Wrapping Up 2012 – Part Two

"Final M3 Selfie"  -  Fargo, ND

“Final M3 Selfie” – Fargo, ND

Where did we leave off?

Oh yes, when we last saw our hero he was leaving Fargo, North Dakota, and setting off for a summer job unlike many others. He had been to England and Portugal, and had finished the academic semester in Fargo. Now, back to the action…

Summer Job

This project grew out of my summer spent with the US Air Force. As a reservist, I report for duty one weekend every month and an additional 15 days each year. This summer, due to a shortage on the base, I was tasked for an additional 100 days over the summer months, and I planned to create a body of work representing the time spent there, documenting the daily comings and goings. Using a compact film camera, I shot roll after roll of film as I worked and traveled throughout the country.

“Summer Job” – Minneapolis, MN

“Preparation” – Denver, CO

“Red Light” – Provo, UT

“Cold Weather Issue” – Minneapolis, MN

If you are interested in more of the project that I worked on over the summer, or to see the complete selection of images and the book that was created, you can do that here. The project was something different for me, and helped me to learn about creating, starting, finishing, and editing a project. The photographs, in their finished form, tell a story that many people do not see and do not have access to. Photographically, it was a great learning experience for me.

Twin Cities

Following my time in Fargo, ND, and the summer spent working with the Air Force, I moved back to the Twin Cities. I spent time with family, back in what I consider to be my hometown, doing the things that I enjoy here.

“Transaction” – Minneapolis, MN

“Watching” – Minneapolis, MN

Enjoying life, and relishing the little visual moments that I came across…I realized that it’s the little things that sometimes make good images.

“Family” – Minneapolis, MN

“Topless” – Saint Paul, MN

Anna Maria Island

The small island on the Gulf coast of Florida has been a destination for my family for decades. This year, I brought my recently-acquired Hasselblad to see if I could force myself out of my comfort zone and shot portraits, and used the square format, to see what I could come up with.

“Hannah” – Anna Maria Island, FL

I learned that despite varying format and equipment, I still see the world in a certain way. As a result, I take a certain kind of images. This was reassuring to know, as it tells me that I am–slowly, but surely–developing a personal style of photography. Or maybe the style has always been there, just under the surface; now I know how to tap into it and I am more finely attuned to recognizing it.

“Approaching Storm” – Anna Maria Island, FL

“Untitled” (from the project Floridians) – Anna Maria Island, FL

The annual tradition, in which my family descends upon a small resort for the last week in July in the scorching Florida sun, returned for it’s (for me) fifth successive year. My family has been going the same week, to the same resort far longer. It wasn’t until this year that I began to see the place in a new light, visually. A new project–which I am tentatively calling Flordians–began to take shape, though this project is far from finished. It may not even be fully conceptualized at this point, but the seed is germinating in my mind at this point, and I’m interested to see where it goes in the future.

Saint Paul Cathedral

The second major project I finished in 2012 was my long-term project dealing with the Cathedral of Saint Paul. Named for the saint, and not the city in which it resides, the cathedral was an inspiration to me when I needed some last year, when I started shooting it. Not initially intended to be a long-term photographic project, it evolved organically as I continued going back time after time to make images of it, and in it.

“From Above” – Saint Paul, MN

“Directed” – Saint Paul, MN

“Holy Cards” – Saint Paul, MN

To see the full set of images I selected, go here.

Final Word

And so, the annual review is done. I recapped some of the best, and some of my favorite, images of the year. They didn’t all make the cut, since I decided to organize this not strictly along the basis of single interesting images, but rather thematically.

“Self-Portrait” – Anna Maria Island, FL

After re-reading much of this post it appears rambling, and without direction; it is being pulled in many different directions, going many places (both physically and artistically), and unsure of its purpose at times. Perhaps that sums up the year more than anything I could say. This was very much a year in flux for me, unsettled and in transition. It was also rich and rewarding, stimulating and invigorating.

To follow that theme, here are a few of my favorite other images that I didn’t group thematically for one reason or another.

