Denver Alleys

Since I started taking photos, I've been drawn to long straight paths - vanishing points. There's a certain magnetism that makes my eyes and sometimes my feet wander, guided by light. 

Denver has systems of long, stretching alleyways in many neighborhoods. Most are purely functional and non-descript, places to park your car or to put your trash out for collection.  Certain areas, such as Lodo, have more trafficked and utilized alleys. Very few are what you'd call pretty. They're not faster to walk down than the sidewalk and some of them are trash-strewn and, well, gross.

I try to find beauty in unexpected places and in the mundane. I still contend that you don't always have to look too hard, even in urban alleys.

Too be continued, I'm sure.

Photo #7 NSFW.

Chasing Light on the Nebraska Panhandle

The Nebraska Panhandle is wind-swept mixture of sand hills, buttes, prairie and farms. In the winter, there's a lot of brown, still frozen earth and a lot of sky. We entered Nebraska at it's highest point, just over two hours from Denver via the Pawnee National Grassland. Sadly the resident buffalo herd was shy and stayed in the distance.

With the change in pavement at the border of Colorado, the wind farms give way to open land, dirt roads and abandoned dust bowl era homesteads. I hadn't any idea as to how many abandoned places we'd see. There were mid-century motels, gas stations, western wear stores - all, now, nothing but light and shadows.

I was lucky enough to have my friend Katie join me for my first road trip chasing light. The small town centers we visited (Kimball, Alliance, Hemingsford & Sidney) were all alive, despite more than a few empty storefronts. There were more independent restaurants and businesses than national chains and, for the most part people were friendly and very welcoming to us, who were clearly passing through. As an adult, I've only lived in cities - Manhattan, then Brooklyn and now Denver. While the towns were still functioning, very little was modern or contemporary. There's a certain retro charm to some of it, but a lot just felt disconnected.

Carhenge is roadside Americana in its purest form. Just outside of Alliance and modeled after England's Stonehenge. We heard from a few people that Alliance will be perfectly aligned with the full solar eclipse of August 2017. The town of 8,500 is anticipating nearly 40,000 visitors.

A selfie from Carhenge resulted in an invitation to visit a farm down an unpaved county road in Hemingsford. The Smith's live on a small wheat farm about 3 miles from where Gordon was born. It was a delightful visit with very kind people who greeted us with a pot of coffee and offered us a jar of honey. They're part of a network of "pollinator farms" - they host the hives another company tends to. I was in awe of the quantity of very worn out, dusty hats, meticulously lined up in the garage.

Weather still controls life here more than in other places, certainly the North East. We passed through in late February and had to alter our plans due to an approaching storm. When it snows on the prairie and the wind kicks up, life stops. The wind never stops and there's nowhere for the snow to pile up. You simply can't see, so you don't go anywhere. We had planned to continue on to South Dakota, but decided to head back to Denver instead.

This was the first trip chasing light of, I hope, many. The next trip will hopefully be more planned in terms of people or organizations to meet. As always, if you know someone who shines brightly in a tough place, please put me in touch with them.

 

 

Chasing Light

Photographers talk about chasing light. Light creates. Light defines.

I need some light to counteract the darkness permeating our nation.  Since November 8th, I’ve felt an anger and a sadness that are new to me. Every fiber of my being feels uncomfortable with most of what our government is doing and especially with how they’re doing it. I feel a desperation, a fog of disgust, a true fear for the future.

So I’m going to chase light.

I’m going to resist through beauty. In this small way, I will do my best to surround myself with the opposite of what I’m reading in the news. I will be a fortress of beauty and kindness. A reminder of it’s power. I will refuse to let these people affect me any longer.

As long as the weather cooperates, I’ll be spending the 3rd week of February traveling around and photographing a part of the country that, in its way, matches my current mind-frame: isolated, a bit remote and bleak. I’m planning on driving through the Nebraska panhandle, south-west corner of South Dakota and the eastern side of Wyoming. Wind, sky, snow and not much else. I will look for light.

