Tag Archives: photojournalism

Switzerland: Desaturated, and in Black and White

A banner cloud drapes around the summit of the Matterhorn near Zermatt, Switzerland.

(Click on images for a larger view)

I recently spent two weeks touring around Switzerland with my wife and our one-year-old daughter. It was a magnificent trip — one of those get-it-out-of-my-system-now kinds of trips while Varenna is young and portable. Ha! That’s at least what we thought when we booked the trip in January. She’s a bit more … mobile, shall we say.

But we had a very good time, and ultimately, I was pleasantly surprised with the images I returned home with. In the moment, we both were a bit distracted trying to keep our daughter entertained, engaged, and safe. We worked hard every hour of the trip, just not on photography. Or so it seemed.

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Colorado National Monument at Dawn

Colorado National Monument at Dawn

(Click on images for larger version … especially this shot)

Falling a bit behind in updating the blog from our Southwest Colorado trip. Things take priority sometimes: you know, like a full-time job and life with a six-month old. Funny how every spare moment — mornings, nights, weekends — I want to spend with her. Just finished getting her down for bed and now I’ll be off on a business trip for three days. So it goes.

Colorado National Monument at Dawn

But odds are, I’ll have regular updates through the end of the year with this trip, next week’s trips to Steamboat Springs and Snowmass, and then our mid-November journey to Kauai. Good to have new material, for sure.

On the Sunday morning of our trip, I awoke at dawn … groggy, gross and overheated. The hot evening and sleeping on the ground had left me feeling less than ideal. Now would have been a great time for coffee (or a bucket of ice to dunk my head in), but again, we weren’t too adept at this camping thing, so we didn’t have any way to make coffee. We brought breakfast: 12 crummy Target cereal bars. That was it. Grumble, grumble, grumble.

Colorado National Monument at Dawn

Varenna, however, was her usual spry self. Kids can sleep anywhere. In the future, we’ll camp because of her, not because of us. It won’t be because we thoroughly enjoy it (just being honest: after all, this was the first time we’d camped since we got engaged) or because we love making cowboy coffee over a fireplace. We’ll camp to experience her reaction to it. And that’s assuming she’ll love it (after seeing how she is in the outdoors, I’m fairly certain she will). And then as a result, we will love camping.

We set out along Rim Rock Drive around 7am, catching some of the most brilliant golden light I’ve seen in Colorado.

Colorado National Monument at Dawn

We experimented with lens flares, shooting into the sun, and comparing the way the Canon 5D Mark II and the Canon 40D handled the light. In fact, in some instances, the same shot came out better on the Canon 40D (I have no idea why).

Colorado National Monument at Dawn

By 8:30am we were back at the campground packing up. Onward through the rest of the park along Rim Rock Drive, a stop for brunch in Grand Junction, and then a two-hour drive to Ridgway at the foot of the San Juan Mountains. The drive was uneventful through the monument, but twice we heard a weird knocking sound — once pulling into a turnout and again on a steep switchback. Both times while turning. We didn’t think anything of it.

Colorado National Monument at Dawn

But a mile outside Delta, Colorado — at a speed of 65 mph — it occurred again and there was no way to ignore it. A bang followed by a high, straining whir of the engine. I began to slow down significantly, and noticed the steering wheel was like lead. It took about a quarter mile to stop in the shoulder, but I got it there in one piece. Varenna slept through the whole thing.

Was it a blowout? Nope. A quick walk around the vehicle disproved that theory. When I restarted the car, the transmission light, the oil light, the check engine light and the parking brake light were all on (even though the parking brake wasn’t engaged). That helps.

Colorado National Monument at Dawn

Long story short, it was the power-steering belt. It flew off because the mechanics who replaced it the week before forgot to clamp it down. For the entire drive from Denver down I-70, up Rim Rock Drive, around Colorado National Monument (alone) in the dead of night under a full moon, this belt spun and somehow didn’t fly off. Fortunately, it didn’t destroy anything else in the engine when it came off, and after a tow to Montrose and a drop off at the airport, the three of us were in a rental car headed to Ridgway to salvage our itinerary. We arrived in one piece at the Chipeta Sun Lodge, the perfect place to chill out after such an episode.