“Window Light” – Lisbon, Portugal

“The Eye” – Saint Paul, MN

“Lake” – Grand Marais, MN

So that’s it. My grand review of the year 2012.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Questions, comments, and critiques are always welcome around here, so take the time to place one in the comment field below.

Wrapping Up 2012 – Part One

Porto, Portugal

BATHROOM TREVOR, International Edition  Р Sintra, Portugal

I realize that end-of-year reviews are all the rage this time of year, and many are quite lame. An excuse to write without actually creating anything new–a godsend to those paid by the entry. However, I figured it was a good thing for me to do in an attempt to really think about my work for the year. Where has it taken me? What have I learned?¬†I have been going through all of my photos over the past few days in preparation for submission to some international contests, and I have realized that this year has been especially productive for me. Photographically, this may have been the best year so far of my relatively short artistic career.

*Since this turned into a relatively long post, I decided to split it into two separate posts. The first half of the year (roughly) will be covered in this post, with the second half of the year to be covered in another post to come.*

I figured I’d recap the year with some highlights of 2012. It was a big year for me photographically, having finished two longer-term projects I was working on, as well as a rash of new equipment; I also had the chance to travel a bit. In complete dissociation with the recent direction of this blog, this two-part review is–perhaps out of necessity–very heavily geared toward imagery. I will accompany the images with words, but it is the images that mark the journey of this year most emphatically.


I started the year in England. More specifically, I rang in the new year in Norwich, as part of my annual trip to the UK with my father. Here is a set of images from that trip, which included London, Norwich, and Wigan. This trip is, to a large degree, where I trace the start of my reinvigoration with photography.

“Harvey” – London, England

“Waiting” – London, England

I had drifted away in 2010 and 2011…unsure of what I was doing, lacking clear direction or focus in my work, I started to lose my way. This trip helped fix that, along with a new piece of equipment: the Fuji X100. I found the fun in photography again, and realized that the process is as important (and even more so in some cases) than the final image. Photography actually isn’t all about the image sometimes.

But I noticed that with a small, quiet, and discrete camera, I was able to shoot in a way I never had before. In fact, the strengths and limitations of the X100 pushed me into a new direction; coincidentally, it was the direction in which my interests had already been luring me. It might be a bit hyperbolic to say it was a match made in heaven–but I think it was.

“What You Fancy” – Wigan, England

“This Modern Love” – Manchester, England

As I said above, the images I returned home from England with in January of 2012 were quite good. A new direction had grabbed hold of me and I was happy that it was so. Looking back through the images again now, it was clear what that direction was, and although it was a bit hit and miss–isn’t all photography?–the hits convinced me that it was a thread worth chasing, and down the rabbit hole we went, in more ways than one.

An exciting year lay ahead.

North Dakota

I spent the first half of the year living in Fargo, North Dakota, and it was that post that started gaining this blog some exposure when it was featured as “Freshly Pressed” on the WordPress.com homepage in January. Barely a month old, my blog exploded with visitors and comments and followers, which has continued ever since. I began carrying my camera with me every day again, which is something I had gotten away from the previous year or two. Photography began to be a daily event again for me, and I noticed tremendous growth in my work throughout the year.

“Prairie Sky” – Fargo, ND

“Abandoned” – Fargo, ND

People had become my primary interest, photographically. Problematically for me, I find approaching–nay, not even approaching, but simply photographing–strangers difficult. That is my personality, and one reason I find I am well suited to the side of the lens I generally find myself on. When I’m shooting in the United States, I find this is the case more than abroad. Space is a very different beast over here, and the virtually limitless space is one of the fundamental principles of the American experience; in photographic terms, this means that it is more difficult to make photographs in public without being noticed. I’m sure that in large, busy cities like New York it may be different, but in the Midwest if you come too close to someone you are instantly on their radar, and it is virtually impossible to make an image without attracting attention. This doesn’t help what I’m trying to do with my images.

In the vast expanses of North Dakota, this rule was taken to extremes. New, creative ways of making photographs in the street were forced out of me.

