Second Chances and Back-up Plans told through a Lens.

Is Brian Williams a verb yet? Im going to get all Brian William-sy in this post and combine a few trips I took into one. My memories also get hazy looking backwards. While I may be combining some trips that were a few years separated, the stories and intent are true…

Sunset in Bisti
Sunset in Bisti

This is where I had my epiphany. Right here in Bisti Badlands in upper New Mexico. This was one of the stops on a series of photography trips I took over a few year stretch in the late 80s-early 90s. The accomplices were usually the same – Steve Traudt, Randy Pearce, Jim Cook, Rod Martinez, and a few others. But I’ll get back to this. First…

Monument valley 1

The trips start with long road truck rides to get to destinations. Usually, in our case, somewhere southwest. Utah, Arizona, New Mexico. These kind of places. Lots of red rocks, piñon and loose dirt. Planned stops along the way involve tripods and cameras. My camera of choice in that time was a Nikon F4S.Nikon F4SI really liked this body. It was a modular design. I had different viewfinders, backs and bottoms, so I could change it on the fly to me specific needs at the time. Certain Medium Format cameras have been doing this for decades, but this was the the best 35mm camera to do this. This also was one of the first cameras that I owned that fit me perfectly. It got to the point where I didn’t have to move my eye from the finder to adjust anything. The dials just fell to my fingers intuitively.

Horseshoe Bend - Page AZ

One of our favorite stops is Page Arizona. This small town is the center of a lot of things photographic. Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell, Horseshoe Bend, The Wave, The Slot Canyons and more. I had a starter motor go out on my Chevy truck at the lower slot canyon. Randy and Rod were under the truck replacing that damn starter motor on a 100 degree day. Not only that, but after the motor was replaced we went down into the lower slots for the next 6 hours to photograph.

Slots 99

The slot canyons are magical. I have been there 3 times and each time it is different. The way the light bounces around the canyon and softens as it filters down. I have used 35mm and a 6X7 medium format camera in there and have gotten some really nice shots. Who knows what will ever happen to them, but I have them.

Lower Slot Canyon, Page AZ
Lower Slot Canyon, Page AZ

After we left the Arizona area we travelled to a little known area called  Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness. Also a fun place to photograph. Amazing towering rocks and so beautiful in its starkness.

bisti 3 bisti 1

And it is here that I have my view changed. I so relied on my F4 and it was so bombproof over the years, that I never gave a second thought to any problems or issues it may give me. But here I am in Bisti and my batteries die. I need AA batteries in the grip. And I have some in my backpack. Some nice lithiums. Brand new products from the Energizer folks. But you see that my F4 was built before lithiums and did not have the circuitry to handle this increase in power, I insert the batteries and turn the camera on. I hear a very faint *pop* and hear a barely audible sizzle. And my F4 is dead. A very heavy dead. And so I am here, in the wilderness, miles from the truck with a storm looming (see above), with a brick for a camera. I am distraught. We have many more days of shooting ahead and I am done. Toast. Finis.

Nikon FM2

As I am putting my F4 away in my backpack, wrapping it in the neoprene wrap I used for extra protection, my hand hits something hard down in the bottom of the bag. My FM2! I had stuffed it down there months earlier on another shoot. I was saved! A shot of adrenaline courses through my body. I think I cried a bit at the circumstances. Before I was lost, bereft of hope, and now I am saved! I had unknowingly made my own Plan B!  A second chance. At the time I stuffed the backup body in the bag, I had no way of foreseeing the tragedy of new batteries in an older body. And I had given myself a second chance without knowing. All because I had stuffed a manual body down in the bowels of my backpack. And so then I made more images on the way home.

Lonely WindmillSilverton SIG-SHP-159-Yankee Girl Mine 1 Ouray area 6

Having that camera body stuffed in my pack saved the trip. The images mean a lot to me because of the way I had to take them. And an unintentional backup plan taught me to be more conscious of making intentional backup plans!


Nikon Gear For Sale

I help the Hospice people with technical assistance on photo gear that shows up at their store. They have for sale the following…Nikon D80 Digital body, Nikon N80 Film Body, Nikon AF-S VR 18-200, Nikon AF 20mm, Nikon AF 60mm Micro, Nikon AF 105mm Micro, Bogen 3011 Tripod with 3055 QR Head. 2 Photoflex 32″ Light Modifiers – one silver/gold and one translucent. All of the items are in new condition and will give years of service. The stuff is barely used! Don’t wait too long to act.

Please see them at Heirlooms for Hospice, 635 Main Street, Grand Junction CO  970-254-8556.

I’m not sure what the items will be priced, but you know it will be fair. There is not a worthier group of people to support.


Yum! Only one left in box. Someone loves them some bovine and flightless bird snacks! Picture taken at Albertsons, near the cash register.

So its been a while since I’ve posted. Sorry about that. Sometimes life gets in the way of fun. I’ve been training for a new position at Big Red and its a bit all-consuming. Lots of paperwork and systems to learn. I don’t want to talk to much about it because I’m trying to separate my work from this blog. Maybe later.

I ran into an old customer the other day in the Target store. It was nice to see him again and he said very flattering things about me to my wife. All of which I disavowed. He expressed the desire to go to a ‘real’ camera store, but there were none locally. He was going to travel to Denver or Salt Lake City to look for new stuff. We parted and Jen and I walked by Targets camera counter. Lots of people there looking for Christmas gifts. Most of the cameras are of the point and shoot type. The clerks were busy in the pit talking to all of the customers, telling them about cameras they have never used, telling them about styles of photography they have never experienced. Today we went to Best Buy for a few gifts. Their camera section was also busy. Best Buy has a few more choices in the upper end of cameras. All tethered to displays and a few extra lenses locked underneath plexiglass. Ask for help and hope it is someone with experience.

It is unfair for me to dig on the big box stores and their camera counters. The camera companies chose them to be their retailers after all. (Read the very first post way at the bottom for a full understanding of these changes.) But it is not unfair for me to feel a bit nostalgic for a real local camera store. I think there is a big hole in the local community without a prosperous camera store. Supporting local clubs and schools. Teaching and selling. Donating and giving away. If you have one of these in your community, support it as best you can.

I sold all of my equipment a few months back. I haven’t picked up my camera gear in years and decided to sell it all before the prices dropped so much they weren’t valuable at all. So now Ive been coveting cameras. I have been using my iPhone to great success. But it is limited in scope and capability. I would love to have the Leica M9 with 2 or 3 lenses, but just look at those prices! I have been reading a lot about the new group of mirror less cameras. The Fuji x100 interested me for awhile. But it has only one lens. I am currently infatuated with the Nikon 1. The V model with the 10-30 and 30-110 lens. If you go to Kirk Tucks site he says nice things about it, and reviews on the photo sites are encouraging. So maybe later. It might be fun to get back into photography in this limited way.

Walked downtown the other day and noticed that local photographer Rob Kurtzman and a local painter are opening a gallery downtown in the 500 block. It is right next to the Colorado Public Radio office and the Italian Bistro on the corner. The sign says they will offer classes and such. I really hope they are successful. Didn’t have time to go into the new art gallery on Main St. Has anyone else?

So Merry Christmas to all of my 20 daily readers. I hope to post before Christmas again, but you know, life gets in the way sometimes!