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!

Veterans’ Day

“Half-way” – Minneapolis, MN

Today is Veterans’ Day in the USA, also known as Armistice Day in other parts of the world, and I thought I’d reflect on the day with a few out-takes from my recent “Summer Job” project (which you can see here if you haven’t yet).

Most people don’t have the day off of work, but I do and so I figured it was appropriate to spend the day reflecting in a more serious manner on what today means. ¬†I find that in many parts of life in the US, the rhetoric toward veterans and¬†service-members¬†is frequently over-the-top and feels…disingenuous. ¬†As a season ticket holder at the Minnesota Timberwolves this year, I attended the match on Friday night, which happened to be “Military Appreciation Night”. ¬†Essentially, free tickets were available to military members and veterans if you wanted them. ¬†The pre-game show included a flag-folding ceremony, a color guard, and verbal nod to veterans of all branches of the military, on top of the usual national anthem. ¬†On top of that, the club was selling some pretty hideous-looking¬†camouflage¬†Timberwolves T-shirts. ¬†Throughout the game, the MC kept insisting the crowd get one, as they were the “deal of the day” at only $18.

But what does “military appreciation” really mean? ¬†Is it nothing more than a commemorative T-shirt and 10% off your pancakes at Denny’s? ¬†To what extent is the rhetoric all around this country toward veterans and military members really meaningful, and to what extent is it not? ¬†In the post-9/11 era of everlasting-war, when patriotism has been reduced to a (now-mandatory, seemingly) US-flag lapel pin for the politicians who send us to far-flung places across the globe to protect America’s interests, what does it mean to appreciate the military?

“Self” – Minneapolis, MN

To cut back to the Timberwolves game I mentioned before, the half-time show was the strippers-cum-cheerleaders known as the Timberwolves Dancers. ¬†There is nothing unusual about this, as they generally shake, rattle, and roll about throughout every game. ¬†However, on “Military Appreciation Night” they had choreographed a 1940s-inspired USO dance routine, complete with the camouflage miniskirts and big-band music. ¬†Clearly, this was meant to harken back to a time when things were easier; in fact, much of the “military appreciation” that happens in this country has a foothold in what is widely known as the “Greatest Generation”–that is, those who went off to war and defeated the Germans and Japanese in World War II. ¬†This is not meant in any way to belittle or degrade the sacrifices made by civilian and military personnel during that war, who endured an awful lot and set in motion the events that would lead to America’s era of prosperity and unparalleled influence across the globe, and made the twentieth century “America’s Century”.

Since then, war has become…complicated. ¬†Less easy to understand or appreciate are the conflicts in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq (x2), and Afghanistan, to name only the biggest ones of the past half-century. ¬†The heroes are villains are more nuanced, and there is no black-and-white; in fact, more recent conflicts have no good or bad guys, simply different perspectives on a common conflict.

“Procedures” – Minneapolis, MN

When returning from war overseas, does a veteran really want to be paraded around in front of a crowd at a basketball game?  Veterans, if I can speak for all of us, do not want to be treated as a novelty, posing with a mascot and cheerleaders before being whisked away to make room for more entertainment.

After all, the question has to be asked: is all of the song and dance meant to make veterans feel appreciated, or is it created to make others feel as if they are appreciating them? ¬†I believe it is the latter, and this is precisely why I use the word disingenuous when describing this rhetoric that a large portion of the general public seems to engage in, almost unconsciously at this point, so ingrained in our national psyche is this obsession with the military. ¬†“Military appreciation” is a more of a way, I would argue, to absolve our collective responsibility or guilt about what many veterans endure in the name of “America’s interests”.

And so, veterans are treated as a novelty in many instances. ¬†The rhetoric is everywhere, and there is a certain way we talk about veterans and military members: it’s always glowing, and involves frequent use of the word “hero”. ¬†However, genuine appreciation, and real support is lacking. ¬†This is not meant to say that we deserve special treatment; in fact, I don’t want to be treated any differently than anyone else. ¬†I received educational assistance and other benefits for my service. ¬†I also get paid reasonably well and have a solid set of health benefits and time off. ¬†I get to travel a fair amount and see things I might not otherwise get to. ¬†All said, I think I have been reimbursed for my service just fine. ¬†Then again, I haven’t been in combat.

“Welcome Home” – Minneapolis, MN

We all sign up knowing that it can happen. ¬†Deployments are matter-of-fact these days and come with varying degrees of risk. ¬†Still, we all raise our hand and take the oath of enlistment knowing that it is a possibility (some jobs more than others), but what we ask in return is to only be sent into harm’s way if it is absolutely necessary. ¬†The service-members I know are good, honest people and are happy to serve their country, but they do not want to do so needlessly or without justification. ¬†Today’s politicians do not share this sentiment, for the most part. ¬†After all, another big issue in today’s military is the social class from which the large majority of those serving are drawn–the sons and daughters of politicians and the wealthy do not generally serve. ¬†This is now a task left to those who do not have an alternative to putting themselves in harm’s way. ¬†Long gone are the days of the military representing the society at large.