“The Space Between” – Fargo, ND

“Zebra” – Fargo, ND

Although some of my images from North Dakota work, many of them do not. Of course, many folks can make fine images there; one just needs to adapt one’s approach and vision to suit what there is to make images of in the space provided. But at this time in my image-making, it was something else I was after.

North Dakota was also the beginning of a new pursuit for me, as I began to get back into film. In 2008-09, I photographed almost exclusively with film, but had gotten away from it thereafter as my artistic vision became hazy, and the convenience of digital won me over. The almighty DSLR was my chief image-capturer (some might even call it a camera, though it feels more like a computer than a camera; it’s more laptop than Leica, I’ve said before) and I all but abandoned film. However, I picked up a used film rangefinder on Craigslist on a whim, and the madness started.

I know I mentioned the rabbit-hole earlier, and the analogy with Carrol’s world is appropriate, since I had no idea what I was getting myself into.¬†I was not prepared for the gear-binge I was about to embark on.

I will cover that after I cover the other major trip of the year: Portugal.


Next up was a vacation with my wonderful wife in Portugal. For two weeks we discovered a country which entranced us both–and we can’t wait to return–from Porto to Lisbon, with Sintra in between. We already planning our return at some point in 2013. There are many highlights. Using a mixture of film and digital photography, I took a great many images while in Portugal, and made a book of a selection of black and white images.

“Momentary Light” – Porto, Portugal

First, a new awareness of light is something I can see about those images now. I think all of these pieces can be traced to using slower cameras: both film rangefinders and the Fuji X100 can be slow in operation–at least, more so than the digital whiz-bang gizmos masquerading as cameras just about everywhere–and forced me to do more work before releasing the shutter than I had previously been forced to do. I have always been what I’d call a¬†reactive¬†photographer; I can struggle at times to create a scene, which is why I often have difficulty posing people for photographs. I don’t envision a scene well, but I give myself credit for seeing a scene. Frequently, I raise the camera to my eye and make an image and I don’t always know why–something compels me to do so. In that sense, I’m less a cerebral photographer and rely more on feeling.

“Into Darkness” – Lisbon, Portugal

“Peep Show” – Lisbon, Portugal

“Lines” – Porto, Portugal

Visually, I found Portugal very interesting. More than that, a personal style began to emerge, totally unforced. When I returned home and went through the images I made I found that many of the images dealt with loneliness and isolation; often solitary figures in the heart of urban centers did not represent the whole of my experience in Portugal, but it’s what my lens was drawn to. A more comprehensive approach to constructing and composing my images took shape as well, as the final shot above (in particular) attests.

Back to The Future: Film Revisited

As I mentioned above, 2012 saw me revisit analog photography. Shooting with film was something I did in 2008 and 2009 in particular, after taking a film photography course as my final undergraduate course. But the convenience of digital won me over, and film slowly ebbed away until I was shooting all digital: 2012 saw that change.

“Wonder” – Saint Paul, MN

“Size” ¬†– ¬†Fargo, ND

Reinvigorated by film, I began to try more film cameras. The Fuji X100 steered me in the direction of rangefinder cameras, as I found that style of shooting came naturally. I also found it more enjoyable. From the Minolta CL I moved to the Leica M3; to the M3 I added an M6, then sold the M3 and purchased a Zeiss Ikon; that Ikon outlived my M6 and was soon joined by an MP, which then was my only rangefinder until I added an M6TTL, and sold the MP because I found the viewfinder wasn’t the right one for me.¬†In concert with this madness came a fair number of lenses I also tried.

The other new (to me) piece of equipment I added was a Hasselblad 501CM. Medium format photography is a joy and I had gotten away from it lately. I’m glad I rediscovered the 6×6 negative.

“White” – Minneapolis, MN

“Angles” – Minneapolis, MN

Thanks for reading, and viewing, the first part of the 2012 review. I will be rounding out the year’s events and images in the second half of this post to come in the next few days.

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Cathedral of Saint Paul: Reflections on the First Year, Part 2

“Light” – Saint Paul, MN

I spoke yesterday about my reasons for starting the project on the Cathedral of Saint Paul. I also spoke about how I have come to realize that I have a certain way of shooting–a certain style. Not only with how I shoot, but what I shoot as well. In looking at my own images from the past 1-2 years–when my photography has really begun to take shape–there is a distinct theme. I see things in a way that others don’t.