I hope I'll meet and talk to some good people along the way. If you know of anyone fighting the good fight in that part of the country, please consider putting them in touch with me.

I’d love to photograph these people and give their efforts a platform, however small my personal platform is. I’ll also donate a percentage of profit from sales of prints from this trip to the ACLU or Planned Parenthood or some other deserving charity.

I have to do something. Time to fight back. I’ll start by chasing beauty.

Chasing light.

#resistancethroughbeauty

Cathy & Dustin - a wedding in Curaçao

A few weeks back, I was privileged to be a part of Cathy and Dustin's wedding. I'm always honored when friends ask me to shoot their weddings - I consider it a blessing to be able to do what I do for those I love. For Cathy, who's from this beautiful island just north of Venezuela, her family reunion became a wedding celebration. For Dustin's family and college friends, it became an amazing destination wedding and vacation. These two were married surrounded by family and friends on a private beach at the Avila Hotel and Resort, in Willemstad. Flowers by Bon Aparte Flowers www.bonaparteflowers.comEvent Planning by: Iris S. Susanna www.curacao-elegantweddings.com

Venice, Italy

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Venice has only approximately 55,000 full time residents. 20 million people visit Venice annually. 20 million. Many people only visit on day trips as the harbor can accommodate all but the most behemoth of cruise ships. In many ways, Venice is one of the greatest tourist traps in the world.

Despite the hellish masses of people during the day and boat traffic on the main canals, there's a certain quiet due to the absolute lack of cars; its nickname is, after all, La Serenissima. Part of this city's charm is getting lost in the labyrinth of bridges, piazzas and streets and finding your way back to your hotel. It is also almost magically beautiful. Normal life in Venice looks like artwork. The light is clear and crisp and shimmers off the water almost everywhere. People dressed up for Carnival do not seem out of place at all. Spend a day or two there and you somehow don't mind paying a premium for mediocre food served by surly waiters that don't really want you there.

On one visit I decided to walk across the city at night and photograph it. What surprised me most was just how silent the city was at 3:00 in the morning. From the Arsenale to the train station, I met only two other people: one security guard in front of a hotel and one very drunk tourist trying to get into his hotel. Piazzas dressed up for parties were deserted and a giant pair of lips hovering mid-air welcomed me to the end of my walk.

Here are more photographs of Venice. Here are some of Rome and Grosseto.

Dustin and Cathy are soon to be married in Curacao!

And I cannot wait to be there with them! In anticipation of it, here are some from our engagement shoot last summer in the Brooklyn Botanic. Looking forward to seeing you guys in just a few days!

Photographing birds

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Ever since I can remember, my dad has tied flies for trout and salt water fishing. Even as a little kid, I loved the shapes, colors, textures and patterns of all the different feathers. They were just beautiful to me.

As an adult, I've become more enamored with the living, flying birds. I still simply find them fascinating and beautiful. The spectrum of colors, the iridescence, the ability to just take off and fly away - I just love them. Even the giant pelicans, which are living, visible proof that birds have evolved from lizards - stand in front of them and look into it's eyes, I dare you.

Grey hornbill, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

Ibis, Chinese Gardens, Sydney, NSW, Australia

Mot mot, Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

Macaw, New York City

A macaw flying through eucalypt trees at the Royal Botanic, Canberra, ACT, Australia

A giant pelican swimming in Kiama, NSW, Australia

mandalas

A few years back, Kate, a stylist (and stylish) friend of mine asked me to help her in photographing a project for her.  A yoga studio that asked her to create a mandala made out of healthy food. Well we did that one and then kept going with it - we made six mandalas out of non traditional materials.  We made each one by hand, placing each piece as needed. This one is made of candy and measured about 5' by 5'. Some of the types of candy in this one are jelly rings, red hots, ice cream sprinkles, candy coated sunflower seeds, peppermints, sno caps, runts, Necco candy dots, rock candy lollipops, and Pixie Stix dust.

