In a perfect world I would be in Kentucky right now, visiting with family, friends and doing a bit of Kentucky horse photography.
The problem of course is in my back, which still hasn’t returned to normal from a recent injury. The doctor will be taking a look at it later today. In the meantime, I’ll have to scale back my ambitions.
Tuesday is “Train Tuesday”, so here’s a photograph taken several years ago of the Union Pacific #844 moving across the prairie near Nunn, Colorado. Union Pacific is going to be running this steam locomotive along with the recently rebuilt “Big Boy” from Cheyenne to Ogden, UT this coming weekend. If the back is up to it, I’ll make the trip up to Wyoming to photograph them both as they move along Southern Wyoming.
The trip to Kentucky will have to wait until later this year. There’s no time to do it this Spring. We have to get the cabin open in the upcoming weeks and we are doing some renovations this year. New windows, carpet, appliances.
If the back heals, I’ll be able to enjoy all of that. If not, things grind to a halt.
It has become a tradition to post a moose photograph each Monday. No problem. By my calculation have about a half million moose photos.
I’m still nursing a severely strained back and just when I think I’ve made some progress, it reminds me that it’s not over with. I’m on phase three of the recovery, which started yesterday (Easter Sunday.)
Moose Monday, I’m finding, is a bit improved from where I was the night before when I went to bed. The fifty thousand dollar question is will it be well enough to make the drive to Kentucky on Thursday? That’s a lot of driving, four long days on the road behind the wheel round-trip. I’ll make the call on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, back at the computer, I’m going through a older catalog of moose photos from 2013. It’s interesting to look at the older shots, it helps keep a perspective on the photography. What was I doing then? What were my good shots? What where my mistakes? What’s different about how I work now? Like anyone else I suppose, I can make mistakes. Always good to not repeat them.
I found an inadvertent mistake, omission, brain fart, call it what you like, in my thinking back in 2013 vs today. My interest in moose was peaking back in 2004 and has progressed up until now. By 2012 I had figured out where and how to photograph moose and get consistently good results. One of the “holy grail” moose shots I originally put on my shoot list was the moose shedding velvet shot. I got my first taste of that scene in 2012. Saw the whole thing from beginning to end, multiple moose, nice morning sunlight,in close proximity.
What more could a wildlife photographer ask for? I was happy. I’ve enjoyed knowing I checked that box off many years ago. I put them in a catalog and then forgot about doing it again.
The thing I’m liking about retirement is not having to work if I don’t want to work.
I’ve been laying up here at home the past few weeks, recovering from a back injury. The downtime has allowed my poor old pulled back muscles to return to functionality. I’ll have a few more days of rest and relaxation before I begin my road trip to Kentucky on April 25th. I seem to generally choose the last week of April to make that trip, when made. Derby Week. Meaning the week leading up to the Kentucky Derby which is held each year on the first Saturday of May.
I’ve finally mustered enough coherent thought this weekend to attempt a blog entry.
The photographic theme will be Kentucky today.
All of these photos were taken in late April, but in different years.
I’ll be starting my road trip back soon and while I’m on the road I hope to share a photo or two.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year in Kentucky.
I began in High School, using my fathers film cameras. I continued on through my time in the Navy and became quite interested in Stereoscopic transparencies in the 70’s and 80’s. In the 90’s I had a panoramic film camera and a number of Instamatic models.
It was 2004 when I purchased my first digital SLR. The Canon EOS Rebel XT / 350D.
Eight megapixels at the time was the standard resolution for high end photography, though this particular camera was a consumer level model.
I was approaching the point in my career with The Wall Street Journal where I felt it was time to look past the corporate world and move on to something more in line with my future thinking. I picked up this Rebel XT as an introduction to the technology and immediately became interested in landscape photography.
My first landscape subjects were the mountains and lakes near my cabin in Red Feather Lakes, Colorado.
I’ve been photographing the scenery around Red Feathers for 15 years now.
This photo is Parvin Lake, near Red Feathers and was the first digital landscape subject I tackled.
It’s not a mind- blowing scene, but the lake was and still is a beautiful spot in the mountains.
Taken in 2004, this lake is still as beautiful today as it was back then.
Film quickly became a thing of the past once I bought my first DSLR. The Rebel XT was soon replaced with a Canon 20D about a year later, then a 30D, then the 5D and 1DsMk II and onward to today.