My cathedral project is unique in the fact that it shows a different side of the place, much like the rest of my photography shows a different side of life–the side that I am drawn to increasingly. I think that as things progress with me, artistically and photographically, this is something to look out for. There is a fine line between a visual aesthetic or style, and making the same images over and over because they were successful once. Many people who do commercial work, or shoot weddings and portraits, fall into this rut quickly. They lose all creativity and stick with “what works”. While it is certainly understandable, nothing makes your work more stale, and you (the photographer) more bored and disinterested.

“Storage” – Saint Paul, MN

Like I was saying, the things that I see, and the things that stand out to me are a lot different than they are for other people. Most of what I have seen of others’ work from the Cathedral of Saint Paul is of the “postcard” variety (long night exposures, building at sunset, etc) or the technicolor, poorly-done HDR, Photoshop panorama-stitching, uber-saturated, over-processed variety (you know who you are, and this type of shot NEVER looks good). The less said about that last kind of photography, the better. Just thinking of it makes my eyes hurt; it’s like looking at a cartoon, while dumping battery acid in my eyes.

Seriously though (mini-rant over) I haven’t ever see pictures of the cathedral that focus on the smaller things. The mundane things. The places where the holy and the secular intersect; the meeting of supernatural and mundane is something that I began to see everywhere and that is what the project ultimately focused on. Some of the shots from yesterday’s post touched on it, and today’s do so even more. Some are out-takes, others are shots that I used in the book I made. I hope you get the sense of the everyday, the average.

“Mundane” – Saint Paul, MN

This is where my project stands out, I think.

Having a project is good. Having a place to put that project is even better. I don’t necessarily mean in the physical sense–although prints and books are important too–but more in the sense of having a place to put your artwork in the larger world of art. As a graduate student in history, it’s the same idea. One must place one’s own work into the larger narrative of historical writing; like a brick wall, your work must fit into the holes left through the years and hasn’t been covered yet. Then you put your brick into the wall, and go about finding the next place someone left a brick out. Over time, the wall fills up. The same goes in art, to an extent.

“Representation” – Saint Paul, MN

I think that this project, once it is done, is one that I would like to have exhibited in a gallery. Or perhaps even have a book published professionally (not on my own via Blurb or the like) but there is much left to do with the project and work to be done with finding someone to take on my project, and my vision, and help provide funds and the arena to show my work to a wider audience.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed the photographs that I posted here. I think that I will continue to go back to the cathedral to flesh out this project, and go back through the shots I’ve taken to make sure I have a consistent thematic and visual thread with which to tie the whole thing up. I’d love to hear some thought of others on the nature of putting projects together, and projects that you have completed or are working on now.

Any useful tips to share with other readers of the blog? Put them in the comments below!

“Engrossed” – Saint Paul, MN

You can always see more at my website, and keep checking back on my blog for more work. Don’t forget, you can click “follow” down below and get updates straight into your email inbox! And use the social network links to share my work on twitter, flickr, or the like.




Cathedral of Saint Paul: Reflections on the First Year

“Cathedral of St. Paul” – St. Paul, MN

It has been a year now since I started this project. In late-2011, I went to the Cathedral of Saint Paul, MN (colloquially called the St. Paul Cathedral) looking for some inspiration. I had a new camera (the Fuji X100) to try out and the weather was crap. Indoors suited me just fine. I am not religious at all, and so the building held no spiritual sway for me; I went looking for some photographic inspiration.

What I found has been surprising, in many ways.

I have gone back to the cathedral on several occasions, probably 10-12 times throughout the year. I have deliberately gone at different times of the day, on different days of the week, trying to vary my visits so that I don’t fall into a discernible pattern. I want to explore the cathedral and its inhabitants as fully as possible. My appreciation for the site has grown over time.

