These are a Few of My Favorite Things

You know the song.

Since Thanksgiving you’ve heard it a hundred times. Listening to the lyrics it’s not explicitly about Christmas, but it is from a movie we watch during the holidays. The list in the song is not my list. I’m not big on whiskers – I prefer the rest of the kitten. I don’t think I need mittens when using a kettle – it’s all a bit disjointed. Lyrically it’s genius – in practical use it’s not my cup of tea.

So what would my list be? I decided for my 100th post to share the list of things that inspire me behind the lens.

Raindrops on…

Anything.

Naked Lady in the rain

Naked Lady in the rain.

You can see my house inverted in this raindrop

You can see my house inverted in this raindrop.

A newly opened dogwood drenched in the rain

A newly opened dogwood drenched in the rain.

Lilac buds shining after a shower

Lilac buds shining after a shower.

I love redbuds - the first color of spring

I love redbuds – the first color of spring.

I’m not so much into bright copper kettles, but I am fascinated with…

Rust.

This is the rust and patina on my copper fire pit.

This is the rust and patina on my copper fire pit.

This hay rake was in my woods when I bought the house - every surface is beautifully rusted.

This hay rake was in my woods when I bought the house – every surface is beautifully rusted.

This padlock was on the jail in Midas Nevada. The lock spoke to me more than the shack it was attached to.

This padlock was on the jail in Midas Nevada. The lock spoke to me more than the shack it was attached to.

I don’t even know what schnitzel is – it sounds odd to me. I know it’s odd to love…

Dandelions.

I like the delicate structure and I like to find a way to look at them in new ways

I like the delicate structure and I like to find a way to look at them in new ways.

The structure of the actual flower is pretty amazing even before it goes to seed.

The structure of the actual flower is pretty amazing even before it goes to seed.

The substructure is so intricate. I shot this with a manual macro lens from the 70s.

The substructure is so intricate. I shot this with a manual macro lens from the 70s.

I grew up in the desert so the idea of sleigh bells is foreign to me, but door bells make me think of home. I have a strong bent towards…

Sentiment and Kitsch.

I love kitsch and I love it unusual places. I have had lawn flamingoes in the front lawn of every home I have ever owned.

I love kitsch and I love it unusual places. I have had lawn flamingoes in the front lawn of every home I have ever owned.

Keys

These are my Grandpa’s keys. I love shooting things that belonged to someone special.

Purple Glass

My Grandma taught me about purple glass, I love to shoot things that are transparent and have color.

Apricot Pit

My great-grandfather carved this out of a peach pit. I love the surfaces of handmade things like this.

Snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes. I like snow, but not so much for its photographic opportunities. I prefer…

Spring Flowers

First color on the ground often before the grass starts to green up.

Crocus – the first color on the ground, often before the grass starts to green up.

Cherry Blossoms open skyward

Cherry Blossoms opening skyward captivate me.

Daffodils have amazing color before we even notice them

Daffodils have amazing color before we even notice them.

Lilacs open as the sun hits them - here for too brief a time.

Lilacs open as the sun hits them – here for too brief a time.

My garden fairy planted a few of these a couple of years ago in a spot were there was once a cistern. I love them.

Hyacinths – My garden fairy planted a few of these a couple of years ago in a spot were there was once a cistern. I love them.

Cream colored ponies and dogs biting. I’m not too far off here.  I love the company of…

Dogs.

Sunshine is my Goldendoodle. He’s a lovely goofball and is a bit camera-shy, I like to catch him when he is unaware of me.

These are my brother’s pointers – I shot this one Christmas when Vegas had a rare snow. I loved the sheer joy the pups exuded as they ran in the frosted desert.

These are my two female terriers. They hate each other’s guts unless they are sleeping – they are precious when they sleep.

This is a pup I met on a trip – I love that he was interested in my camera. Curiosity is a favorite thing to capture in an animal.

Zipper was my first Kayak dog – he was so relaxed on the water.

Brown paper packages, blue satin sashes, silver white winters – there’s a lot of color in this song. I love color and am drawn to vivid colors. One color draws me more than all the others.