By Monday morning, the belt was replaced, and by noon we’d retrieved the car and were headed to Ouray and then Telluride. Vacation saved.

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Palisade, Colorado – Summer Produce

palisade colorado peaches produce farm(Click on images for a larger version)

In late August, my wife Hailey and I took our daughter Varenna on her first week-long vacation: a swing through Southwestern Colorado to see the state’s absolute best scenery (the San Juan Mountains) and discover some of the blank places on our personal maps (Colorado National Monument and Mesa Verde National Park). This was also a test run: taking a vacation with a child is an all-new thing for us, and we wanted to figure it out in the comfort of our home state.

Rule #1 of road tripping with a baby: allow for a lot of car breaks. Understandably, Varenna would get tired after a few hours of facing backwards, usually alone in the backseat (in fact, I think she did pretty well considering). So, we’d frequently pull over and find something to do. Break #3 on Day #1 was Palisade, Colorado: the peach capital of the Rocky Mountain West, and easily one of the state’s great underrated towns.

palisade colorado produce farm fruit grand junction
Palisade sits on the cusp of the Colorado Plateau, a massive desert that spans across four states and includes such American icons as the Grand Canyon, Arches National Park and Lake Powell. As a result, summers in Palisade are hot. Like put-your-face-under-the-broiler hot. But the Colorado River flows right through the valley, providing an easy source for irrigation. Subsequently, Palisade is awesome for orchards and vineyards, and peaches are what they are known for — not just because “Palisade peaches” illiterates, but because they are explosively juicy.

We found our way to Ball Fruit, one of the many family-owned farms in the valley. To get there, we hopped off I-70, crossed the lumbering brown Colorado River, and wound our way through vineyards (the area is also becoming a big wine producing region).

palisade colorado grand junction farm produce corn honey
Without knowing it, we were visiting the same day as the Palisade Peach Festival, so the place was hopping. One of the farm hands, who noted that he was dating the boss’ daughter, gave us a tour of the cooler, the orchard, and the garden patch in the back. As idyllic as orchard life might seem, the heat alone made me wonder how these people do it.

palisade colorado farm produce cantalope fruit
Since we were camping that night, we opted to only buy a bag of peaches and a melon. Had we done this trip in reverse (Denver to Pagosa Springs and then loop back through Palisade) we would have stockpiled on fruit and spent the next few days at home concocting as many sweet offerings as our kitchen would allow. But we had a plan — six days on the road and finish with the hot springs. It just made more sense to unwind at trip’s end…

After splitting an ear of roasted corn and stuffing ice cubes down our shirts and into our pockets (or at least daydreaming about it), we hit the road: onward, to Colorado National Monument for the night.

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The Indian Peaks Served Two Ways

My whole life, the Indian Peaks have been my playground. Some of my earliest memories take place on the mucky shores of Long Lake. Back in the early ’80s, there was a decaying cabin in the shallows there, and a tiny beach about 20 square feet in size lay tucked in the grasses and willows right by it. My brother and I would spend hours drawing in the wet dirt with sticks while my Dad fly fished from a belly boat, the jagged peaks — Pawnee, Shoshoni and Navajo — rising above the valley that stretched to the west.

Years later, when I was in high school, my Mom and I finally ventured beyond Long Lake to Lake Isabelle, and the thundering waterfall that pours out of its eastern outlet. Here, down among the bluebells and shooting stars, I thought how nice it would be to have a child some day, perhaps a daughter, and show her the wonders of nature — like how the wildflowers below Lake Isabelle grow out of rocks, their persistence a testament to a higher power at work.

Maybe I’d name her Isabelle.

Fast-forward to this past year, and Hailey’s pregnancy, and those closest to me (including my Mom and my best friend Matt) were convinced that if we’d have a girl, she’d be named Isabelle.

