Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Travels with Mom

Chocolate-covered peanuts. These pictures remind me of chocolate-covered peanuts.

Whenever I visit my 82-year-old mother in Ohio -- which I did last week -- she insists that I take her to a small Amish country store in the tiny village of Kidron, where we buy cookies and candy...and always, always chocolate-covered peanuts.

I shot a number of pictures that I like on that trip. If I look at the photographs 30 years from now I know I’ll be reminded of several pleasant days Mom and I shared, and how cool it is to have a mom who loves candy even more than her kid.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Not Fleeting

Some of the things I photograph present challenges because they are so fleeting. The expression on a human face can last only an instant, and even the light on a landscape can be here and gone faster than you can say “Oops, I missed it.”

There is little, however, that is fleeting about my son’s dog, Buddha. I have photographed Buddha napping on the couch, on my office floor, in the sunlight that streams in the south window and the north. The main challenge in photographing this fellow is that he seems to like to mess with the photographer: I pull my camera from my pocket and Buddha will turn his head away from me.

I guess the enlightened Buddha is testing my sense of humor and also helping me practice patience.

Monday, September 21, 2009


When I’ve packed my cameras and headed out of town on a trip, I usually try to find an hour each day -- often at dawn or at sunset, when the photographic light is best -- to get out for a walk to exercise my antsy, fidgety body...and also my eyes.

These walkabouts are a good chance to connect to the place I’m visiting, to watch it wake up with the first light of day, or to see it wind down in the evening.

Last week I traveled to the Midwest and the East Coast. I was out on one of my walks just at dawn when I witnessed the scene above. Another evening I was out for the sunset you see below.

As always, the camera is a trusted companion, helping me to share what I've seen.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Party Dress

There’s a manly old cedar tree towering over one side of our house -- stately, dignified, no-nonsense. Near it is a non-native Katsura tree, a girlish (and dare I say foxy) young ornamental.

This is the time of year when the stunning Asian beauty (even earlier this summer she wasn’t exactly a demure and proper lady, what with her heart-shaped leaves and all) goes all-out with a show of fashion. She is the first tree for miles around to wear the colors of the coming autumn.

Meanwhile, the cedar seems secure in his working-class steadiness. He is jeans and a plaid shirt, while Katsura is spiky red pumps and a sexy party dress.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Sweet Pea

(Leah wrote today's text. --Kurt)

Two days ago, our darling sheep, Sweet Pea, laid down and couldn't get back up. While he was weak, he did not seem to be in pain. He would eat the hay and grain that we offered him from our hands, and drink water sweetened with molasses from a bowl. We tried to help him stand but his legs had just stopped working.

We got Sweet Pea in the spring of 1997 as a lamb. His happy disposition and love of being scratched behind the ears made his name fit like a glove. He was certainly the most photographed sheep in the world, mainly because of his willingness to cozy up to the man with the camera. He was also certainly the best sheep in the world. From the six sheep that we started out with, Sweet Pea and his two remaining brothers became the old bachelor kings of the pasture. They set the rhythm of the day, loudly demanding food when they felt it was appropriate, and later staking out good spots to relax and digest their meals.

Last night at 10:30, after her own long day, the Mobile Vet came to our house. She is a kind and compassionate person. She, Kurt and I laid down around him in the hay on the barn floor as she gently released Sweet Pea from this place in time. I swear he smiled as he relaxed and moved on. As we carried him to her van afterward, we could hear owls gently hooting in the trees around us. It was beautiful and sweet like our little friend.

Friday, September 11, 2009

A Summer, Preserved

Note: I invited Leah to write the text to accompany today's photographs. --Kurt

It’s the beginning of the end of summer and the conclusion of my “preserving season”. I will stow away the reliable old canning pot. I will no longer sit in fear, awaiting the imminent explosion of the pressure canner as it steams and jiggles away. The two-gallon stone crock is done with its work – the pickles are captured in jars on the shelf. After a few more apples meet their fate, the dehydrator will also go into its storage for the winter.

Pickles, sweet and dill: check. Jams of several varieties: check. Tomatoes, quarts and quarts of tomatoes: check and double-check. I think I’m done. The hard work of the weekends is behind me. No more hours spent over bubbling pots of jam about to go into the hot jars sitting upended on the kitchen counter. The shelves are now groaning with those beautiful jars which so radiantly reflect the wealth of the garden and the toil of the cook.

I should be celebrating. I should be busy planning easy, feet-up-on-the-couch activities that will carry me through the fall and winter. I should rest. But for one whose instincts are those of the hunter/gatherer, there is always an inner voice that says, “Put more food by. Stock up. Save the harvest for when its needed.” I’m not sure if I’m part squirrel or channeling some 19th Century farmer’s wife.

So I’ll stop for awhile and take it easy; but at the same time, I’ll be wondering how long it will be before I can pick those beets I just planted in my winter garden. Mmm, pickled beets!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


My horse friend Rusty has the coolest eyes -- they remind me of marbles I had when I was a kid -- and, fortunately, Rusty’s pretty tolerant of me taking his picture.

If there was nothing else to photograph around here (and there is quite a lot,) I could be happy for many days just hanging out around Rusty, working on the Ultimate Image of my blue-eyed neighbor.

Friday, September 4, 2009

No Applesauce for Me

One day this fall Leah will go out to our small orchard intending to pick apples so that she can make applesauce for the winter.

All I can say is: She’d better get out there and pick soon or there will be no apples to be found. A certain someone who lives here has been making nice with the neighbor’s horses each morning (I only give Rusty and Grace one apple a day, maybe two. Honest!)
This morning I realized that my generosity is beginning to be more than a little noticeable. Pickings are looking kind of slim in our orchard.


In my giving-away-the-farm defense, I must say: Can’t you see how sweet those horses are? Can you blame me for taking them treats?

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Balancing Act

So often I meet people who enjoy photography and they ask me for tips about how they might become professionals.

“Why would you want to do that?” I reply, sounding I’m sure like the biggest, crankiest grumpasaurus ever. “Why would you want to take something you enjoy simply for the doing of it and make it into a job?”

I don’t know whether or not people get the point I’m trying to make about the difficulties inherent in making a living at something that is one’s passion, not to mention the muddy water one wades into when combining art and commerce.

Maybe the two pictures posted here will help me make my point. I was shooting a wedding last weekend and these photographs -- which I happen to like very
much -- were images that presented themselves at points in the day when I was in nose-to-the-grindstone mode, shooting more-obvious, must-have photographs. Fortunately my newspaper years gave me the ability to shoot this picture over here, then spin around for that moment over there, with reasonable hopes of getting both.

For me these two pictures are lovely and I’m very happy I saw them. They'll add a feeling of humanity and a sense of place to other pictures I shot that day.

I feel fortunate that after 30-some years of shooting photographs as my living, I've learned the balancing act that allows me to please my clients, as well as myself.