The folks returning from overseas deserve appreciation. ¬†They also deserve respect, and they deserve a good handshake and an authentic expression of gratitude. ¬†But that’s not all–they deserve to know that their sacrifices weren’t for nothing, and they should return home knowing that although we can’t really understand what they went through, there will be funding for programs to help them adapt, and confront a myriad mental and physical health problems they are now facing. ¬†All too often, this does not happen.

“Decor” – Minneapolis, MN

It’s not just overseas that service-members rush off to. ¬†In the aftermath of Katrina and more recently Sandy, National Guards-men and -women went in (along with other disaster relief agencies) to help people, and ensure medical attention and supplies to those who needed them, and ensure that despite the conditions, people could cast their ballot on election day.

So if you see a veteran, or an active service-member, shake their hand. ¬†Tell them you appreciate their service. ¬†Let them know that what they may have to do, or may have done in Vietnam, Korea, or Iraq, in service of their country is not forgotten. ¬†The best thing you can tell them is that you plan to hold politicians accountable; that you do not support sending them into harm’s way frivolously, and that it is only a last resort. ¬†If he (or she) is anything like me, he’ll appreciate that more than anything, and when he shakes your hand he’ll tell you that if it is necessary, he won’t hesitate. ¬†He’ll go so you don’t have to.

If you’ve got his back, then he’s got yours.

“Please, Watch Your Step” – Minneapolis, MN

To all the veterans out there: Happy Veterans’ Day. ¬†You deserve it, and I mean that sincerely and completely. ¬†Thanks for volunteering you go into harm’s way if we need you to, and I’m sorry that you’ve had to bear that burden all too often.



Denver, CO – August 2012

So many of you probably got a message from my blog about how doing surveys has earned my a certain amount of money. If anyone is new to the Internet, they may not understand; the rest of you will (most likely) have known this is SPAM.

Apparently my account was hacked, and a whole bunch of others too. I started getting messages from people about the post they got from my account, and when I checked my email, I had gotten 8-10 others from some of my favorite photo blogs that I follow. WordPress.com, to their credit, noticed and suspended my account and reset my password until I logged back in, proved who I was, and changed my password.

I wish that this kind of thing didn’t happen, and I’m not really even sure what spammers get out of this anymore (everyone knows what it is and nobody clicks anymore, do they?). It’s like the Nigerian-prince emails about how if you just send along a little money you’ll be reimbursed with millions in a few days. Oh well, that’s life online I suppose.

I am alive and well, and the blog will carry on. Sorry for the spam and I hope it didn’t convince you to un-follow me. Hopefully it doesn’t happen again.


Summer Job – iPhoneography, part 1

The summer is now officially over. ¬†The “Summer Job” project is finished and the book is published. ¬†The job ended–a bit earlier than anticipated–but there are still some shots left over that I never got around to putting up. ¬†Initially, I had intended to use some of the pictures I took with my phone in the project, but when it came time to make the book and select the final set of images, I opted to use only those I had taken with my Olympus XA2.

I will post the ones from the summer that I liked the most in the near future. ¬†Here is the first set…enjoy!

As always, feedback and comments are greatly appreciated! ¬†If you take the time to stop by, and you like what you see here, please take a moment to let me know by leaving a comment below. ¬†It does mean a lot to hear your thoughts on this blog and to keep me going ūüôā



Project: “Summer Job”

“Summer Job”


Only one day after I announced the project was in its final stages–and here it is:

Summer Job

I finished the project and the book, and will be putting it up on my website shortly. ¬†The book is available in print and eBook formats (but only for iPad at the moment); the digital version is free–for obvious reasons, I can’t make a printed version free.

I would love to hear feedback on the project. ¬†It has been the culmination of a summer of work with planning, shooting, editing, and the final selection of images. ¬†Ultimately, I think that it does what I wanted to. ¬†If you check out the book I’d advise reading the artist’s statement at the beginning of the book to ensure you get the most out of it. ¬†Again, any critique or comment is welcome!

I also reduced the prices of my previous eBooks, so feel free to give them a try as well. You can find all of my work through the “Books” tab on my website.


Coming Soon!

“Angles” – Minneapolis, MN


I am happy to announce that my “Summer Job” project is almost finalized. With a few more finishing touches, I will be able to announce another book ready for purchase! Once it is done, I will post the set in its entirety to my website, and a link to that on my blog; a link to the book will also be provided for anyone who wants to see it, or purchase one.

The shot above is one that did not make the final cut, although I like it, so I thought I’d post it here instead. As always, I’d love to hear any and all thoughts you have–feedback and critiques are always appreciated!