Of course, it didn’t end up that way. For one, Twilight or some damn thing made it one of the most popular girl names of the moment. For two, Hailey and I went to Lake Como in 2005 and found a little town that meant a lot to both of us, and here we are, with a girl named Varenna.

Nonetheless, the meaning and the feeling of the Indian Peaks and sharing it with my daughter, is something that has been top of my mind this summer. She’s five months old, so that “higher power” is a bit over her head, but she loves the woods and the fresh air. A few weeks ago — on a Friday off that I truly earned — Hailey, my mother, Varenna and I, went for a short hike to Mitchell Lake, one valley over from Long Lake and Lake Isabelle. It was short and sweet, but to walk with the three women of my life through fields of wildflowers for the better part of a day is something I will cherish forever.

Two weeks later, I returned to the Indian Peaks with my best friend, Matt. He probably needs little introduction since he’s been on this blog so many times, but it was another unforgettable hike in the Indian Peaks — because of equal parts terrain and time and stories with a man I’ve known since I was 4 years old.

Matt and I experienced the Indian Peaks in a very different way than I did with my girls. Starting at 9am, we climbed up the valley that stretches from Eldora Ski Area to Arapaho Pass. Dipping into the valley base to cross the North Fork of Middle Boulder Creek at a waterfall, we looped back and up the ridge to Diamond Lake, before continuing through the woods and up through amazing meadows to an unnamed ridge at 11,400 feet that faced south to Mount Evans.

Matt was his usual enthusiastic self, up there. “Awww, man. This is awesome!” Me? I kept making HD videos of the tundra and the clouds, which were moving across the mountaintops at a pace I’ve never seen before. For better or worse (most likely worse) I approach video like a still composition, and have no editing skills. I’d upload them here, but they’re 100MB each and I don’t have the patience.

We reapplied sunscreen and descended the mountain back through hip-deep wildflowers. At Diamond Lake, we scrambled onto some boulders that jutted out from the creek outlet and watched the clouds roll by. Not a bad way to pass a summer Sunday in Colorado…

Speaking of which, Hailey, Varenna and I are about to embark on a 6-day odyssey through Southwestern Colorado: Colorado National Monument, Ridgway, Telluride, Mesa Verde and Pagosa Springs. Should have a ton of updates in the coming weeks.

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Steamboat Springs: Lupine, Heather and Burn Off (Part 4)

From the iconic barn — where the fog submerged everything in a cold veil — I drove up the Yampa River Valley to my favorite barn. Things were getting brighter, but the fog remained stubborn and thick. By now, my coffee was gone, and it was tempting to return to the condo for more, but something palpable was in the air. The fog was going to bust wide open.

Just by the barn, I discovered a few clumps of lupine, their crisp leaves and candy-like blossoms at their most perfect.

By now my jean cuffs were soaked to the knee from walking through the tall heather, but I was genuinely loving every minute of this. It wasn’t just the freedom to wander and shoot images, but the conditions were exceptional, too. Any kind of photographer dreams of moments like this where all the elements converge in a beautiful way — light, shadow, color; nature, architecture, highway. Everything looked magical, and I had the whole scene to myself.

To photograph the lupine and grass pods, I crouched low and shot into the sun with two prime lenses — a 50mm f/1.8 and a 24mm f/1.4. With less glass than a zoom lens, I find the compositions simpler and less prone to nasty flares.

As I trudged through the thick grass back to the road, the burn off was beginning. Fog strands were peeling back and revealing a remarkable summer blue sky. A robin perched on a nearby fence post, swallows wheeled in the air eating mosquitos, and an occasional pickup truck drove by at 10 mph. Surely the drivers were savoring the remarkable moment, too, unwilling to do the posted 25 mph.

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Steamboat Springs: Magic Morning (Part 3)

I’ll take fog over sun any morning. Perhaps I say that because I was born and raised in Colorado, where fog is uncommon and usually gone before I’m out of bed.

