I’m on the local volunteer fire department and over the weekend, along with another firefighter, took one of our fire trucks to sit on standby at the Bozeman Jaycees benefit demolition derby at the fairgrounds. Now a demolition derby isn’t my first choice of ways to spend a Saturday nor my first choice of photographic subject matter. In fact it’s way down on either list (or would be if I really kept such lists). I’m sure it says something about my juvenile mentality, but you know what? It was actually quite entertaining.

Except for one shook up driver we took a quick look at and a couple of small fires that the race staff took care of with their own fire extinguishers, there wasn’t much for us to do in our official fire department capacity so I was free to snap photos most of the time. During one intermission we ran about 50 young kids through the fire truck. The big hit for the kids was being able to blast the air-horn. I told the parents I joined the fire department just because we get to play with the air-horns, sirens, and flashing lights. Like I said, it says something about my juvenile mentality.

Claimed: Landscape

Tonight I went to a photography exhibition by the faculty of the photography department at Montana State University. As might be expected there was a wide range of photographic styles and subjects represented. For me, the highlight was a selection of photos from Alexis Pike’s collection Claimed: Landscape. This work consists of photographs of various landscape murals painted on the sides of buildings, primarily in Southeast Idaho. I’ve photographed some of the same murals myself in the past, but my photographs pale by comparison to Pike’s. What makes her images so interesting is the way she arranges the compositions to display the murals in the context of their generally mundane surroundings. The results are sometimes comical, sometimes ironic, and sometimes just plain sad. Taken together the collection makes an interesting statement about the relationship of humans to their natural surrounding.

You can see Claimed: Landscape at

Red Chairs, Alexis Pike

What I did on my summer vacation

Between trips to eight art shows this summer, I spent most of my free time residing our house. (O.K., it was most of my free time when I wasn’t out hiking or doing some other fool thing like taking photos.) I thought of it as my summer project, even though I had expected it to go well into the fall since I wasn’t finding huge amounts of time to spend on it. But, I am happy to say the last bit of the siding went up just before the equinox; so when summer ended, so did the project. Below is a photo of the new siding and trim. What the photo doesn’t show is how weathered the porch posts and porch decking are. That’s next summer’s project. In the meantime, it’s back to some serious time working on new photography tasks.

New siding on the old home place.

Blog Changes

I’m revamping my blog. The main goal of the revamp is to move my Picture of the Day (POTD) posts from it’s current separate page on my website to this blog, hence the new blog name. I’ll also continue to post whatever else comes to mind. I hope to make the POTD switchover on October 1. Stay tuned.

The Exercise Value of Photography

What’s the exercise value of photography? Not much if my experience this summer is any indication. I had no idea I was so out of shape. I’ve been doing quite a bit of hiking this summer, which is more exercise in itself than I usually get in the winter, but I am also residing and painting our two and a half story house by myself. And I’ve been sore all summer. I thought I’d get in good enough shape by August to at least not be beat at the end of the day working on the house, and while there’s been some improvement, I’m still dog-tired at times. Sore muscles? Don’t even ask. I hope to finish up with the siding project sometime this fall and I should be in pretty good shape by then (I hope). Which will leave me all winter to regain my photographer’s physique. Or maybe I’ll embark on a serious exercise program this winter. Yeah, right.

A Black and White World in Color

I cut my photographic teeth in a lot of respects by looking at Depression era black and white photographs by the Farm Security Administration. To me, black and white images define both photography and the world at that time. Perhaps that is why I found this collection of color images covering the same subjects from the same period incredibly compelling:

No Such Thing as Bad Light

Claude Monet, Vernon in the Sun

It’s a common myth that photographers might as well put their cameras away mid-day as the lighting is too flat to take interesting photographs. The so-called “magic hour” just after sunrise and just before sunset is thought to be by far the best time of day to photograph, while straight-up noon is the absolute worst. I’ve (almost) always been able to find something interesting to photograph any time of day though. But then I don’t do that much landscape photography and figured for those who do, the advice might make sense. That is I thought so until I saw Claude Monet’s painting Vernon in the Sun at the Joslyn Art Museum in Omaha today.

Monet’s Vernon in the Sun that looks like it was done smack in the middle of the day, under a withering sun, with no obvious shadows. But yet his rendering of the washed out mid-day lighting imparts tremendous atmosphere and feeling. Now Claude Monet was the master student of light, often studying and producing multiple paintings of the same scene in various lights. So, maybe he was better at seeing and recreating the beauty in mid-day scenes than us mere mortals, especially those of us using photography as our medium of choice. But it does suggest that a truly creative photographer should be able to find landscapes with expressive lighting even under the harsh noon sun.

On the Road Again

Tomorrow I’m off to the Omaha Summer Arts Festival which is going on this weekend. I’m a little nervous about this show because it is famous for nasty weather (e.g. 100mph winds two years ago). No storms during the other two shows I’ve done in the Midwest this spring though so maybe I’ll get lucky in Omaha too. I do expect it to be hot and humid, just like it was in Kansas City. I’m grateful to the patrons that came out in that heat–I wouldn’t have been out there if I wasn’t manning a booth! The rest of my shows this summer are closer to my home in Montana, which generally means better weather–few storms and at least less humidity if not less heat. Of course we had a tornado right here in Montana yesterday so who knows what to expect.

I’ve never been to Omaha so am looking forward to spending some time exploring what it has to offer in the free time I have before the show. The Joslyn Art Museum has two interesting special exhibits, one on Impressionist and the other on Post-Impressionist paintings. Should be interesting.