Photography has been one of my interests for a very long time. I bought my first Nikon F so long ago I’m too embarrassed to give a date. But since 2007 I’ve been selling my work in the “micro stock” arena, with reasonable success. But that market has great limitations for anyone aspiring to capture images for the Fine Art venue. This motivated me to finally take my own work into the latter arena, which is what I’m doing. But in that effort, I feel obliged to honor a few individuals and lifestyle categories that have been at least part of my personal inspiration.

I’ve been around some pretty high level personalities. Hollywood film producers, billionaire media moguls, and screen stars at the very highest level. I knew individuals on a first name basis that earned more than a million dollars a week. It’s a fact. But only a very few of the hundreds I met or worked around in that stratospheric league ever made much of a subjective personal impression on me. Among the few I liked were Ben Johnson, Carol Burnett, Demi Moore, Elvis Presley, Jim Coburn, James Spader, Jim Belushi, Jimmy Stewart, Kurt Russell, Leonard Nimoy, Walt Disney, and especially Richard Gere. From my perspective, Richard Gere was the real deal. I truly hope the increasing revelations about Hollywood elites don't force me to change my mind about these few.

But beyond the apex of Hollywood, there are some people in this world that did affect me. I admire and look up to a number of great adventurers, artists, and independent men and women of my time.

At the top, I put my late father, who hopped a freight train from his home in Illinois during the Depression years when he was only 13 years old and never went back. He made it to California, having been only pulled off once about half way. Taken into court in the Midwest, a judge looked him over, gave him some personal advice about life, handed him a silver half dollar, and sent him on his way. That judge also falls into my admiration queue, and is a great indicator of all that’s being lost as we move toward wherever it is we’re all heading. By 17 years old my father was a top billed Vaudeville singer signed with the theatrical agency, Western Vaudeville. They were the pop stars of their day. For the next fifteen years that’s what he did, until Vaudeville faded away. Later in life he taught himself advanced slide rule math and radio engineering, and became a
federally licensed radio broadcast engineer, designing antennas and communication equipment packages for movie companies in Hollywood. He ended up working until he retired as as an episodic television sound recording engineer. My father never finished the eight grade.

My wife, Kristy, is right up there too, worthy of the recognition she deserves. She's a tough, bright, hard working woman, and the one who suggested I send some of my images to stock photo agencies. I did and ended up with small contracts that actually took off for me. It paid the bills for several years, and paid for all further equipment.

Then there were some of the adventuring souls I encountered along my own way. It's clear that there's a lot of amazing adventurers and photographers out there, and I don't mean to argue that these are the greatest. They're just a few that influenced me. Because I knew them, I put the climber and writer, John Long, at or near the top of the pure adventure category, and the late Galen Rowell at the top in modern landscape photography. It was the venerable Bob Kamps that taught me to climb, but it was John that made me feel like I was part of that world, both when we worked together in the entertainment industry and in the climbing scene. I think you can’t go wrong reading anything that John wrote. And Galen, in forming Mountain Light, virtually paved the way for most modern adventure landscape photographers. Sadly, it was reported in late 2017 that Mountain Light was closing its doors. Many will miss it.

Galen exposed me, a
long with the late climber, Pete Steeres, to Hot Creek way back before it was developed.  In Tuolumne during the Summer of '73, Pete and a woman named Linda Thomson caught Galen off guard and actually smashed him in the face with a whip cream pie. Galen took it with a laugh, but retaliated that evening by taking the turns heading down Lee Vining Canyon in full sliding, screaming four wheel drifts. If you know that road, you know it might have been a moment. Bouncing around in the back, the climber beside me actually cried out, “We’re all gonna’ die!” He was joking, but still he actually had fear in his eyes, this guy who was a competent traditional first ascent lead climber used to living on the edge. Galen laughed at us all on we went. A few days later Galen gave me a ride down off the hill and dropped me off at the Oakland airport where I caught a plane back to Hollywood. In Hollywood I would drive to work in the dark, peek my head out of some major lot sound stage at lunch only to realize the air was so bad I couldn't see three telephone poles down the line, and I'd drive home in the dark. In the DARK. In the SUMMER. Yeah, those were long hours.
So skinny dipping with a crowd of young men and women in the night under the stars of the Eastern Sierra was MUCH more interesting to me than being stuck for long, long hours cooped up in Hollywood sound stages. I had been interested in photography years before I met Galen. But after I saw Galen’s work, I was stuck in abject admiration. He shot “Rainbow over the Potala Palace” in Lhasa Tibet, and it just blew me away. Along with everybody else. This was an in-camera capture, long before digital manipulation. Today, I'm still following, well behind thousands of other greats, but still plodding along in the distant footsteps of men like Galen.
If you’ve ever stood in line with a bunch of honest top of the line, cutting edge climbing hot shots working on an unfinished boulder problem, and when your turn comes, you flash it, you know what I mean.
Leading Valhalla in '73, the
test piece that put you into
the club. Mike Graham belaying.