Well, I now have an infant in my life (as I seem to mention in every post), which means 6:30am kinda counts as sleeping in. On the Fourth of July, we had a wet and very cold evening that made the prospect of fireworks with our little girl even less appealing. We watched Return of the Jedi on Spike TV and crashed. Upon waking up at 6am, I discovered a soupy fog had descended on the Yampa River Valley. After brewing a pot of coffee and changing into jeans and a sweatshirt, I was off, leaving my two girls sleeping soundly at the condo.

Varenna was born on a day that started out foggy. I remember that weather distinctly because it was so unusual and I knew this was it — Hailey having contractions seated in her rocking chair … me seated on a stool next to her with a stop watch …  the world outside muffled by a thick veil of fog.

And that’s what it is about fog: it is intimate. Broad landscapes become contained, virtually indoor, and the richness of the world’s color comes through.

This was a heavy, heavy fog. Driving down Walton Creek Rd. toward U.S. 40, I was in limbo about where to head for my shots. There were two barns that immediately came to mind. One of them I had photographed a ridiculous amount of times; the other was the one everybody photographed. But I opted for the latter instead because it was close (above two photos). It’s behind a few stores, off a rather unassuming road, and on top of a hill by a construction site. It’s a bit of a let down at first. And yet, it has graced magazine covers, tourism websites and postcards as the emblem of Steamboat. An old Western barn, set in front of the ski area. Perfect dichotomy of old and new, the Wild West and the Recreating West, right?

As a photographer, those postcard shots are nice and exciting for a few years (and clearly, they are marketable), but there is something electrifying about shooting an icon in unexpected conditions. It forces the viewer to reconsider the whole scene. That’s what art is all about.

The fog wasn’t lifting and my coffee wasn’t cold yet. I decided to head for the second barn and see what I’d find. That was when things got magical…

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10 Must-See Churches in Italy

(Click on photos for a larger view)

Tanager Photography is temporarily grounded (i.e. the baby is due in less than three weeks), so I figure a retrospective is in order — how about the most spectacular churches in Italy?

Feel free to tell me how wrong I am in the comments box, or suggest ones I missed. Keep in mind a few things: these are from a non-Catholic, non-historically significant, photographer’s standpoint. My criteria was a simple scale of how blown away I was by each church. Also, I intentionally left St. Peter’s Basilica off the list because technically it is in the Vatican.

1. Duomo di Siena

In one of the few cities in Italy where the main piazza is crowned by a town hall instead of a cathedral, the Duomo of Siena still manages to stand out as Italy’s most majestic church. Composed of alternating stripes of black and white marble and situated at the crown of the city’s hill, Il Duomo is a riot of medieval art, storytelling mosaics and hallowed spaces. Of particular note: Pisano’s ridiculously elaborate pulpit (above right), Bernini’s ecstatic St. Jerome holding the cross like a cradled fiddle (top left), a floor mosaic depicting the Slaughter of the Innocents, and a painted dome that creates an optical illusion of the three-dimensional heavens (above right). This church is a mind blower.

2. Pantheon, Rome

My first stab at this list didn’t even include the Pantheon. Why? It’s not very churchy. In fact, it’s hard to figure out. From nearby Piazza della Minerva, it looks like nothing more than a massive, ancient turret. From the front, it’s portico of Corinthian columns looks more reminiscent of the Acropolis than any vestige of Christendom. And in fact, therein lies the rub. Built originally by Romans during the tenure of Hadrian in 124 AD, it was a tribute to the multiple deities of the day. Not until 609 AD was it converted into a Christian church, and fortunately, since then they’ve pretty much left this austere and daunting, perfectly symmetrical building as it was. At first blush, the Pantheon inspires a humanistic awe at how crafty the Romans were. But after an hour of watching the sun shaft that passes through the oculus move about the room, you can’t help but get the feeling that its God peeking in.