Stylist: Kate Parisian

Stylist: Kate Parisian

Flying in a very small plane

Boulder, CO, from the sky

Longmont, CO

Skydivers drifting into Longmont Airport

Marijke, "Flygirl", my friend a pilot for this trip

Not long after arriving in Denver, a friend invited me to go for a flight in her two-seater plane, a 1976 Citabria 7KCAB. I have always enjoyed looking out at the world from airplane windows and couldn't pass up this opportunity.

Standing next to Marijke's plane, I was immediately struck by the fact that something so human in scale can take us safely into the sky and back. Commercial passenger aircraft are huge - it's hard to sense just how big they are until you're on the ground looking at them, not getting onto one via an airport jetway. They're also solid, made of metal and plastic and don't wobble as you're climbing into it. The plane I climbed into, produced by American Champion, was originally designed to train pilots in aerobatic flying. They're made of fabric covered steel tube frames and have wood spar wings. You can feel its lightness in the air - how it rolls, bounces and glides on gusts of wind. It's absolutely exhilarating to fly, slowly, so close to the Flatirons and Rocky Mountains. Thanks, Marijke!

Evergreens from the sky

Moraine Park, RMNP

Sports fields from above

A prairie dog town

You can see more of my aerial photography here.

San Luis Valley, Colorado

The Sangre de Cristo mountains behind flooded fields.

Great Sand Dunes National Park

Partially frozen Zapata Falls, detail. 

Crows circling an abandoned house near Crestone, CO

This is what happens when you take an iPhone pano in a car moving at 80 mph.

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The first time I saw the San Luis Valley, I was mesmerized. It was on the first day of the road trip through the south-west that I took in February 2016. A friend recommended that we take CO 285 south into New Mexico, opting for smaller country roads rather than the interstate. I made a mental note to go back to this part of the state. Little did I know that life would bring me back just a few weeks later.

The scale and vastness of this valley is deceptive. Perception is altered; something 30 miles away seems like it should only be a 10 minute drive. Rt 17 or 285 cross the valley with barely a kink in the road for 50 miles. It's surrounded by Sangre de Cristo range to the east and the San Juan mountains to the west. In between, nothing but dusty, flat farmland, off-the-grid houses, a UFO lookout tower and campground and even an alligator farm, if it's not yet sold.

Nestled into the Sangre de Cristo mountains lay the largest sand dunes in North America. Designated as national parkland by President Clinton in the 1990's, Great Sand Dunes National Park is visible clear across the valley floor. An open expanse of protected sand, you're free to wander and camp anywhere you can walk. Be prepared for blazing hot sun and one serious leg and cardio workout.

About 10 miles from the park entrance, up a dirt road and another half-mile hike are Zapata Falls. I imagine they would be wonderful for a splash in the heat of the summer. In early March the falls were still frozen over, spectacular in their stillness.

Every spring, sand hill cranes migrating northward stop in the Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge. In the morning they take off en masse to do what cranes do before returning to roost for the night. I arrived later than I had wanted to in the morning, but there were still thousands of them around.

Americana at the gas station in Hooper, CO

Practicalities: It will take you about 3-4 hours each way from Denver, long enough to want to spend the night there rather than just take a day trip. Make sure you book accommodations before you go as there are very few places I noticed on the roads. There are gas stations, stores and restaurants throughout the area but towns are small, some just junctions in the road. There was a surprisingly good barista in the art gallery next to the post office in Moffat and a much bigger downtown in Monte Vista. Make sure you carry plenty of water if you're planning on hiking on the dunes.