I shoot anything that is…

Orange.

The color of this car drew me to it - hundreds of cars and this was my favorite.

The color of this car drew me to it – hundreds of cars and this was my favorite.

I'm pretty sure I chose this hard drive for that orange bumper.

I’m pretty sure I chose this hard drive for that orange bumper.

In the shop where I work I see lots of color, but this set of mixers caused me to go get my camera.

In the shop where I work I see lots of color, but this set of mixers caused me to go get my camera.

These Tiger Lilies grow wild around the Ozarks. I have them pretty thick in the springs right at the edge of the woods

These Tiger Lilies grow wild around the Ozarks. I have them pretty thick in the spring – right at the edge of the woods.

This sunset was so vivid that I missed an appointment when I stopped to shoot it.

This sunset was so vivid that I missed an appointment when I stopped to shoot it.

Now that winter is here and it’s a grey day, I simply remember my favorite things and then I don’t feel so … bad.

My First Time at the Polls – and my Grandma’s Last

Granny circa 1962 – a midterm election year

My Nana was my hero. She was a strong woman who never looked at a mans job and assumed she couldn’t do it. She was my first mentor and my constant companion as a child. I lived right down the street and her living room was my happy place.

She shared all kinds of secrets with me. She told me about her childhood friends, the secret compartment in her dresser, and that she had once gone to charm school. She told me of her plan to especially spoil my brother Max because she had been a middle child and knew how invisible they felt – but that once she became a grandmother she knew she could never ever let any of us feel that invisibility or distance from her. She told me about her pentecostal mother and her fears that I might become a “holy roller” like her. She told me about trusting Jesus in the middle of an Ozark river on a hot summer day when she was 11, she encouraged me to do the same. She told me stories about her amazing grandpa and I knew that her love for me reflected his devotion to her. She told me that my Grandpa had secretly taken evening Bible classes to be able to hold his own when talking to her mother. She told me about her first marriage and how she had just left. She told me why and I’ll keep that to myself. She shared almost everything with me.

In the autumn of 1980 I was a freshman in college. I was going to get my first chance to vote. I got up before class and headed to my polling place, my elementary school. As I finished up I saw Grandma and Grandpa in the parking lot. Grandma had been very ill for several years and by this time she could barely walk. I helped Grandpa get her inside.

If I recall correctly it was only about the third time that year that she had left the house except to go to the doctor. She had not even been able to attend my high school graduation. If she went through all this it was crystal clear to me that this was important to her – doing her civic duty was a priority. This image has stayed with me my whole life.

Grandma’s hands had shaken as long as I could remember, but by now she could no longer write. She went into that booth and I stayed outside the curtain in case she needed help while Grandpa voted. It took her forever with to get the correct hole punched – and she would accept no help. When she was finished Grandpa and I helped her make the long slow walk back to the car.

As we got her into the car I bent over to kiss her cheek. I asked her who she voted for. She said, “I love you honey, but that’s none of your business.”

Sometimes I wonder if we would be a kinder and gentler society if we remembered the privilege of a “secret ballot”. I know that there has been a lack of civility with people putting an all-or-nothing spin on their political leanings. I’ll be glad to go back to hearing about everyone’s grandkids on Facebook tomorrow.

Don’t get me wrong – I have strong opinions, I may not have posted a play-by-play on the presidential debates on my Facebook page. I didn’t put up any yard signs or plaster my Jeep with bumper stickers. I didn’t attend any fundraisers. I did my research and  I did my talking at the ballot box.

This is my first day’s work for NaNoWriMo – Writing more than captions and comments on photos is totally outside my comfort area.

The King of Isabelle Avenue

“Quick! Lorri – I need an earring!” shouted TJ as he burst into the house, I asked a stupid question, “Why?” “Your dad’s gonna pierce my ear!” , he excitedly answered back.

