10,000 Steps

In my last blog post I wrote about some of the goals I have for 2019, and that I wanted to begin a project I’ve been thinking about for 10 years. That project being about walking and hiking. A tentative title for it has been 10,000 Steps. And when I say I plan on beginning the project, I mean I’m going to undertake the project more earnestly. Because the truth is, over the years I have made the occasional  image while hiking in the mountains surrounding Cache Valley with the intention of developing the idea. In fact, I’ve blogged about it before, twice in 2013, and again in August of last year.

This project, I feel, has so much potential, and there are so many directions I can take it. Or that it can take me, which will probably be more accurate, both creatively and geographically.

The following image, a 360° panorama, is the first I deliberately made nearly 6 years ago, and it more closely resembles what I then imagined the images to be. Now, in 2019, I’m not so sure of the format of the images.

I like that you can see the trail leading both to the North and to the South in the same image, and this is one direction the project could go. We’ll see. I just need winter to come to an end so I can start making images. And since it’s mid-February, I’ve got a long wait ahead of me…

Goals for 2019

Here it is mid-February, and I’m just now thinking of and setting goals for myself as an artist for 2019. Actually, I’d set a few of these in early January, so this is me finally recording them and making my declaration of what I wish to do and achieve this year:

  • Figure out how to display my woven pieces. This has always been at the back of my mind over the course of my working on this project; it’s now time to bring it to the front of my mind more consistently.

  • Complete the woven body of work, or, at least by the end of the year, have 15-20 pieces that I can declare being Finished

  • Begin a project I’ve had bouncing around my head for 10 years now, dealing with walking. The concept revolves around 10,000 steps, or the recommended daily amount of steps to take in order to maintain good health. It also deals (maybe even more so than the first point) with walking in the mountains, or, hiking, and why hiking is such an important passion.

  • Continue my Through Tommy’s Eyes project. This includes coming up with a better title. Though I suppose that might come organically as the project matures. There may also be different phases to this project.

  • Revive my Parks project. I still feel like this project, which began 14 years ago as my BFA project, has so much more life in it, and there are new things I wish to articulate within the bounds of the project.

  • Read, read, read.

  • And lastly, generally photograph like mad! Part of that comes from a desire to revive this blog and post as frequently as I did when it first began so many years ago.

In the interest of full disclosure, there are a few more goals that I won’t list here, mainly due to them being more personal in nature. But these are the big ones I’m working towards in 2019.

What goals have you set for yourself to improve as an artist in 2019?

Printer Issues

A few weeks ago I ran a few prints off my Epson P800 that is now a little over two years old, and saw that it left the dreaded “pizza wheel” marks in the surface of the print that seems to plague many Epson printers. I then spent all my free time reading forums and watching YouTube videos on how to fix the issue, and went back and forth with Epson tech support via email, and then finally spent over an hour on the phone with them. In the end, Epson had nothing helpful to offer, other than contact info for a local service center, who likewise said nothing helpful except to bring it in for them to run diagnostics, and a repair estimate of $90-$900.

What are Epson pizza wheel marks? 

These “pizza wheel” marks are made by some rollers about 10mm in diameter, and are there to keep the print flat in the printer, and these rollers look like a little serrated pizza cutter. For the unfortunate owners who get inflicted with this particular issue seemingly at random, their prints get little pin pricks along the length of the print, as seen below in my test print:

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A video I watched suggested dousing the rollers and the springs that hold them in place in a print head cleaning solution and running a thick card under them back and forth a dozen times. This is supposed to break up any dried over sprayed ink that might have been deposited in the springs, thus returning the spring and flexibility to the springs. But that didn’t work, and it seemed like the most promising solution. Other videos were far less helpful. They showed the owners bashing the printer with sledgehammers, or blasting them with shotguns.

One of the people in a forum post I’d read said they completely removed the springs and rollers altogether, and that is what I ended up doing. And if I only printed on plastic based media, such as Epson’s Premium Luster paper, or Pictorico’s transparency media, I think that would have been a decent work around. But I don’t only print on plastic based media. I print quite a bit on baryta fiber based paper, and without those rollers to keep the paper flat in the printer, the ink load is such that the paper swells and rises into the print head, and instead of the rollers making marks, it’s the head that scratches the print. Don’t ask how I know this...