3. Basilica de San Francesco d’Assisi, Assisi

No word better describes Assisi than tranquil. Granted, I was there in early April, in the midst of constant rains and the renewal of spring. Summer may be a different story. Regardless of when you roll through this town, the Basilica de San Francesco d’Assisi is impossible to miss. Towering over the Umbrian valley, the cathedral that honors the town’s native son St. Francis — the patron saint of Italy, animals and the environment — is a massive complex, and somewhat contrary to the intimacy of the town. It is, in essence, a double-decker church. The Upper Basilica — which was partially destroyed by an earthquake in 1997 but restored — is lavishly colorful, with richly detailed frescos by Giotto depicting the saint’s life. Underneath, the Lower Basilica is more somber, cold and bucolic, especially during a service, when chanting and hymns echo off its low-arched ceiling.

4. Basilica di San Marco, Venice

I have mixed feelings on Venice, particularly St. Mark’s Square. On the one hand are the hawkers of trinkets, the tourists feeding pigeons, the 6-Euro cappuccinos, the menus in 8 different languages. On the other hand, is the stout, gray onion-domed cathedral crowned with gold-winged angels and Byzantine mosaics. She’s like an old lady with too much jewelry, but you can’t help but love her anyway. Like Sophia Lauren, now that I mention it. The basilica is, in a word, ridiculous: from the length of the line to get in, to the amount of opulence the Venetians put into it to demonstrate their wealth. The ceilings, walls and arches of the interior are layered with gold tiles and mosaics depicting saints and the prophets, and its easy to fall under the spell of the cathedral’s radiance. Much of the church is filled with treasures the Venetians raided from elsewhere, including it’s namesake’s relics. Historically, its fascinating, but on a WWJD level … well, you decide.

5. Santa Maria d’Idris, Matera

Poles apart from the Pantheon, the Church of St. Francis and Basilica di San Marco, is Santa Maria d’Idris. Located in a small cave atop a rocky mount overlooking the grottos and canyon of Matera (upper right corner, above left photo), it is a strange, mystical, spooky place. This ancient city in Basilicata (it dates back to Paleolithic times — put that in your pipe and smoke it, Rome) has clusters of cave churches throughout the city limits, but this one is most memorable, in part because of its rocky mount location (it’s entrance takes in a beautiful 270-degree panorama of the city), and its labyrinth of meditation chambers, which are decorated with boldly colorful frescos in various states of decay. Looking like it was carved by hand out of the rock, Santa Maria d’Idris is imperfect and intimate, two traits missing in so many places of worship.

6. Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore (Duomo), Florence

Intimacy was clearly never the intent of Florence’s massive duomo. No, this church was meant to send a message to other city-states, like Siena. Looming over the city center and seemingly peering into every alley, passageway and window in the city proper, it is one of those rare churches that’s actually a skyscraper. It’s interior includes an unforgettable and grotesque ceiling fresco by Vasari and Zuccaro, but is largely forgettable in comparison to the cathedral’s exterior circus of pink, green and white marble. A row of grim-faced saints on the facade point at patrons of the piazza, a once stern and effective reminder of morality no doubt, that has slowly been lost on the tourist licking their gelato at the Baptistery’s gate. But the truly moving element of this iconic cathedral is Brunelleschi’s dome. By the time it was conceived in the early 1400s, the formula for Roman concrete (the kind which made the Pantheon possible) was forgotten. So he just decided to make it of bricks instead — 4 million of them … without a crane.

7. Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, Venice

Venice has a staggering amount of amazing churches, but after the Basilica di San Marco, the Frari Church is head and shoulders the standout. Not because of its exterior (which is actually quite drab) but because of the art it holds inside. Most famous may be Titian’s altarpiece, The Assumption, a fantastic portrayal of Mary’s Assumption to Heaven, surrounded by swirling angels and clouds. The church also houses Donatello’s John the Baptist, works by Bellini, several tombs (including Titian’s) and elaborate wood and gold choir stalls by Marco Cozzi.