Oddly, this request did not surprise me in the least. On this particular Saturday TJ, one of Pops’ many shooting buddies, had shown up promptly at 10 o’clock to fix a broken car. At our house we didn’t call a mechanic or go to the dealership. If a car wasn’t running Pop called a friend, had Mom pick up a case of Bud and some rib eyes, and sent me or one of my brothers to the neighborhood auto parts store on our bicycle. Next came the hunt for tools – always a phillips screwdriver and a 5/8 inch wrench. If my experience is typical, I think you could repair everything from a toaster to the space shuttle…

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The King of Isabelle Avenue

I decided to take the NaNoWriMo challenge this year. When I told some friends at work the first thing they said was – “You’re finally gonna write that book about your dad – right?”

This is my pop as a clean-cut marine – with really big ears.

My father was the only son of one of the best story-tellers who ever lived on Isabelle Avenue in downtown Las Vegas. My Grandmother could tell you the story of her trip to the supermarket and it would be enthralling. She had a sense of exactly what details would captivate her audience. She loved the attention and we loved the stories. I always imagined Pop growing up in her shadow and wanting to have the biggest story.

The oddest thing about this photo is that we never saw things like this as even slightly odd.

I was in about 4th grade when I discovered that most of the stories Pop told lacked the ring of truth. He exaggerated details and added “facts” of his own choosing to make things seem both more fantastic and more believable. What Pop never understood was that his life was really the big story. The man pulled off some crazy things. Absurd, irreverent, silly, bizarre – he was all of these things – almost all the time.

I’m sure your dad could be found fighting a goat in buckskins on any given Saturday.

In truth, my pop was a complex person. He never grew up, he never wanted to – Peter Pan in all his glory. His escapades were fueled with Budweiser and a group of strange and wonderful friends who were all to willing to follow him on his journey like a modern-day pied piper.

I’m sure your dad drank moonshine from a crockery jug while wearing a bear claw necklace on your family vacations – don’t all dads?

What I want this project to be is fun and ironic – this is not an examination of the difficulties of living with Pop’s idiosyncrasies. I want this to be an exploration of the irony, the wonder, even the tenderness of a man who marched to the beat of his own drum (or maybe his own tuba).

If you would like to follow my progress, I’ll be posting excerpts and chronicling my experiences trying to pump out those 50,000 words on my new blog The King of Isabelle Avenue – I’d love to hear your comments. As of today there is nothing there but the About page that this post is based upon. I plan to start posting in earnest tomorrow!

Come along with me – there’s a good story in it. I should know, I come from a long line of story tellers.

A Feel-Good Post

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I read an article a while back about the ratio of the eyes to the overall size of the head as it pertains to baby mammals. There is something about that proportion that affects us when we look at it.

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It causes a chemical reaction in our brains – serotonin is released. Just looking at babies makes us makes us feel good. This is a biological response that helps us bond with a newborn. Looking into it’s eyes gives us a feeling similar to falling in love.

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The interesting thing is that it doesn’t need to be a human baby, any mammal will do. When you think about it it makes a lot of sense. It’s why we visit the shelter and develop “puppy amnesia” – looking into those big eyes makes us forget all about housebreaking, destroyed slippers, and sleepless nights.

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Our biology makes them almost impossible to resist. It’s why we smile and coo when we see a baby in a stroller, or why we bend down to pet a puppy on a leash. Our affect changes as does our vocal inflection. We make ourselves approachable and safe.

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Our brains don’t have the same reaction when we look at non-mammals, this young emu doesn’t prompt the same feeling. It’s interesting, it’s cute in an ugly sort of way, but I’m not wanting to take it home.

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Perhaps all this current political strife could be simply and quickly solved. Instead of attack ads and sound bytes, maybe candidates should just run commercials made up of their baby pictures, or their kids baby pictures, or pictures of random puppies and kittens.

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It wouldn’t fix the economy or put us on a path to world peace, but it might make us feel good.

Everyone Loves a Parade – Mardi Gras in Eureka Springs

I have done a lot of posts about birds lately so I thought I would change things up. These are a series of shots from last winter taken with what was then a brand new lens – it’s now one of my favorites.

