrong to state such garbage anyway. It isn’t true. Not ALL anyone is anything.)

Donna Summer

Damn I loved Donna Summer. She was a class act. She was hailed as the Disco Queen, but in fact her talents stretched way beyond the mindless world of disco. She was a singer… a singer’s singer.

Here are a few Donna Summer tunes I have always loved.

We miss the class and glamour of this wonderful lady. Time for the Last Dance.


I have been asked back to creativeLIVE to do a workshop on Table Top Product Photography. You can see more at their site. Dates are June 21, 22, 23, 24, 2012. Register for free and watch all weekend!

I was recently on creativeLIVE and have received some rave reviews of the workshop. If you are interested in taking a look at the workshop, you can find it on creativeLIVE’s web site here. I think it is a tremendous value and if you are unable to attend any of my workshops, this may give you a ton of information you will want to have to push your photography to the next level.

A Drive Through Northern Arizona on a Sunny Day

A Drive Through Northern Arizona on a Sunny Day

It was a bright Friday morning as I left to go up north. I had planned on leaving a bit earlier than 8:30, but those plans were offset by the need to get my youngest to school and finish some things at the office.

Sometimes the plans we make don’t work out. They just don’t.

I had wanted to leave very early so that Flagstaff would be breakfast and the Navajo Reservation would still be in morning light when I arrived. By the time I got to Gray Mountain, the sun was higher in the sky than I would have liked. But, since it was the end of February, it was still quite south and was throwing some interesting shadows.

The road from Flagstaff north to the Vermilion Cliffs is one of my favorite roads… ever. I love this land. You can see forever there. There is much to love about the wooded areas of the Midwest and Atlantic states, but there is also a slight sense of claustrophobia from all the dense foliage for this western deserts boy.

In northern Arizona you can see a hundred miles. Climb up to the top of a mesa and add a few more.

My mom told me that when he was born, my brother Frank became my instant new best friend. I don’t remember much about the little house on 44th St. But I remember the day my brother was born. It was a terrific thunderstorm and the doctors came to the house. I was put to bed in my parents room, and when I awoke the next day he was there. I would care for him and take him on walks wherever I went. He was my brother and I thought that was pretty cool.

To be able to see that far… well, that changes a person. It becomes part of the DNA… at least it has for me. It is where I want to be most of the time I am awake.

But I live in Phoenix, the fifth largest city in the country. Spread out for miles, it sits like a giant turd in the middle of a valley made humid and green from too much irrigation and not enough common sense. We have a river here, right though town. It is bone dry. One of the things that fascinates me about other places is that when you cross a bridge over a river, there is actually water in it. WTF is that about?

Leaving Flagstaff, you meander a while through some beautiful pine forest before becoming a beeline-straight highway pointing due north. It is so straight for so long that people have been known to stop at the slightest curve and do some silly dance moves. Or take pictures. “And this is where the road had a curve in it…”.

The land is barren, dry and beautiful.

And yeah, I have been there when it was a hundred and ten. Then it is barren, dry, beautiful and very closely resembling a toaster oven. If toaster ovens had color.

And the colors are amazing. Reds and grays and pinks and deep mauve blend with the bleached dirt that seems to have been recently shoveled along the road. There is no sign that anything has ever changed there. Time seems to be persona non grata among the rocks, badlands and mesas. It’s like time stopped there.

Except for the fences. There are fences everywhere.

Fences to keep someone out? Or to keep something in? Damn, I would hate to be the grazing cow on this acreage.

When we were growing up, Frank and I did a lot together. He was young enough to look up to me and I felt it my duty to take care of him. We built forts out of Christmas trees and he would be our “inside man”. Kids can’t do that today… nanny state bastards have sucked as much fun out of growing up as they can. We rode bikes and I remember the day we got Frank a brand new “Stingray” and headed out for an adventure through the alleys of west Phoenix. We were like buds at that point. I can still remember the areas of our youth like it was yesterday. Glenrosa, Mariposa, 31st Ave, Granada Elementary… the places where kids could wander without fear. “We’re heading out mom, see you before sundown…” and we were off. Brothers.

I saw the tanks in the distance and immediately knew I had to photograph them. They looked so oddly shaped in the landscape. Bright colored blue and yellow… and that face. What was that about?

I have no idea what they were painted for. There were flyers for an indie rock band all around the other side. OK, we’ll go with that. (UPDATE, a reader sent me this link for some backstory on the tanks above. Thanks Jon @JMatthies)

Finding incongruity is easy in the badlands of northern Arizona. A river winds through incredibly barren rock with nary a single tree, or even that many bushes, at its edge. Brilliant blue sky meets bright red mesas in a clash of hard edged rock. The distance between where you are and over there becomes difficult to gauge… there is so little context.

The Vermilion Cliffs are one of my favorite places. They look big, but in fact when you get close to them you realize they are even bigger than you can imagine. Huge and forbidding, they stand like a silent fortress holding proudly against the valley below.

I had once planned a hike there, but only got about a mile in before I finally came to grasp how incredibly huge they are. 4×5 camera over the shoulder, I retreated to the safety of my camp.