It didn’t take long for me to see that the rollers and springs were necessary for my process. But after the failure of the first solution, I thought maybe a deeper cleaning of the springs and rollers might help. They were already out of the printer, so I put them in an ultrasonic cleaner with first, a 10% solution  70% IPA and water, and then a 5% solution of Windex and water, rinsing the parts off in between cleanings. I went with the cleaning with Windex, because the alcohol didn’t quite do the trick. People use Windex to unclog severely clogged printheads, as the ammonia breaks up the dried ink, so I figured that might help finish off what the IPA left behind, and sure enough, after a cycle the parts came out sparkling clean.

Parts before cleaning. Note the springs on the right, and how pink they are. 

Parts before cleaning. Note the springs on the right, and how pink they are. 

Parts after cleaning. There’s still some pink staining, but this is pretty deep discoloration, and no longer superficial residue affecting the mechanical workings of these parts. 

Parts after cleaning. There’s still some pink staining, but this is pretty deep discoloration, and no longer superficial residue affecting the mechanical workings of these parts. 

Two reinstalled rollers, with seven slots still empty. This step requires a LOT of patience. 

Two reinstalled rollers, with seven slots still empty. This step requires a LOT of patience. 

Reinstalling the rollers is quite the pain. The parts are tiny, and you have only a few inches of room in which to work. I installed three of the rollers, and ran a test print, and prayed. I think I heard the Hallelujah Chorus being sung as the print exited the printer, free of those cursed marks! I’ve now run a few more prints off after installing a few more of the rollers, and they continue to come out clean and undamaged.

This procedure isn’t for the faint of heart, and it really helps to have some needle point tweezers. Head lamps and bright flashlights are also quite useful in illuminating the inside of the printer.

I’ve never posted any how-to’s here. At least none that I can remember, and I’m too lazy to dig through the archives to see if I have. Anyway...I felt I’d share my experience here in case anyone who comes across this post that is suffering from this issue needs some hope that a huge bill from a repair shop isn’t their only option. Nor do they need to resort to destroying the printer in a showy fashion.

I Climbed These Trees, Part IV

Sometimes some of those memories seem more dream than a remembered reality. But I know they happened because I have at least three cohorts that share the same memory, and the occasional journal entry. It is now one of my favorite things to sit and reminisce with all my siblings about all of our experiences in that backyard. 

Surely it Wasn’t a Dream?

Surely it Wasn’t a Dream?

Wonderment and Fear

Wonderment and Fear

Remains II

Remains II

Perfect for Lounging

Perfect for Lounging

New Growth

New Growth

Our Favorite Branch

Our Favorite Branch

Wandering through the backyard of my childhood during the Thanksgiving holiday brought to mind Shel Silverstein’s book, The Giving Tree, and how the tree invited the boy to climb it on each subsequent visit the boy made as he grew older. But each time the boy declined because he was too big, or too busy, or too old. Finally, all that remains of the tree is a stump, after having given its wood to the boy to build a boat.

The final sentence of the book, as the boy, now an old man, sits on the stump, keeps ringing in my ear: “And the tree was happy.”

Maybe I’ll give in to my inner child a bit more and climb those old branches. It might just make the tree happy.

I Climbed These Trees, Part III

The trees I used to climb are aging. As I mentioned in a previous blog post, one willow is dead. The other is not what it once was. The harsh Idaho winds and winters have taken their toll. Not to mention the toll that we took, though we never drove nails in that one. Some of my favorite branches have succumbed to the elements, and are no longer there, making my mind and faded memory attempt to fill in the gaps that exist when I look up.

Scar

Scar

Encompassed by the Branches

Encompassed by the Branches

No Ordinary Apple Tree

No Ordinary Apple Tree

I Climbed These Trees, Part II

There was one branch I regarded as the “Holy Grail.” I never was brave enough to venture up to that branch, but at least one of my brothers was: Jesse. I was always a little jealous of him for being braver than I.

The Highest We Dared

The Highest We Dared

Goodbye

Goodbye

Now Our Children Play Here

Now Our Children Play Here

Us four older siblings (I’m the oldest of eight) are now in our thirties. I myself am nearing 40. We haven’t played back there as children play for many years, but we, along with the younger four siblings, still gather back there in the summer, and it is now our children that play there. Many of them are still too little to be climbing trees, but in a few years they’ll be purposing those old willows and apple trees to fit their own wild imaginations.