I live in a small village in the Ozarks called Eureka Springs and we love parades! Christmas, St Patty’s, Art’s Festival, VWs, Corvettes, Antique Cars, Diversity, Folk Music and more. Most of our parades are a part of the party we throw for our visitors. We host festivals on dozens of weekends throughout the year. Come see us during VW weekend and we’ll throw a party with a parade and you can be in it! But there’s one party we throw that is unabashedly about us.

In the dead of winter we crown royalty from among our own citizenry and host a week of parties culminated by the annual Eureka Gras Mardi Gras Parade. It’s one of my favorites. Instead of a visitor in a Model T, I get to see our own folk decked out in their best finery with beads-a-plenty. We’re not New Orleans – but that’s OK. Everyone’s welcome, even if you aren’t a Eurekan.

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There’s something uber fancy about adding some beads to any ensemble

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Adding an ostrich feather sets just the right mood.

This year I decided to make myself us only one lens.  No bag, just my camera and a single lens and a strap. I had just gotten a Leica 25mm 1.4 portrait lens and decided it was the one to try out. I shoot a mirrorless M4/3 system so the focal length is equal to double the number so this lens is the equivalent of a “fast 50”.

I love this lens and I love the freedom to just shoot. It was so nice to dive in and out of the crowd and not worry about my equipment. With our parades no one cares if you just jump in so I did and got as close as I could to those in the middle of the action.

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I think this guy might have been a Grand Marshall – I don’t think he got the memo about the dress code.

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I did not realize that I knew this lady until I posted the image on Facebook.

Of course it’s fun to shoot the crowd in between floats. The noise and the crowds make this parade a joy to be a part of and the faces of those in the parade echo those of us who were just watching.

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This is Judy – We both have birthdays near Mardi Gras so it’s just another party.

One of the things I love about this lens is the way it can isolate the subject. Casual portraits are pretty easy to pull off. I love the control I have over the DOF.

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This is my neighbor Lynne – all beads and grins.

As the royal court approaches the beads really start to fly. I was actually hit in the face several times – too busy trying to get the shot to go for the beads.

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A member of the Court tosses beads into crowd.

The next three shots are from a series of a woman who was originally from New Orleans – the gusto she had for the enterprise of tossing beads into the crowd were amazing – these were my favorite shots of the day – Duchess Pamela.

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Wave

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Wind-up

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Follow-through

This Duke can’t quite get the beads free to toss.

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Tangled

This gentleman owns the local Indian restaurant. I love his smile.

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Turbaned Duke

This lens lets you pick a face out of the crowd. This is my friend and co-worker Sharon.

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Beadmobile – the crowd’s looking up because beads are flying down.

This young man was all about the beads – he was focused on grabbing as many as possible.

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This young man was in the crowd with us – his face painting is awesome.

Some of the floats were quite tall so you get a chance to play with the perspective – the King towers above the crowd.

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Here comes the King!

In between the royal floats there were these fellows on bicycles. I love how this lens let me capture the streamers in motion.

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Steampunk Bicyclists follow the royal procession.

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I’m thinking this is a great idea for those who just don’t want to commit to a full sleeve full time.

These kids we part of the Queen’s court – they did the bead tossing for her.

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The Queen’s Helpers hoist beads into the air.

Of course we needed someone to control the crowds and keep the peace.

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A bedazzled officer on crowd control

I typically try to avoid shooting into an overcast sky – but on this day the colors were so bright I shot up to get Alice letting loose.

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Looks like Alice has gone down the rabbit hole and come back with lots of beads.

As the parade ended I got a chance to see some more locals adorned for the day’s events.

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This little guy was worn out. Amazing he could sleep over the brass bands.

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A beaded chapeau

I love the way this lens made me get close. There were moments when I wasn’t just watching the parade, I was in it. Now I don’t consider myself a street photographer – but I do love a parade.

Chrome Sweet Chrome

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I’m a car nut – have been since I was a little girl. It’s all my Grandpa’s fault.

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When I was about a year old my Grandpa bought a new car for to celebrate his and Grandma’s 25th wedding anniversary. It was a 1963 Impala Super Sport.