8.  Santa Maria Assunta, Positano

OK. I’ll be honest. I barely peeked inside this church. I know, I know. How could it make the must-see list if all I’m basing it on is the exterior? Some roving journalist I am! But there’s something romantically delightful about this church. From my experience, no other church in Italy fits more perfectly into the landscape than this one. It appears to anchor Positano to the ground, as if its presence keeps this wildly gorgeous town from floating away. Secondly, it’s beautiful mosaic dome has grass and plants growing out of its clefts, a small detail that shows that all things — manmade or otherwise — are reclaimed by nature. And finally, spend a Sunday in Positano and you’ll see the locals flocking to church, a pleasant reminder that this is a living, breathing community after all — not just a tourist playground.

9. Chiesa dei Gesu, Rome

The mother church of the Jesuit Order is located a few blocks from the Coliseum, the Pantheon and the Forum. Talk about a long shadow. But that’s Rome. For us, the church was a quick stop en route to Santa Maria Sopra Minerva and the Pantheon at the insistence of my cousin, Nick, who lives in Ciampino and has been a Roman resident for years. The church is a neck craner, with the highlight being a spectacular ceiling fresco by Giovanni Battista Gaulli called Triumph of the Name of Jesus (above right). It’s the only ceiling I’ve ever wanted to stare at for an hour.

10. Duomo di Amalfi

The Cathedral of Saint Andrew in Amalfi exudes a rare elegance among large churches. Its 62 stairs spill like a waterfall from the zebra-striped and gold facade. It’s campanille is composed of multiple cylinders, a style I haven’t seen elsewhere. Considering that the church is in the middle of the spectacular Amalfi Coast, it’s an amazing convergence to see from the piazza below. Inside, Baroque and Romanesque elements combine beautifully, but the real story lies in the crypt. Here, supposedly, lie the bones of St. Andrew. How they ended up here is just one of those historical footnotes of Europe’s history. Like with other saints, his relics were transported, stolen and stashed all across the continent. St. Andrew mostly ended up here, where his bones were safely stored after the sacking of Constantinople in 1208.

Of course, there are a few honorable mentions:

And the one that got away: The Cathedral of Milan. A train strike kept us from spending any time in Milan, so we missed what is considered by many to be one of the most spectacular Gothic churches on earth. Perhaps another time.

Alright, if you’ve been: what did I miss?

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Colonial Williamsburg at Christmas

Love of one’s country. What is it exactly?

A soldier in a foxhole in Afghanistan? A local guy running for town mayor? A musician writing a protest song? A volunteer at a food bank?

Love of one’s country — at least in American terms — is an action.

It’s doing something, whether modest in scope or monumental in sacrifice. It’s a pretty wide continuum.

I bring this up because I recently went to Williamsburg, Virginia, a place of immaculate preservation and where love of one’s country is expressed by wearing a petticoat and a three-pointed hat. I don’t say this with sarcasm or to make it seem silly alongside other examples of patriotism. But I find it compelling how the people who work and live in this town an hour east of Richmond do more than just an acting job to bring colonial America to life. It’s done with love for the United States of America and a curiosity for our compelling past.

In short, their expression of this love is what keeps the place from feeling like an amusement park.

After four days of excessive eating, imbibing, and Super Mario Brothers on Wii, Hailey, her father, her brother Jason, her sister-in-law Ali and I packed into the car and drove to Williamsburg to see a sliver of the American experience. We were there for three hours, which allowed for a small taste of the place. I’m told that to really feel the slow sway of American history in the area you need to see Jamestown and Yorktown, too. Plus, it helps to pay $58 for a Freedom Pass to gain entry to the historic sites. Another day, another visit.

Christmas in Williamsburg is a big deal. One easily can surmise why when considering this universal truth: any place with historic architecture seems to have its romance amplified by Christmas decor. Just look at Santa Fe’s adobe cubism decked in farolitos. In Williamsburg, the decor of choice is the wreath, where they take its artistry to a whole new level. And thank God. Usually when someone says “Christmas decor” and “whole new level” in the same sentence, I think of these nutjobs.