I Climbed These Trees

We went to my parents for Thanksgiving in Idaho Falls this year. During the drive up, my thoughts were occupied by memories of the countless hours spent in the backyard while growing up. Here, my younger brothers and I re-enacted movies, from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, to Jurassic Park. We dug holes, most, or maybe all, of which we filled with water to play in the mud. We had hundreds of campfires. We did our schoolwork in the treehouse we built out of old pallets and scrap lumber we scrounged from construction sites. And we climbed every tree. We spent just as much time scrambling through their limbs as we spent on the ground. Those trees weren’t just trees to us. They were houses, office buildings, spaceships—anything our imaginations required them to be.

Over the course of our stay, I spent some time photographing those trees, one of which has died. Most likely from all the nails we drove into it building our tree house. These are just a few of the photographs I made.

The Journey Begins Here

The Journey Begins Here

I Dare You To Jump

I Dare You To Jump

Remains

Remains

Fishing Tips

Today I was thumbing through my library copy of Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder, and came across this list:

Fishing Tips for Parents from Matthew Louv (age 12):

  1. Fish with your kid.

  2. Let your kids go fishing, even if you don’t want to take them.

  3. Let your kids buy supplies and tackle. That’s half the fun of fishing.

  4. If your kids are young, take them to a place where fish are easy to catch and are small.

  5. Let kids fish as long as they want. Let them get obsessed.

  6. Let the kids go off and do their own thing. It can get to be incredibly annoying and/or frustrating if there’s an adult standing over them barking orders.

  7. At least pretend to act excited when your kid catches a fish. It can quickly ruin a day of fishing if the kid feels you don’t want to be there, and he’s just dragging you down.

  8. If you know how to fish, don’t give your kid too much unsolicited advice, although it can be helpful if the kid is young.

  9. Let your kid teach you how to fish; participate in the fishing. This can be quality bonding time.

  10. Remember that fishing and spending time with family is just as, or more important than, homework.

  11. Have fun; that’s the entire point of going fishing in the first place.

  12. And whatever you do, DON’T LET YOUR KID THROW ROCKS IN THE WATER!

I’m including this list for two reasons: 1) I simply think it’s great advice, and 2) I think it’s relevant information to my project with Tommy. Though, it’s going to be hard to teach Tommy that last rule. If there’s water and a single rock to found, no matter the size, he’s going to throw it in.

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Influences

I'm reading Beauty in Photography by Robert Adams again. It's one of my go-tos when I need to figure things out, whether it be where to go with an entire project, or help me clarify my      thoughts on things. Adams' book, Why People Photograph is another resource I turn to often.

In the essay, "Making Art New," Adams tackles that gremlin artists face to keep their work fresh, keep improving, and perhaps even reinventing themselves.

A section of the essay begins, "The question, 'what is new?' implies a more hopeful question, 'what is better?'" (WPP 79) Then goes on to ask by what mark we measure progress, and offers "more Truth and/or Beauty" as a measure, but then points out the challenge this can be, and says he is "unacquainted with any first-rate painter or photographers who believe that their pictures will be more beautiful than those of Rembrandt." But Adams acknowledges that sometimes our predecessors were wrong, or at least viewed to be wrong, by those influenced by them. Though seen to be wrong, we are never free from their influence: "...as long as we respond to our forebears, they are with us." 

It is my belief that we are influenced by our predecessors always, whether we respond directly to them or not, for it is that response to an influence or denial or divorce from it that shapes us, informs our current work, and guides us in our quest to improve.

“Isn’t it necessary for [art] to be…different from what has gone before?” Adams asks. Then begins to answer with this gem:

...All art comes out of a background of convention established by one's predecessors. Every serious artist borrows not only from those conventions, but from the particular insights of individuals he admires. This is unavoidable because, as the painter Mark Tobey observed, "No young artist can grow unless he emulates someone bigger than himself"—we all start small. Thus, Cézanne, for example, borrowed from Delacroix, and Matisse from Cézanne and Delacroix. It sometimes even seems as if the greatest artists borrow most. Certainly none of those just mentioned ever tried to hide his dependence on his sources; each, great as he was, understood that creations out of nothing are possible only for God. We seem in the end to be left with a series of revivals. (WPP 81)

In order for us to grow, in order for us to even begin learning, it is necessary to emulate and borrow. But, as Adams later states, “No serious artist would…ever set out simply to repeat another.” Sooner or later, we must be as Matisse who said “I have accepted influences but I think I have always known how to dominate them.”