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It’s the very first car I remember riding in.

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I went almost everyplace with my Grandpa when I was young. He was pretty crazy about me and I was crazy about him as well.

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While we would drive along he would play this game with me – I would point out an old car and he would tell me the make, model, and year.

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I could never stump him. He knew the differences in the small bits of trim and chrome that separated a ’49 from a ’50 Chevy or what defined a Pontiac from a Buick made in the same year.

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I learned about Buick portholes, Pontiac chevrons, and Caddy V-crests.

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I learned which hood ornaments were on which models…

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Which models had a Continental Kit…

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I began to look at the details of a car as well as the sweeping lines of the whole.

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My grandfather left his family farm as a young man and got his first job in town painting cars.

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He knew how to care for a car’s paint and I learned to wax a car by watching him wax that Impala nearly every Sunday.

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The miles we spent in that Impala – around town, around the state, all over California, and to Nebraska and back…

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When I was very small I was sure the chrome jockey box in between the front seats was built just for me. Later on trips I thought the indentation of the speaker in the back seat was made as a place for me to rest my head.

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In the mid 60s my grandparents opened an upholstery shop. I learned the meaning of tuck-and-roll and grew to love diamond-tufting.

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Grandpa did a lot of furniture but he specialized in car and airplane upholstery. He told me once that a new convertible top would tighten right up when left up in the desert sun for a few hours…

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That the details of the interior were just as important as those on the outside…

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That a perfect interior was the sign of a well cared for automobile.

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As I entered my teens he planned to pass that lovely Impala on to me, it was finally time for him to buy a new car.

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My folks were having none of it so he reluctantly sold it for twice the price be paid for it.

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I learned to drive the family sedan and the first car I ever owned was the LTD he replaced the Impala with. I bought the car from my Pop who Grandpa had passed it onto a few years earlier. It had not been cared for so well after leaving Grandpa’s driveway so my time with it was short.

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Somewhere along the line I bought an old Jeep, just like one my grandparents had owned when I was a kid. Grandpa insisted on taking me out into the desert to learn to drive it off-road safely.

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I went through a couple of odd cars until I was almost through college. I became obsessed with first generation Mustangs.

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I found one I felt I could not live without, the owner said it was 99% restored – I guess if you didn’t count the engine or interior that he was pretty accurate. My Grandpa gave me a loan to buy it and together we restored it. His arrangement with me was that as long as I graduated from college, the restoration was his gift to me.

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The real gift was much more that parts and paint. It was the time we spent each week and the satisfaction we felt as we saw it come closer and closer to a completed project.

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We scoured junkyards looking for elusive parts. He bought me a buffer to keep the paint looking showroom perfect.

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Every Friday for a year and a half we started a new project. Paint, chrome, AC, carburetor, upholstery – the day we had the carpet installed he sat down next to me in the passenger seat and beamed as he told me it smelled just like a new car.

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It may not have been our beloved Impala, but it was a car we both loved. Each time I drove it I could see him in it.

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I could see his hands in the details. One time after our drive he was concerned about a rattle. When we got home he took a screwdriver and disassembled the dash looking for the source of the noise. He did the same thing on his own car.

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When the time came for me to move on to a new town in a new state I packed up that Mustang. I wept upon leaving him, but took comfort in taking a part of him with me in the car we restored together.

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I kept the Mustang for several years until the snows of the Cascades made it impractical. It was Grandpa who urged me to sell it and buy something safer.

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In the 90s I was restoring a 1967 Buick Riviera. Grandpa gave me some good advice and helped me solve a few technical problems. He also told me when it was time to let it go and move on.

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He advised me on all matters automotive for the rest of his life. He advised me on all matters non-automotive as well. His wisdom and belief in me gave me the courage to try new things – to pursue my dreams, even if they lead me away from him.

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I took these photos yesterday. I was at an annual antique car festival in Eureka Springs, Arkansas.