I still have film cameras but never use them. One has a half roll of Velvia still in it. I have no clue what’s on that undeveloped roll of film.
I think I’ll explore the lakes in more detail this summer. 8 Megapixels seem so small these days.
Sometimes I ponder different subjects for my blog and when I come up with an idea I’ll start an article with the expectation that I’ll return to it later and finish it up.
That approach to writing works about one third of the time. More often than not though, my blog posts are spontaneous in nature. Today’s blog post is of the spontaneous type.
It began a few days ago when I realized that I had a catalog of image files from 2007 and 2008 that had somehow corrupted. The catalog was full of photographs I took while doing volunteer photography for a non-profit named Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep. Fortunately, I had backups on DVD from those sessions so I was able to recover all of the lost photographs from those sessions.
It was while browsing those recovered photographs that the inspiration for this post came to me. Spur of the moment.
Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep was founded in 2005 by Cheryl Haggard and Sandy Puc. Cheryl’s newborn child was dying and Sandy was asked to photograph her baby. Together, the two formed the non-profit as a means of helping grieving parents turn a profoundly sad event into a loving memory by providing remembrance portraits to parents experiencing the death of a baby. I volunteered my services as a photographer to the organization in 2007 and continued working with grieving parents through 2008. When I was a volunteer, it was still a small operation based from Sandy’s portrait studio in Littleton. We were expanding to Fort Collins and Colorado Springs. Today, NILMDTS has grown dramatically in size and scope. A job well done and a subject worth pursuing in my honest opinion.
At the time, the volunteer photographers were primarily in the Denver area. The basic program was we would put our name on the list of volunteers and when the organization was contacted by one of the local hospitals, a photographer would be available to attend to the parents needs at the time of or shortly after their child’s death. We took intimate photographs for the parents and provided a disk of images free of charge. Nothing was done for profit or financial gain.
I first became aware of this organization when Standish Lauder of the Denver Darkroom was explaining it to me at dinner one evening.
“There’s a group of photographers here in Denver taking photographs of dead babies” he said.
Standish was intrigued and he was conflicted about the nature of this type of work. I investigated the subject and decided to volunteer my services.
One may consider this as a macabre subject, but let me assure you that every parent and family member I worked with were very grateful and profoundly affected by this experience. I always felt pride in knowing that in some small way I helped these families deal with their darkest moment in life and I always felt honored to be allowed to be a part of their very personal moment. The death of their child
Sandy was kind enough to give training sessions at her studio for volunteer photographers so she could explain how she approached these things from a photographers standpoint. It was Sandy who defined this work and how to do it.
Today’s photograph is one taken during my very first photographic session for NILMDTS.
When I first arrived at the hospital I had no clue what to expect. I was nervous and conflicted about how I would deal with this subject matter. The parents were in their hospital room with their child who had passed away only moments before I got there. I examined the room and used a large black blanket to mask the background to give me a non distracting backdrop. The rest of the shoot was done in real time by hand holding the camera with a hot shoe flash. Nothing was staged, I just sat quietly in the room with the family while they said goodbye to the newborn infant.
The resulting photographs were profoundly poignant. I remember crying the entire time I was photographing this couple. I was never able to get through one of these sessions without breaking down. I never let the parents see it though. I’d sneak off to the nearest bathroom and bawl my brains out while I recovered my composure.
To this day, it’s still hard for me to look at this work, but I know in my heart that I was proud of it and that it gave many grieving couples a happy memory from the most saddest of events. One of the mothers’ I photographed many years ago went on to be a volunteer photographer herself, that is how emotionally engrossing this subject is.
This particular couple were kind enough to give me permission to publicly display their most private moment.
This is the only photograph I’ve ever displayed and this is only the third time it’s been on display to the public since that day.
The first time it was on display in a gallery for a month. I received so many letters from visitors from the gallery, all sharing the emotions they felt when viewing the photograph. I knew it was a very powerful image and these letters confirmed it.
Once I saw it in the catalog I was recovering, I knew I had to make a blog entry and show it to the world one more time.
It’s too powerful to not be seen.
Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep is still out there, some 14 years later. There are probably thousands of volunteer photographers doing this type of work around the world. If you are a photographer looking for a way to give back to your community, NILMDTS is accepting applications for volunteers.
My hat goes off to Cheryl Haggard and Sandy Puc. They started something meaningful in 2005 and it continues to this day.