Projects

Last night I stumbled upon my original Departures Blog that I had hosted on Blogger that I started in 2005. It’s been both good and a little depressing going through those old posts (most of which I’ve transferred here to this Squarespace hosted blog). Those posts from 2005 and 2006 were right at the end of my BFA project on public parks and right at the inception of my lumens. There are some musings on where to take both projects as well as explorations into other projects that never really became of anything. It’s saddening that I let things die, but I’m glad I found those posts. Now I can use them to inform my current work as well as pick up now where I left off 11-12 years ago.

So, with that in mind, I thought I’d list some projects that I’m most interested in taking on:

  • Resuming the Parks Project. I’d really like to follow through on an idea I had way back when to obtain historical photographs of the older/oldest parks in certain cities and incorporate them into the overall body of work, including but not limited to rephotographs.
  • Fire pits. There’s a lot of ground to explore with this one. 
  • Lumens. I’ve not yet said what I need to say with the lumens. 
  • Construction photographs. These were excellent exercises in seeing and design.
  • The 10,000 steps idea I’ve had since my stint in grad school. I think this one occupies my thoughts most of any potential project. 
  • Weaves/collages. There’s so much potential in this project and I haven’t even scratched the surface. 
  • Through Tommy’s Eyes. Not the official title, but it’s what I’m calling it right now. I still feel I have to make this work. 

I also want to be more active on this blog, and I’ve got a few ideas to help me do that. It basically just comes down to prioritizing the right things.

Restoring a Kodak Eastman D2

Several weeks ago I went out to Hyrum Reservoir to photograph, and in addition to my digital camera, I wanted to bring the 5x7 with me. I parked my car, gathered my gear, put the 5x7 on the tripod, which I then hoisted on my shoulder and started walking. After a few steps down the trail, I felt a sudden lightening of the load on my shoulder  followed by a crash. I knew immediately that it was the camera that had fallen, but I didn’t know how or why. Turns out I’d pushed the limits of my tripod head too and the weight of the camera popped the plate right out of the head.

I whipped around, expecting to see bits of shattered ground glass, the lens to be in pieces, and the wood reduced to splinters, but was utterly surprised and relieved to see that everything was still in tact. Though it hadn’t exploded on the rocks, it had still sustained enough damage that it wouldn’t be usable until some repairs had been made.

  Not   Hyrum Reservoir, but the Buffalo River in Island Park, over a year ago. This will have to do for a “before” picture.

 Not  Hyrum Reservoir, but the Buffalo River in Island Park, over a year ago. This will have to do for a “before” picture.

Once I got home, I was able to survey the damage a bit better. Some of the wood did get scratched and dented, and the brackets connecting the front standard to the bed got bent, which took quite a lot of force.

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I had it in my mind to restore the camera sometime, and this just accelerated and necessitated those plans. So I got down to work disassembling the camera.

I’m pretty sure this was where the camera landed. The grooves for the rails of the two standards got pretty bashed in.

I’m pretty sure this was where the camera landed. The grooves for the rails of the two standards got pretty bashed in.

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After hours and hours of sanding and several sheets of sandpaper, I finally finished.

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Then came the stain, then the clear coat. 

After staining and just about to get the first coat of finish.

After staining and just about to get the first coat of finish.

After four coats of clear coat, with light sanding in between each coat, I was finally able to start reassembling. 

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A few hours of turning a screwdriver and referring back to reference photos, I’d got it all back together! Here it is with freshly polished brass. 

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Now that this project is done, maybe I can turn my attention back to making all the pinhole cameras I want to make.

Hyrum Reservoir

I’ve lived in Cache Valley for 10 years now, and I’ve never made an effort to go photograph Hyrum Reservoir. Until tonight. I feel like I’ve got a lot of images that have a lot of potential. 