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As I saw the parking lots in our tiny Victorian village filled to overflowing with so many gorgeous old cars that had been lovingly cared for, I thought of the details that Grandpa taught me about…

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I found myself identifying so many of them based just on these details.

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The owners patiently listened as people like me shared our memories of cars gone by.

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There’s something about an old car that brings these memories to the forefront. We all remember the cars of our childhood or the great times we had in cars with friends and loved ones.

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These days I live out in the woods where a classic car is just too impractical – even as a hobby. I miss working on one like I miss my Grandpa.

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When I see an old car that’s been lovingly cared for, no matter what the make or model I think of him.

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But when I see an Impala, it all its splendor, I gasp and am taken back to that place where I sat in the passenger seat alongside the most noble man I ever knew…

Growing up at the Elk’s Lodge

I live about a mile from the local Elk’s Lodge. The lodge sits across the road from a wide open meadow that ends in thick woods. To the east a subdivision runs almost across the meadow. It’s a spot that local white tail deer like to feed. I started taking snaps of the herd about 3 years ago. The first year there were 3 fawns – triplets. I would drive through the meadow on the way home hoping to see them. I noticed on fawn with a small white band just above her nose – she seemed more laid back than the others. She looked me in the eye, she kept grazing if I started to walk towards her with the camera. I named her Doe.

The next year she was back – all grown up. I could recognize her by her calm demeanor and that fine white line just above the black of her nose. When the other deer would turn and run into the woods, she would stay behind and watch me. I made sure to give her some space. I got a few nice snaps, but the distance was just too great.

This spring I upgraded my camera body and the AF is significantly better. My friend is also more comfortable with me. About a month ago I saw her with her own twins – as usual she was not disturbed by my presence…

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I got very close to the three of them and shot for about 20 minutes. I noticed that one twin, the one grazing, takes after mom. No concern for my presence. The other one is more vigilant. It trusts it’s mom, but is not comfortable grazing around me…

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Being respectful of the more cautious twin I stepped back a few feet. When I did the clam twin moved towards me…

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She gave me a nice pose and I noticed something about her – she has the same white stripe on her nose as her mother…

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After a few minutes she licked her chops and turned to leave, not in panic, but to look for a better spot to feed…

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Last week I cruised by the meadow and saw some deer over near the housing development. I drove over to an empty cul-de-sac and saw that it was Doe and her family. She was a ways off by the treeline, but the twins were pretty close to the road. Not wanting to block them from crossing the road to join their mother I got out of my Jeep and approached them from the far side. My laid back friend turned to check me out – she’s growing so fast…

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Her more cautious twin looks me over, but he seems to have a more worried expression.

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The worrywart crossed the road and joined mom. My chill girl shot me a profile shot.

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She’s not worried in the least because Daddy’s home!

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Meet Me at the Fair

Last week was the annual Carroll County Fair.

Before I moved to the Ozarks it had been 30 years since my last forray into fair participation. I had a $50 mustang filly when I was a kid and I rode gymkhana for a couple of years. I also entered my metal and wood shop projects. The ribbons and satisfaction of the fair were very distant memories.

A few years ago some friends mentioned entering paintings and photos in the fair. I didn’t even know that grown-ups could do such a thing. I checked the rules for participation – technically since I haven’t made diddly squat selling prints, I’m an amateur. I’m not sure how I feel about that in light of my zillion years of experience…

I checked out the categories and picked my best shots to print and enter and – voila – ribbons ensued. Did you know they pay you for the ribbons? That first year I made about 16 bucks in cold hard cash – nevermind that I have three times that in printing and mounting. I was a cash award winner! At this rate in about a hundred years I would be categorized as a professional by the Carroll County Fair Board of Trustees.

The very next year I got my first Pen system camera and tried a bunch of artsy things with old lenses from the 70s. I had a new tripod, a new camera, some old glass and a bellows – I shot this…

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Reserve Grand Champion – thank you very much…and I scored 75 bucks! Woooohoooo!

I gave my winnings to Mary Jane my neighbor, it was her flower after all.