“Reflection” – Saint Paul, MN

When I began, I had no knowledge of anyone else’s shots of the site, but I have spoken with people and looked at images online of the cathedral, and determined that it is over-shot. It’s become trite and clich√© to shoot the cathedral. I kept going nonetheless. Most importantly, I made my own images. Now, any photographer sees the world in their own way. We all come to the game with our own background and preconceptions and interests and goals and…you get the idea. There is no way we could all see things the same. I don’t think I am any different in this respect.

However, I do know that I see things in a certain way. Having shot a lot over the past half-decade that I have been serious about photography, I have a certain style and way of seeing the world that is all my own. Some like it, some don’t I’m sure. I have my own influences of photographers that I like, and those have changed over time and will surely change again. At the moment, I’d say I’m most influenced by Martin Parr, Garry Winogrand, and Lee Friedlander; not all of their work, but most of it (frankly, Friedlander’s work over the past few years has been disappointing, and Parr has struck out on a few projects over the years, but you get my point). If you haven’t checked these guys out, you should. In fact, if you are a photographer in any sense, you should be looking at the work of others, both classic and contemporary. For example, I love the work of Nick Turpin–but I can’t quite see the world in the same way he does. Other people love Bruce Gilden’s style–I don’t, but many do.

“Walking” – Saint Paul, MN

But, I digress.

My own style of shooting mirrors my personality to a large part, and I have written on that before. I think all of us put ourselves into our work and our art. That is natural. Bruce Gilden shoots the way he does because that’s his personality, much like Joel Meyerowitz or anyone else. That’s not my personality, and not how or what I shoot. To each his own. I reached a point where I thought I was done with the project–and maybe I am. But maybe I’m not.

I had my old photography teacher go over my prints and critique it for me. She pointed out a few things that are really helpful. Some are technical issues (dodging and burning, etc) others have to do with the idea of the project, others are editing issues. Her input was incredibly helpful and made me see that perhaps I am not done with this. There are strengths to the shots I have collected, and if I focus on those strengths a bit more I think that I will have a project that is fully formed and well done.

“Library Room” – Saint Paul, MN

Tomorrow I’ll talk a bit more about this project and include some more images. I’d love to hear what you think from the first part!


Analog Cathedral

"Wonder" - St Paul, MN

Here is a set of images taken inside the Saint Paul Cathedral in St Paul, Minnesota. Long-time followers of the blog will recognize the venue, as I have made it an ongoing project of mine to photograph the cathedral, both inside and out. I don’t know what draws me to it, but I continue to go back and enjoy shooting the cathedral. Each visit seems to bring something fresh.

This was shot on Ilford HP5+, which is an ISO 400 film; I pushed it to 1600 (that is, +2 stops), knowing that one can process film to push it to a higher ISO later. When I got the film back, I was informed that they do not have the capability to push film. I am using a new lab for film processing, and am learning what they do as I go. The lab went ahead and processed my film all the same–at ISO 400–and I was concerned that it would be ruined. It is definitely a harsher grain than I would like, but the results are not unusable. That Ilford film is pretty resilient!

I hope you like today’s post–it is longer than usual!

PS–the main shot above was featured on the Utata.org website front page!

St Paul Cathedral: February 2012

"Meandering" - St Paul, MN


Here is a selection of shots from this month’s visit to the St Paul Cathedral in St Paul, Minnesota. ¬†I have begun to think about expanding this project beyond its current scope of the single cathedral, but for now its all just thought. ¬†I continue to greatly enjoy revisiting the St Paul Cathedral, but I am still puzzled by what exactly draws me to it. ¬†I can’t exactly put it into words, but I’ll keep enjoying it, thinking about it, and shooting it for now.

If you like what you see, please feel free to get in touch and let me know! ¬†I love to hear from people who like my work, but I also like to get constructive criticism or critique too; both are valuable as an artist, so let’s hear your thoughts! ¬†If you like my work, please do let others know about the blog–I can only reach so many people on my own, so I need your help to get my work out there. ¬†You all have done so much already to help me show my work, and I really appreciate it.