Here’s one I’m much more pleased with than I thought I’d be: 

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It was one of the last photographs I made of the evening, and I just happened to glance over as I walked past on my way back to my car. 

Going Over

 “I love things that are beautiful, clearly seen and highly realized, but I value the realm of mystery even more than the beauty of appearances. Art, it seems to me, has to invite participants into another realm if it is going to be of real value to them. Kafka used this wonderful term ‘going over,’ where the world [in his stories] is depicted in its recognizable aspect—except that in one single and fundamental way the logic of reality is overthrown—is shown to be drastically altered. Going over. If you’re attempting to transport someone through the experience of art to somewhere new, the tactile affirmation of the real can make that experience more convincing.”

—Alan Magee

Some New Work

It's been far too long since I've posted anything here. 2018 has been a busy year so far. Our little boy has been keeping us on our toes. I haven't been focused on my photography as much as I would like to have been these past four or five months, but hopefully that can change soon. My attention has had to be placed on other things. But I have been able to get out and make some new work on occasion, included making several lumen prints and venturing into making chemigrams, which I will post sometime in the future. I just need to figure out a way to flatten them all—that fiber based paper sure likes to curl a lot. So none of them are included in this post, but look for them in a future post! Meanwhile, here are some new photographs:

Little Bear River, Cache Valley, Utah 2018

Melting Ice, Bear River, Benson, Utah 2018

Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, Utah 2018

Cement Forms, Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, Utah 2018

Drained Canal, Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, Utah 2018

Blacksmith Fork River, Utah 2018

I've been venturing into a new area oh photography for me. For those who know me personally, I've never really been interested in making photographs of people. I haven't really been interested in taking family snapshots. But after getting married, I began changing, and then changed even more when Thomas was born. My phone is full of photos of our little boy, and selfies of Gina and I from all of our various trips and adventures.

As Tommy has grown, and especially as he's moved into Toddlerhood, I've been fascinated by and interested in how he views the world. He's such an inquisitive and busy and active little fellow, and he is always getting into things, and now climbing up anything his little arms and legs can get up. He loves to go for walks; in fact, any time he hears the words "out" or "outside" he bolts to the front door and starts knocking or pounding on it as if he's asking us "you said 'outside,' why aren't we leaving right now?" He loves picking up rocks along the trails we hike, and he often has to have a rock in each hand. If there's any running water nearby, he claws his way out (or tries to) of our arms to go to it and play in it, or throw rocks in it.

But, as I watch him grow, as I watch him walk/run (mostly run), as he talks in his little baby gibberish (that isn't gibberish to him—in his mind, I know he's telling us very important things, and I love his intensity), I find questions swarm my mind: What draws him to certain things? Why did he pick up that particular rock, only to drop it 5 feet down the trail to pick up a new one? What is going on in that little mind of his? What is it like to be in that little body, and want to do so many big things in a big world? Why is repeatedly doing one thing for several minutes so captivating? What is it like to understand what those around you are saying to you, but not be able to express yourself or talk back?

This wonderment on my part has driven me to start taking more serious photographs of Tommy, and the things he sees. Photographs that are more serious and intentional than the snapshot of him doing something cute. The photographs that follow are some preliminary photographs in my own exploration into what being a toddler is like, and what being a parent to such an active and intense boy is like.

This boy feels everything right down to the core.

52 Photographers is Back!

I began the 52 Photographers Blog circa 2007-2008 as a way to expand my photographic/artistic vocabulary and get to know many more photographers than I already knew and share the work of artists that I enjoyed looking at and who were currently influencing my own work.

I don't think—actually I'm pretty sure—I actually ever made 52 posts, as I got super busy with other things. Posts became spaced out, and clustered, and then it finally died off, and I let the domain expire.

Then in 2016, I thought of resurrecting the idea, but instead, decided to just write blog posts here on Departures with no set schedule or plan. For 2018, I debated with myself whether or not I would fully resurrect 52 Photographers or not, and I ultimately decided to take the plunge, and here we are!

While 52 Photographers will be heavily photography-oriented, I've come across artists working in other media that I am going to want to share with you! I can't wait to share the work of so many really great photographers! Head on over to 52Photographers.com and follow along! Posts will come in every Sunday evening.