For the first couple of years the judges apparently wanted everyone to feel good so they gave out tons of ribbons with no apparent system – the only reason that you might not get one was that you entered your photo in the wrong category. Last year they changed it up. Three places per category. 1st place in each category considered for Grand Champion. Fewer ribbons – less cash – actual judging and results. Some people took this really hard. No ribbon meant that no one liked their work. People took it all too personal. Me, I really could give a rip about the ribbons or the cash – for me it’s about whittling down a years worth of photos to 15-18 pieces that you think are your best. I shoot between 12,000-15,000 photos a year, that’s a lot of whittling.

This year I took home the blue ribbon in 4 of 9 categories, but who’s counting. I bet I make at least 8 bucks! Here’s a few of my shots from this year:

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Our county fair does not have legendary fair food, nothing on a stick. It also boasts no butter sculpture, no live bands, no wristband passes. It does have one room of exhibits that includes fine art, dioramas, cookies, jam, and vegetables – none of which are for public consumption. It’s so odd to see a plates of cookies under Saran wrap sitting on a shelf with a ribbons on them – I wonder if cookie bakers have to prove amateur status?

Anyway, I love going to the fair in spite of its deficiencies – I love going to the fair and taking photos. I’ve already posted my chickens, but I also got a chance to spend some lens time with the goats…

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Of course no fair is complete without carnival rides and for me the perfect time is right after the sun goes down. I actually brought the wrong lens with me, I thought I had my fast portrait lens, instead I had my macro. I think it worked out though. Zipper, Tilt-a-whirl, carousel – these rides never change…

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There’s something sweet and nostalgic about walking through a fair and seeing your neighbor’s best cookies, or watermelons, or chickens, or photos.

You Don’t Eat Your Friends

When I was about 9 years old, my Pop took me with him to a BBQ at a small ranch on the outskirts of Las Vegas. To my delight he was convinced to buy a horse that a woman described only as “green broke”. He paid $50 bucks sight unseen for my new best friend. Somewhere between the tall tales and the sheer volume of Budweiser, he completely forgot about his purchase. The next morning he was surprised by a phone call from the woman asking him to come pick up his horse. The beast was located about a half a mile from the small ranch where we had been the night before so we called the owner to ask what we should do about this little filly. She offered her boarding and training services – Aleda became a fixture of my life for the next several years.

In addition to horses, Aleda raised chickens, all kinds if chickens. Some had colorful plumage, some had big topknots, some were odd-shaped. Some she called her “Albert Einstein” chickens. One day my Pop asked which ones were the best to eat. Appalled, Aleda responded, “You don’t eat your friends!”

Ever since that day I have thought about chickens as pets. I’ve never owned one, but I’ve admired many. When I see the Tyson truck jammed full on the highway I feel a bit saddened. Now I’m not saying that you shouldn’t eat your chickens, I’m just saying that they are some pretty amazing creatures. Their personalities are pretty distinctive. My brother Max writes an informative and earnest blog about his chickens – The Fruity Chicken. Through his eyes I have come to see the humor and majesty that these wonderful creatures posses.

Here are some shots of some chickens I have met recently:

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This is Gamer – she’s owned by my friend and bird art feeder source (The Norberta Philbrook Gallery) Raven. She says this is the smartest chicken in the yard. I saw her eating out of this watermelon rind like it was a bowl – clearly a smart chick.

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This hen has amazing plumage and serious attitude. Raven says she’s at the top of the pecking order and it shows.

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She never drops the attitude while giving me the eye.

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I got a chance to go to the county fair last week and gaze upon some prize-winning chickens. My 99-year-old friend Mary Jane was with me and although she was unwilling to be photographed (I think she belongs to some uber secret chicken whispering society) she was able to get them to talk back to her.

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This guy was all about the profile – poser.

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This girl’s been inside too long – clearly looking for an opportunity for a jail break.

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This one was talking back to Mary Jane – “Holla!”

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This chicken was the most amazing of all – its “Kreskin-like” powers have enabled it to bend the bars of its prison to its own will, echoing the very shape of its piercing eyes.

Who could eat any of these characters? You don’t eat your friends.