Nearly every door in Williamsburg was crowned by an elaborate wreath, the best ones labeled with a ribbon from a competition they had just held. Many are truly stunning works of art, like the two I’ve posted above. As I photographed them in the slanted winter light, I was sure I would discover some quaint story as to why Williamsburg was so wreath happy (or pineapple happy for that matter). Wreaths must be a tradition from colonial times…. Maybe they warded off ghosts…. Maybe they were delicious offerings for the town drunkard…. Surely Thomas Jefferson had something to do with it.

Turns out, they caught on in the late 1930s. You can read all about it on the town’s website, but I warn you, it’s not nearly as interesting as my imagination can make it.

As for the pineapples, the same website says they’re “native to South America” and that by 1681 they “became a Christian symbol.” OK. I’ll bite. Why?

Well, they’re kind of like pine cones, which as we know, the Romans used as a symbol of faith in the judiciary, thereby relegating them to imperial prowess. They also distribute seeds, which reminds one of fertility, propagation and survival.

I could make a sarcastic comment, but who am I to talk? After all, my generation of Americans does this at Christmas time.

Now I’m like many men: give me a box to wrap and you’ll end up with a wrinkled 7-sided mass of gift paper covered in 80 strips of tape and an off-kilter bow. So I’m easily impressed when it comes to delicate arts involving careful assembly. But the wreaths of Williamsburg would impress even the most cynical observer. They’re an act of love. Love for community and love for tradition. The roots of patriotism, really.

So what happened in Williamsburg? Why is it significant? On this day, I had no idea. We didn’t buy the Freedom Pass, and with only three hours to tour the massive historic quarter, I wasn’t all that interested. I’ll learn later, I told myself.

I know: sounds terrible for a photojournalist to say that, but it was actually kind of liberating as an artist to just compose a place without any baggage, motives or agendas.

Williamsburg was the capital of Virginia back when it was a colony of England (Jamestown was too buggy to be capital) and it is home to the second oldest university in the United States, the College of William and Mary. It was the sight of the Gunpowder Incident (I wish all historic events were so bluntly named), which was one of many precursors to the American Revolution. During the Revolutionary War, it lost its stature as capital because the Governor, Thomas Jefferson, felt it was vulnerable to British attack.

Oh, and they now have a Busch Gardens nearby.

Hailey is now seven months pregnant, so walking around in the cold for three hours staring at doors is more exhausting than it used to be. Just as we all hit a wall, we came upon the more modern downtown of Williamsburg, and the college campus. A gourmet food store overflowed with customers, kids played in the square, shoppers walked around with bags, and perspective diners read menus.

With Jason and Ali an hour away, it became clear to me that I wasn’t done with this place. We could easily come back, hit Jamestown and Yorktown, drive the scenic and tree-lined Colonial Parkway, and make a bigger photo story of it. I resolved to make a story pitch in the near future.

It was just then that Jason and I got arrested for Public Defamation of the Queen of England.

On the outskirts of the historic quarter lies a re-creation of the Great Hopes Plantation. I would have poked around, but a woman dressed in period clothing wanted to see my Freedom Pass. Entry wasn’t permitted without it.

Love of country. It’s a broad continuum: some get dressed up in period clothing to express it. Others uphold the rule of law. Some do both.

So I snuck off to this wood pile and snapped a shot of the setting sun.

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Ecuador Minus the Galapagos

I’m about to implement a serious revamp of www.tanagerphotography.com, which will include my 2010 wedding and portrait packages, as well as an overhaul of the galleries section by splitting weddings from portraits. While I was at it, I decided to take another look at the travel galleries, which got me thinking about whether I should include Ecuador in my portfolio, which got me thinking that Ecuador isn’t anywhere on the blog, which got me thinking how much I want to go somewhere pretty much at any moment now, which made me realize I’m not going anywhere for a while … what with the baby and all.

Just because I’m not traveling doesn’t mean I can’t spice up the blog with photos of faraway places here and there. Ecuador has been on my mind lately because of the birds and monkeys. Impending fatherhood naturally lends itself to daydreams of future adventures with the kid, and tops on that list is looking for animals in a rainforest, be it Costa Rica, Panama, Peru or some Caribbean Island.