After that, there’s no turning back. There were others from that life. I always remember and liked the legendary Tahquitz climbing guide, Clark Jacobs. And I liked Mike Graham, Tobin Sorensen, Phil Warender, Mark Powell, crazy Mike “Red” Kayser, and Greg Bender even though I knew them either briefly or just for a year or two. From Stoney Point, Mike Kayser and Greg Bender followed me to to Tahoe where we all ended up not only climbing at Lover's Leap and Eagle Lake, but found our way onto a framing construction crew together. But that is a long way back. Today the climbing scene is so advanced that it’s impossible to even consider.  9c was conquered in late 2017 — something like 5.15d — and Alex Honold actually free soloed an El Cap route. There’s a pretty fine line going on there now, and it seems only a matter of time.

And then there are rodeo cowboys and pickup riders. It doesn’t matter who they are or when they lived, successful rodeo cowboys are among the greatest adventurers of all time. Pickup riders are probably the most underrated and over skilled workers ever. The skills they manage relative to the pay they receive is at the adventure extreme. When I worked those long decades in the Hollywood film industry, if I was on a western, I’d be attracted NOT to the company and snobbish air of the producers and starring cast so much, but to the wranglers and the stunt cowboys. Among the rodeo cowboys I knew and admired the most was an obscure world champion rodeo roper named Kenny Call. He was close friends with the late and great actor, Ben Johnson. They treated me right. Ben was the ONLY person to ever win both an Academy Award and a World Champion rodeo title as a team roping header. 
Kenny was a small time actor and stunt man. But he took the time to teach me to rope and ride, two things that I had wanted to go back to and master ever since I rode with my friends as a kid and saw my first childhood westerns on the silver screen. It was a tough teaching, as Kenny was pretty much an old school, hard knocks, heavy handed cowboy from Oklahoma. He fixed his breakaway training ropes with bailing wire, which didn't break away so well, so you had to learn to take your dallies on the fly and with some thought or risk loosing a thumb. Another cowboy that left a mark on me, although he almost certainly doesn’t know it, was a national finalist bare back rider turned movie stunt coordinator named Raleigh Wilson. I met him in Yuma working on the picture,  Stargate, about the time the rodeo and Western Lifestyle bug really hit me. Raleigh never made me feel small for wanting to hang with him, and I wanted to hang with him because, like Chris LeDoux, “he rode the wild horses”, and he rode 'em tall.

There are maybe a score of people like these that I look back on with admiration. I may not have known it would be like that then, and most of them probably don't know it now. But I remember them today as at least somewhat iconic. It doesn't matter all that much how or why, but I remember them. One was a certain KLM who helped my buy my first Nikon F. Another was a rancher named Carl Grieb in Arroyo Grande who in a way changed at least a part of my life by teaching me how to gather, sort, and brand cattle on horseback and in the roughest of country. Then there was a fellow named Jared Jantzen, who maybe in a way saved my life by ministering to me at his own expense. And finally there was a man who called himself Jimmy H. Woo who added a sort of sacred confidence in my life. Very few would know who he was, but for those that do, you have my salute and respect.

Back to the world of photography, there are many, MANY other modern landscape and fine art photographers that I admire as well. I like Patrick DiFruscia. It's difficult to imagine a more interesting or successful landscape and nature photographer, or a more passionate person. I also think there's NO better place to learn about the business of modern photography than at Dan Heller's site. NONE. I also really like Aaron Reed. A LOT. Mark
Metternich is one of the most knowledgeable persons I know about when it comes to post editing. His YouTube videos are well worth the time.  Among others are Vern Clevenger, Mark Adamus, and Peter Lik. Vern was a climber and I used to see him at the Summer Bishop craft festival with his fine work. He was one of the first that made me see the possibilities of actually doing something with the photography I’d been fooling with as a hobby for decades. I was amazed when he explained he was scanning his transparencies and editing them on his computer with some new software called "Photoshop". That was probably 25 years ago. Mark Adamus was the first one I saw online that blew me away, making me realize the possibilities of really managing the work in post. And finally, Peter Lik because he’s currently considered the greatest in the world. A SINGLE print of one of his black and white photos of the extremely over photographed Antelope Canyon, sold for $6.5 MILLION dollars. To me, THAT’S a success story if there EVER was one.

That’s about the best introduction to my photographic work and how I got here I know how to make. And it's about the best effort to note a few of those that influenced my life that I can manage. Until next time then.

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