Sometimes the plans we make don’t turn out. The mountains are bigger than we figured they would be. That can be both a relief and a disappointment. Go on… you choose.

It was a cold November morning. My dad was packing us into the old panel truck he had bought for going fishing and camping. My brother and I were on pins and needles the night before. We couldn’t wait to get in the back and go on another adventure in the high country of the Mogollon Rim. We huddled together in the back of the cold van and shared hot chocolate. He fell asleep leaning against me and I didn’t move for hours for concern that he would awaken. Frank eventually became quite knowledgeable on the central Arizona area, and would inform us all about the gun battles and historic civil war occurrences whenever there was something to tell. He studied the civil war and the rancher wars of Arizona, and there was no skirmish or event that he hadn’t covered. I eventually began music school, so Frank and my dad were the ones that adventured off together on the weekends. As many as they could, it seemed.

The earth holds us near as it changes and morphs at a much slower rate than we do. Artifacts of our lives, things that are inconsequential and things that are vital are of no meaning to the earth. A discarded glove would be the same as a pile of hundred dollar bills to the drying cracked ground that makes up this area of the southwest.

Men have no standing here. Women have no standing here.

We come and go so fast, too fast, while the earth takes its time to decide what it will do.

Marble Canyon is here. Pariah a little north and but a tiny sliver in the wall of the gorge. The Grand Canyon is but a little ways off to the left.  A canyon so deeply cutting through the cliffs that it has very few hours of sunlight. And still it carves its path… day after day. Millennium after millennium.

We can stand for a few moments on a bridge and watch the water slowly meander below. Cutting and carving and deepening the canyon each and every second.

But we will not see it change. Neither will our grandchildren.

Frank got married and I took the photographs. He looked so handsome in his tux, and Lorna looked so beautiful. My mom and dad got all dressed up and man, was it a party. He was a happy guy, and soon two boys would appear to make a family. There were periods of stability and a few periods of crazy. At first the crazy was limited to a now and then occurrence. We would hear the apologies and the promises and things would get back to normal. For a while. But eventually the crazy became the norm and the bouts of normalcy became brief respites. While change happens slowly to the land of northern Arizona, it happens all too fast to the lives of humans.

Boulders left to stand on small amounts of tightly packed sandstone dot the landscape near the Vermilion Cliffs. How long did this take? The rainfall in this area is so slight that in many places measurement is not even entertained. The millenia that it has taken to carve these rocks into standing remnants of a landscape we can only imagine can humble the passing visitor. One day they will fall. I will not be here to see that, but someone may.

Will there be an announcement? Those who have stood for uncountable years will have fallen?

Something that has been here before man walked on the dirt will someday topple, and the earth will enfold it and begin again. That’s what the earth does. It forgives, forgets, and keeps on keeping on.

I am reminded of that every time I venture to this magical place. Well, it’s magical to me.

Sort of like a hot, dry, high desert Disneyland without the crowds and fast food.

The beep of the cellphone alerted me to a message early that morning, but I didn’t check it right away. I get a lot of messages. A lot. And I was packing and getting the car ready for the drive. I stopped to check my messages just outside of Flagstaff. And there was this note in the little window: “Frank passed this morning. He was in hospice, and thought you should know.” The message was terse, and final. Like life. It was indeed a final chapter in some way, but it was also the culmination of the process of losing my brother. I lost him so long ago. The drugs and alcohol had taken a good man and made him nearly unrecognizable. His kids didn’t want much to do with him – hadn’t for a while now. Frank had used up all his credit at the “next time I will be better ” bar and they simply turned off his tab. I hear folks tell me that drugs are victimless crimes. Victimless? I beg to differ… I really really do. A man loses his sense of humanity. Brothers lose each other, mothers and fathers lose a son, a couple of good boys never knew what it was like to be around the funny and smart Frank I knew when we were younger. Victims? You bet your ass there are victims.

I got to Zion that evening and my mind was full of days long past and those uncountable days yet to come.

I was wired and restless at the hotel – I had to get outside. I had to make photographs. Photographs mean something to me. While not as permanent as the earth, a photograph becomes a touchpoint – a thought, that can be remembered with the prompt of an image. A photograph is one of the most powerful things that we make as artists. It is a moment, and a memory, and a lifetime captured in a blink of an eye.

Ansel Adams said his photographs were not about landscapes, they were metaphors; allegories with the land as his pallet. I was out to make a photograph and it didn’t matter to me what it would be. I wanted to record something on this day. This special day… a day that will never be again. A day I will always remember, and yet want so much to forget.

That evening, at dusk I made this shot of the river running through Zion. When I was shooting I was thinking of the lovely light on the river, the reflection of the clear sky, and wondering how to keep the brightly lit mountains within the range of exposure. I was making an image of a river in the dead of winter, and I wanted it to mean something to me. As I look at the image now, I don’t see the river, and the mountain. I see time measured so carefully as it flows through the canyon, carving its legacy slowly through the earth, and the mountains in the distance bathed in the light of promise.

We always plan on what is promised.

But sometimes our plans don’t work out the way we thought they would.

I miss you Frank, I have for a long time.