Reflection of times past

I made my annual trek to Glenwood Springs for my vision check-up again earlier this week. As I was starting my return to the east side of the divide I had a demanding urge to stop in Glenwood Canyon to visit a very personal area.

Grizzly Creek is an easy trail that winds north from the rust colored waters of the Colorado River. The canyon walls ascend nearly straight up in portions to the southern area called the Flat Tops. The at times rocky path flows alongside the creek filled with boulders, fallen trees and the clearest cool waters I have felt in a long time.

This place is very dear to my heart. I spent countless hours either hiking the trail for fun, for photographs, pedaling a bike, or for personal solace while a student at Colorado Mountain College. But the last time I was in this place I was shouting at the expense of my lungs and vocal chords in rage about the cycle of life. I had lost two souls very dear to me in a very short period of time. That was over 10 years ago.

So with cameras and fixed lenses in tow, I hiked. Wearing flip-flops that have bottoms as smooth as the sands of Cancun. I didn't care really. I knew there was a reason for the urge to walk through the canyon of memories. As I walked I felt lost, as though I had never been to this place. With the cool spring breeze blowing and cotton candy clouds drifting by I noticed a tree exploding with blossoms about 25 yards up the east side of the trail below a scree field. It's early in the spring season and the weather has not been very kind to plants. Staring at the electric white blossoms against the neutral browns of the canyon cliffs above I wanted to make a photo. But I had only brought two lenses. A 14mm and an 85mm. The flip-flops made footing a little dicey. But after a couple rocks rolling over my toes and ankles I made a handful of photos as best I could.

After surfing my way back down to the trail I continued wondering up the trail. Trying to think back to all those times I had been there. All the while just snapping photos of this and that. These were a style of photographs I had not made in many years. I've been shooting journalism, abstracts, promotional and industrial photos mostly the last few years. I nearly had forgotten how to approach nature with a camera. I didn't make many great photos, but I sure had a lot of fun and a lot of peace in my mind.

As I arrived back at my white land rocket I looked over to see a sign stuck between the monolithic canyon walls. It was a metaphor for the thoughts racing around in my mind just as the clear spring runoff was cascading near the trail. Life keeps on moving and you must as well. I have learned much since those naive days, but not nearly enough. It's good to touch base with your past and reflect in a way that allows you to learn and grow. Screaming at those walls 10 years earlier was mostly because I didn't understand the cycle of life.

Just like the cycle of seasons– things are born of spring, they grow to fruition in summer, age with the change of autumn and return to the earth with the weight of winter– we experience cycles of emotion and persona.

It’s spring again.


Roller coaster of life

It's been a wide gamut of events the last couple days.

After attempting to produce a couple videos for the paper that won't have the blessing of being viewed by the community, I had to regroup and bounce back on a personal level.

I had made some interesting footage, gathered some nice audio of people explaining the feelingof situations and felt confident about my future as a visual journalist. But when equipment and software revealed several shortcomings in my ability to tell stories, I felt a crushing blow of disappointment. Only then, having follow that up with having to cover the funeral for a fallen soldier. I'm not a big fan of funerals anymore after having to attend several on a personal level and as a professional. Learning about Cpl. Stephen Matthew Kowalczyk and his approach to life made the experience different than I had been anticipating. He was a man who lived a rich and simplistic life.

Members of his unit and family all had a common theme in remembering him: "He had life figured out."

He didn't judge people or try to change them, he had a very limited collection of personal items, he enjoyed outdoors and nature and many other sound principals of a simple life. I find it confusing that most of the wonderful people who figure out how to live and give are taken from the world so early.

After the long day of American flags flapping, Taps, tears and 21 shell casings hitting asphalt it was back to documenting everyday issues and life. A professor and a student having burgers and beers, ethnicity of all kinds marching in honor of equality, high school kids hanging out at a bowling alley and Easter Egg Hunts.

As I try to be a fly on the wall documenting people living their lives, I can't but wonder if they think about what it means to live or if they just live to live? I've always had several moments of a day where I wonder what the bigger picture is in life. I know there also is no one answer to the perplexing question, yet I continue to seek the right one out.

Maybe it's just a little three-year-old girl named Emma, walking across blades of grass encased in ice, wearing her father's coat, giddy from collecting a basket-full of toy-filled eggs. Or maybe it's that it takes all of that, Cpl. Kowalczyk's ability to embrace life in his way as I embrace mine and Emma enjoys hers, to add up to this roller coaster called life.


Waiting games

Today was the anti-thesis from the last post. Today I became a paparazzi. I was waiting for nearly four hours outside a federal courthouse in Denver for a husband/wife duo that is accused of secretly charging people that used their credit counseling company and not reducing several people's debt. Read about it.

I sat in front of the courthouse in the chilly wind listening to an episode of This American Life on my iPod. The theme for the week was "What I learned from television." It was pretty funny and informational. I highly recommend the weekly radio podcasts as well as the new weekly TV version on Showtime. But sitting there staring around my environment I had to make photos. There were several things to take photos of. I learned that you cannot shoot photos of the courthouse without getting proper approval. I guess they think you are a terrorist "casing the joint." So after a few frames of the building I shot other aspects.

When they finally did come out of the court the wife pleasantly smiled for the camera, even though her husband tried everything to keep his face away from the camera. After getting their photos it was a mad dash to Boulder to try and find the reportedly new head University of Colorado men's basketball coach, Jeff Bzdelik. After transmitting my courtroom couple from one of the local Evil Empire locations, I waited on campus for a while only to be sent back to the office to be told that I was to go back to the Denver area in search of the new coach. Long story short...the reporter and I finally tracked down the prospective coach and his reported players after waiting outside a ginormous mansion in Cherry Hills hosting a booster club party. They were at a hotel in Lone Tree. We see a few key people and feel like the cat's in the bag. Only problem was that the athletic director spotted us and whisked away the new coach through a different exit. No photos of the new coach. Just ones of people happy to be in court, or so it seemed.

250 miles and seven hours standing outside of buildings later I wonder, how do those "photographers" in Hollywood do that gig? Oh, that's right, they get $10,000 for a photo. I still couldn't sell my soul to the devil and be that slimy. To each their own, right?

All in a day's work I guess. After tomorrow, I'll be wishing for another day like this.


Busy, busy

Technology is supposed to make our lives much easier. But, the fact is that it only allows us to cram even more into our already limited time. Rushing from job to job, task to task. Every so often you have to force yourself to stop and see the world around you.

One of the final lines in the movie "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" sums it up the best:
"Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."
So here I was, running late to teach my class at Metro State and I look up and just felt the need to take a photo. I made three photos and returned to my brisk walk.

All of a sudden you look at the calendar and you realize it's been eight straight years of hard work and dedication to get to this point in your career. There have been several sacrifices, several indulgences and a lot of everything in between. I'm in the midst of a creative surge. I have been seeing my world differently everyday. Whether or not I create interesting visuals from that doesn’t matter to me. A veil has been lifted.

I’ve been able to see things in a different light. I’ve been able to exercise my creative muscles. I’ve been enjoying manipulating a piece of technology to express moments and feelings to people. I am grateful for all of that, because I am about to embark on the future of my career.

Adding audio to still photos to create a message is unique and it works in many ways. The still image will always be the most powerful way to send a message, if done correctly. The viewer is forced to see a frozen moment of time and reflect on the impact of that moment. Adding the audio creates another layer for the senses. Now I must take the power of the still image, the impact of audio and blend it with the dimension of time to create video.

I can’t wait to see and document the world in yet another creative way.