We visited this magnificent country in April and May of 2007, visiting the Napo Wildlife Center in the Amazon, the capitol city of Quito, the Otavalo Indian Market, the rainforests of Mindo and the hot springs of Papallacta. Conspicuously absent from that list are the Galapagos Islands. Too much time, too much money, and being the mountain boy that I am, I’m always going to pass over islands to insist we see something like the Andes.

My lasting memory of Ecuador was a place of insane topography. Ravines inside canyons wedged between mountains with volcanoes on top. Quito’s size and scope was unfathomable because of the way the land buckles and swallows the city. It is amazing place to see from a window seat on arrival.

But right now, I’d bypass the Andes, the volcanoes sitting on top of them, and pretty much anything to do with that dusty wrinkled city, for a little hut in the rainforest and the sound of howler monkeys and parrots piercing the air.

NPR’s Morning Edition ran a great story on a Brazilian farm town’s efforts to restore the Amazonian rainforest and balance nature with farming. The soundtrack alone transported me back to Ecuador this morning. Soon enough, we’ll get back out there …

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Adam Huggins + Tess Leppert (August 14, 2009)


Adam Huggins (below) is one of my best friends. We’ve known each other since our freshman year in college, and we really shouldn’t be friends anymore. Nothing personal. It’s just that freshman year was the only time in our lives that we lived near each other. He transferred to Wake Forest, and has lived in Birmingham, Richmond and now Nashville. Friendships normally don’t survive that, even in the era of Facebook. For God’s sakes: we were 18 the one time we hung out consistently.

I’m not bragging or trying to suggest that our friendship is made of brawn and steel. It is what it is. But somehow it’s stayed relevant and significant for both of us over the years (of course, a 72-hour trip to Hawaii to see U2 in 2006 — his idea, not mine — helped keep the glory days going).

So Adam is finally getting on with his life: he just finished his nine grueling years of med school and residency and is now a doctor — which means I expect to fly on his private jet to Ketchum, Idaho in the near future — and he met a wonderful girl, Tess, and married her in mid-August. Hailey and I flew up to Boise and drove to Ketchum for a spectacular four-day weekend to be a part of the festivities. Adam asked that I be one of his groomsman.


So as a wedding gift, we offered to photograph the rehearsal dinner, and these are some of those pictures. Adam was alright with it (he was hoping we’d get him a set of bamboo table runners from Crate + Barrel) as long as we enjoyed the evening at the same time.


First off, Ketchum is a gorgeous little town. It’s a special place for Tess, having lived there after college, and the way they did this wedding was perfect. They rented a big house for multiple families to stay in for the week, and then the backyard doubled as the ceremony and reception venue.

After we went through our ceremonial paces, everyone piled into a school bus for a one-hour ride north to the Galena Lodge for the rehearsal dinner. In the early evening light we passed through Hemingway’s country in all its glory — braided rivers, dense willows, robust pines and rolling mountains. Classic Idaho.


The Galena Lodge is a magnificent property. They ran carriage rides to the nearby ghost town on the hour, and the catering was pretty damn good.

Here are some images from the evening.




Adam’s Dad is also a doctor, and he gave a very moving toast to his son just before dinner. On a personal note, getting to know Adam’s family better was the highlight of the trip for me. Such a warm, kind, compassionate and generous group of people.




So as us groomsmen were standing around waiting for the ceremony to begin the next day, Adam brings up that he has an extra ticket to the U2 show, opening night, in Chicago, in early September. His friend Neil has to take a rain check and “it’s yours if you want it.”

“Thanks man,” I say. “Let me see what’s going on and crunch some numbers and see if I can make it work.”

This being Adam, yours if you want it quickly morphed into you’re coming, it’s been decided for you.

At the end of the night as we were saying our goodbyes and wishing the newlyweds the best, Adam shook my hand and said “I’ll see you in Chicago.” That’s Adam.

<<More on the Chicago trip in another post, but you can view video I shot of “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” on my Flickr page.>>

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