Pawnee National Grasslands, Colorado

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Heading north on I-25, then east, few traces of either urban Denver or the Rocky Mountains remain.  You're suddenly on the often overlooked and flown over prairie side of Colorado. Small towns centered around farming and cattle spring up and you pass signs that read "no gas for 60 miles."  Two hours north-east of Denver, near the borders of Wyoming and Nebraska, two parcels of land called the Pawnee National Grassland are tucked into this slightly out of the way section of the state. Before moving here, I had never heard of the Pawnee; I first learned of its existence when I noticed two green squares on the map.

Wildflowers and rain clouds over the Pawnee Grasslands

Some simple research taught me that these are some of the few areas of native shortgrass prairie left in North America. I was immediately intrigued and wanted to explore - we simply don't have land like this where I come from. They were set aside by the federal government after the dust bowl in the 1930's. Over the years, they became a refuge for wildlife and internationally known in the birding world. Within the past 10 years, however, development by the energy industry has increased to the point that some parts of the western section of the national Grassland seem more managed than the surrounding farms. Traces of drilling or fracking are impossible to ignore, as are the giant windmills that are the new backdrop for the Pawnee Buttes. Gas trucks roll by, each trailed by a pillow of dirt.

Pronghorn, seen within 1/2 mile of entering the park on CO-14 near Keota.

Mailbox, tumbleweeds. Pawnee National Grassland.

Cattle, windfarms, on the road to Grover from the Pawnee Buttes.

Wind farms are impossible to miss near the Pawnee Buttes.

Despite all of the human activity, it is still stunningly beautiful. This is where the buffalo roam(ed) and the deer and the antelope (still) play. You can still see vast, undulating vistas to the horizon without roads or industry. Quick and driving rains pass through, leaving behind colder air and rainbows. Pronghorn, prairie dogs and abundant bird life still live here, especially in the few parts of the western tract that I saw on my first visit. You can still get glimpses at this extraordinary, dramatic and beautiful landscape while we still have it.

To see more of my photos of the Pawnee National Grassland, click here.

Practicalities: If you go, be prepared to bring anything you'll need for the day. Hiking boots, a walking stick (rattlesnakes are common), sunscreen, water, food, and a full tank of gas are essential before you go. The only facilities I saw were standard park issue latrines in the parking area by the buttes. No stores, no gas stations, nothing of note once you're past Greeley. Once your in the grasslands, most roads are dirt and are a mess when it rains - it takes longer to get around than you would think. Cellphone coverage was surprisingly strong and Google maps worked for most of the day, even if some recommended routes weren't possible as I don't have 4 wheel drive. Bring warm clothes even on warm days - the temperature can drop very quickly.

If you want to read more about recent changes at the Pawnee, Westword wrote a very interesting piece on it last year.

Kim and Ben got married!

Just over a week ago, I got to fulfill a dream of mine - I was asked to photograph a wedding in the Japanese garden at the Brooklyn Botanic before it was opened to the general public. A gentle rain fell while Kim & Ben were married in the tea house and the grey skies and damp paths only added to the beauty of the gardens. Afterwards, we went to Dumbo to take some portraits the neighborhood where they first lived together. Here are a few images of the lovely Kim & Ben. It was a pleasure working with you both! Congratulations and I wish you both all the happiness in the world!

Jordan and LJ got married!

Last month, Jordan and LJ were married at the Gramercy Tavern in NYC. It was an extraordinarily intimate day and I am honored to have played my part in it. We spent a few hours driving around NYC for some portraits, had a drink at the Nomad hotel and then the ceremony happened in their private dining room at the Gramercy Tavern. Here are a few images from the day! Hair by @kimmycuppkakes, makeup by Natalie Destefano and flowers by Christopher Michael White.

68 Dean St is where this blog starts

I moved into this building in March of 2002 and will very soon be leaving to move from Brooklyn to Denver. That means a road trip and I need a place to talk about it and to share some photos. This blog is that place. I'm guessing that most images will be from my iPhone and that some higher quality photos will make an appearance at some point too. This is going to be an adventure! #roadtrip2016 #lmtc

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