Reflections on the St. Paul Cathedral Project

"Wonder" Fuji X100 | 1/28 @ f/2 | ISO 3200


I have been enjoying going to the cathedral as a longer-term project. ¬†It has sort of evolved organically, and I am by no means religious, but I have enjoyed my visits there greatly, and I am thinking of ways to expand the project beyond its current scope. ¬†Any ideas? ¬†I’d love to hear them!

The emptiness, combined with the size of the place, is really something. ¬†When there are no services going on it feels really cavernous. ¬†It is never really empty, however, since there are always visitors or tourists of some kind inside. ¬†I respect those who are there to pray and I make sure not to disturb their reverence, or in anyway interrupt what they are doing. ¬†I appreciate the reverence of the cathedral and its visitors, and always ensure that I handle myself as a guest in someone else’s house. ¬†There have been times that I have come across others who are there to sightsee, and they don’t always think about anyone but themselves, and their big, noisy DSLRs on AUTO mode (with the on-body flashes compensating for their 18-200 f/dark lenses) going off repeatedly. ¬†You know who you are…

I normally try to stay away from talking about gear as much as possible (although I do post technical information for each photograph) since that is not what photography is about. ¬†Don’t get me wrong, I’m as big of a gear-head as the next guy, and have some pretty bad G.A.S. (Gear Acquisition Syndrome, don’t we all?), but I want the work I post here to be about more than that. ¬†With that being said, however, when I am at the cathedral it helps to be as unobtrusive as possible, so that is where equipment really does become a factor. ¬†The cathedral is so quiet that any noise echoes throughout and really draws unwanted attention; I used my D700 during my first visit there last November and it sounded like a gunshot. ¬†I quickly packed it up and have since used mainly X100–which is basically silent; it makes even my M3 sound loud–to make sure I do not disturb anyone. ¬†I used my M3 on my last visit as well, but haven’t gotten the film back yet. ¬†I was very bold and used some slide film inside, so we will see how that works out when I get it back.

Thanks for stopping by. ¬†I’d love to get some feedback from you all on this series, or just this post. ¬†Please do check the older posts from the St. Paul Cathedral series if you like this one, and let me know what you think about those, too! ¬†If you like the blog and my work, please consider re-blogging, or sharing via Twitter, Facebook, or Google+, and help others enjoy it as well–links to each of those services should be just below the post, and above the comment section.

Thanks again!


Another Visit to the Cathedral

Fuji X100 | 1/1400 @ f/16 | ISO 200

Over the weekend, I made another trip to the St Paul Cathedral, which I have grown to like immensely in the time I’ve spent there. I enjoy the size of the place, and the reverence with which those visiting treat it, despite the fact that they may not be Catholic, or religious, at all. It is a marvelous monument, and I enjoy shooting there–I am sure I will be returning before long.

I also shot some film, which I will post in due time. Let me know what you all think–feedback is appreciated.

Additionally, here are some details of the new project that began this past weekend: it was my birthday on the 15th, and I will be documenting my 30th year with at least one roll of film each week. I will then process and scan each roll and post it here (and selected shots on my flickr and tumblr, but I will post the full roll here only). I’m excited; the new (the serial number indicates it was manufactured in January, 1955, so perhaps “new” isn’t exactly right) Leica M3 I just recently acquired will be my companion for this project. I will perhaps give myself little mini-assignments along the way, but the idea is just to document what I do–physically, intellectually, artistically, visually, etc–with my 30th year. The project will end on 15 January 2013, my 30th birthday.

St Paul Cathedral: Faith

Fuji X100 | 23mm | 1/17 @ f/2 | ISO 3200

The final day of the cathedral project is here. The final piece that I was left with was the aspect of faith. There is, despite all of the other feelings I felt at the cathedral, still a feeling of the individual person and their relationship to the cathedral, the Church, and their faith.

St Paul Cathedral: Money

Fuji X100 | 23mm | 1/60 @ f/2 | ISO 3200

Today is the third day of the cathedral mini-project, and the focus for today is a different aspect that I noticed when I walked around the church the past few days.

Fuji X100 | 23mm | 1/60 @ f/2 | ISO 200

Fuji X100 | 23mm | 1/60 @ f/2 | ISO 2000