SPE Southwest/West Tahoe CoLab

Back in college, I attended the National Society for Photographic Education conference in Newport, Rhode Island. I don't remember much about it, except that Frank Gohlke, one of my favorite photographers, was the Keynote Speaker, and that the portfolio reviews helped me grow a lot.

I have since attended a few other National and Regional (now Chapter) conferences, but until this last Chapter conference in Tahoe City, it had been 9 years since the National one in Denver since I had been to a conference. Even though I'm not in Academia at all, I started wanting to go to a conference last year. The National conference this year was in Orlando, and it would have been too expensive for me to go out, but I decided to just plan on going to the Chapter conference, wherever it was going to be held in the Fall. Once the details were announced for the Southwest Chapter and registration opened up several months before the conference was to be held, I was quick to register.

At that moment, it seemed like the dates for the conference were so far off. But the day finally came, and we three loaded up the car—well, Gina and I did; Tommy didn't do anything to help pack the car, the little freeloader—and headed out West. We planned on going as far as Elko, Nevada, which is about half way between Logan and Tahoe, to give our little guy a break from his car seat, since he doesn't like being contained for long periods of time (read: periods longer than 15 minutes). But, to his credit, he actually travelled really well both on the trip out and the return trip.

After a night of terrible sleep for all three of us in a Casino Hotel, due to the cigarette smoke that had permeated throughout the entire building, we hit the road again. We made a couple of pit stops, one of them at a rest stop in western-ish Nevada, where Tommy got to crawl and play in (and eat) the gravel:

Tommy playing in the gravel at a rest stop

Tommy playing in the gravel at a rest stop

We finally arrived at the Granlibakken Resort at around 3 on Friday. We checked in to our room and got settled in a bit, and then I went and made a few photographs of the Truckee River, and Lake Tahoe before the conference got underway.

William B. Layton Park, Lake Tahoe, California 2017

William B. Layton Park, Lake Tahoe, California 2017

Harrell Fletcher was the main speaker at the conference, and he gave a great speech, covering all of the collaborative work that he's done throughout his career.

Saturday morning was full of short presentations by a number of artists, including one by a friend, Bryon Darby, who presented his New Farmers project, a collaborative body of work on contemporary farmers in Kansas.

Bryon Darby presenting New Farmers

Bryon Darby presenting New Farmers

That afternoon Gina, Tommy and I went out and played tourist, and I took advantage of the nice light and made a few photographs.

Lake Tahoe at Commons Beach

Lake Tahoe at Commons Beach

Commons Beach, Lake Tahoe, California 2017

Commons Beach, Lake Tahoe, California 2017

As all the attendees were gathering together for dinner on Saturday evening, Gina, Tommy and I ran into Robert Dawson, one of my favorite photographers, and Ellen Manchester, Robert's wife, one of the photographers of the Rephotographic Survey. They invited us to sit with them, and I was a little giddy to sit with two photographers who have had such great influence on my work. We had a wonderful conversation, mostly about parenthood, and the joys of watching children grow and develop. Robert and Ellen have been working on a project involving children's education in Stockton, California, and another project on libraries around the U.S., and has expanded to libraries in Europe. They're both fantastic bodies of work.

Robert was the Honored Educator for the West Chapter, and he gave a wonderful presentation chronicling his many books he's published, as well as his latest work that he is doing, some of which is a collaboration with Ellen.

Robert Dawson

Robert Dawson

Sunday morning portfolio sharing

Sunday morning portfolio sharing

Being at the conference felt a lot rather like coming home, like I was with "my people." It felt so good to be amongst so many other passionate artists, and I'm looking forward to my next conference!

New Pieces

In my last blog post, I said I've been out photographing a lot this year. These are all the pieces I've been working on that's kept me busy enough to neglect the blog:

Two Hours at Newton Creek, May 24, 2017

Sunrise and Sunset on Buffalo River, June 17, 2017

March 2017 and September 2017 on Clay Slough

Three Hours on the Bear River, July 27, 2017

You can see more of these here

New Lumen #1

It's been pretty quiet here on the Departures blog a lot this year. It's not because I haven't been photographing. Quite the contrary. I've been out quite a lot. And I cranked out a lot of lumens this summer, and finally started scanning them in, and wanted to post this one quick, since I'm particularly pleased with it. I hope you will be too!