Jazz at the Station: The Corey Christiansen Trio

Earlier this month, much like the past few, I got called upon to shoot another jazz group in downtown Ogden at the Union Station. This time, unlike the others was much more of what I was expecting when someone tells me there is a jazz gig being played somewhere. Classically trained and exceptionally brilliant on the guitar was a local Utahan whose been travelling the country and becoming a well known name in the jazz world. Corey, who got his start at Utah State University had been pitched to me by one of my buddies as one of the best Jazz guitarists he’s ever heard. He wasn’t kidding. It’s one of those things where you can’t really write about how good something is, you just have to show people. So I suggest you check out his site here or drop him a listen on Spotify as his new album is up there.

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With Corey, was drummer Steven Shindo Lyman who may be one of the best drummer’s I’ve ever heard. Sadly, I can’t find a website for him, but if you ever hear that name or see it on a flyer, be sure to check him out as he’s an absolute beast. So much so I ended up getting a few more pictures of him than I usually do with other drummers. Here’s a couple:

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Last but not least, jumping in on the keyboard was Ryan Conger. I’ve written about him in my last two Jazz at the Station posts, so I won’t go into a lot of that here as you already know about him.

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All in all, the show was killer good, as they played a lot more of what I guess is now considered traditional jazz. I managed to swing some pretty decent shots out of the gig and look forward to whoever will be playing next month, as this is becoming a staple in my monthly calendar.

That’s all for this one, as always, until next time –Thanks for reading!
-D

A busy week of decent shots

Last week the kiddo got the chance to spend some time with her Great Grand Parents which meant I had some free time to get out and shoot some photos and my wife got some time to relax by herself. All good things.

The week in question started last Saturday when my buddy Collin and I decided to try and go shoot some wildlife at one of the various birding spots. Unfortunately, they had decided to close and lock the gates early, so we had ended up driving there for nothing. After some humming and hawing, we ran a few errands and then I got convinced to do a midnight hike up Adams Canyon. Normally, I really enjoy the hike as it’s quite scenic and the stream is a great relaxer. However, it was dark and I was in flip-flops. Thusly, I was not in any way ready for this. In hindsight I’m glad he talked me into it as we got to the top and shot some long exposures of the waterfall with the stars in the background. Here’s the shot I ended up with:

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I tried fidgeting with it to see if I could post in a Milky Way trail behind the waterfall, but none of those images looked very good so I decided to stick with the original.

On Wednesday, I was invited out for an impromptu photo walk as a buddy of mine Zach Leroy (IG: @zacharyleroy) was wanting to get some iconic Ogden shots for his upcoming gallery for next month’s FFAS (First Friday Art Stroll). I always enjoy following him around as he has an extremely unusual perspective by which he sees normal or boring things. I’d recommend check out his Instagram as there is a real sense of art in the mundane objects he shoots. I do think these excursions make me a substantially better photographer. Of course the trip wasn’t just watching someone else snap pictures, I managed to get a few myself. I was pretty happy with most of the keepers. Since I have been trying to work on my HDR skills a little more, I opted to shoot things that would push me more that way. My favorite shot of the evening ended up being the little coffee stop on the corner of Washington and 25th:

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I also managed to get a few decent shots around sunset (which was the entire point of the trip) one of which had a funky painted van, and the other a nice shot of the Well’s Fargo building:

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Aside from those, we stopped on 24th to snap a couple of pictures and swap IG follows with a few kids who were out skateboarding in the area. I’ve always liked snapping photos of skateboarding as the action shots are always super dramatic. If you catch someone mid trick (whether they land it or not) they always look like a bad-ass. Example:

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The week wrapped up yesterday as Collin and I went out to snatch some more sunset shots from a place I visited a few years ago by accident with my buddy Trevor. Unfortunately, the mountains ran in such a way that we didn’t get the sunset hitting the valley we were in like I was hoping. We did however get to pet a couple of beautiful and sweet horses, which was nice.

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Unlike with most photos where I really waver back and forth on whether or not to go black and white, this one was obvious from the start. Going Monochrome here just adds so much more texture and drama. I really loved this shot (even if it kind of looks like there’s a horse-centipede going on in the back).

Since we knew early on the valley was going to be a bust, we moved on as quick as we could in hopes to catch a sunset. The sky was cloudy and it was raining in various parts of the Wasatch front so we figured the sky would be exploding with color if we could just get high enough on the mountain to look out west. We ended up missing it by about 10-15 minutes, but we know where to head to next time. I did manage to get one more pretty solid HDR shots, and a couple mediocre ones. Here’s how those came out:

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I’m not 100% sure I’m going to keep the bottom two in color. I’m not even entirely sure how much I like them. But, I figure I’d post them here and see what everyone else though and if they stink I can always dump them later.

It felt really good to be able to get out and shoot more this last week as prior to this, the last time I got to take a photo of something was around the 4th of July, and that is much too long to go without being outside and roaming about. I think that will do it for this one. As always, until next time– Thanks for reading!
-D

Guest Post from Jeff Labossiere : The Joe McQueen Quartet

*Editor’s Note* While I was out shooting some photos for the Summer Jazz at the Station series, I ran into a pretty nice fella, who was into writing and was looking for a place to publish his write up for the concert. So being the lover of all things art and artistry, I offered him a spot on the blog. The words are all his, and the photos are all mine. If you are interested in contacting Jeff for freelance work, his email is: stupidweezels@yahoo.com**

McDonald’s boasts over 1 billion served, and I don’t like to brag but, at lease six of those are ME. There was a 13 July, 7pm jazz concert at the Union Station in Ogden, Utah. Over 150 folks attended and I don’t like to brag but, one of those was ME (I checked twice).

Yes, it was the Joe McQueen Quartet who delivered a one-hour, outdoor concert on Wall Ave. The music resonated from the talents of legendary tenor-saxophonist (and nonagenarian), Joe McQueen, his drummer, Don Keipp, guitarist, Brad Wright, and Ryan Conger at the keys. The concert was free, but those who paid attention were enriched.

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I arrived a few minutes early for a cursory evaluation of the setting. Last minute details were attended to, and the folks in charge were hurried but not scrambling. Clipboards and equipment checks were on the ready, and the band looked poised.

Positioned outside the front entrance of the large Union Station, the stage was set squarely, book-ended by gabled porticos that set the side borders of the ornate, cobble-stoned, concrete slab. Joe’s own small stage out front quietly celebrated his renown. His low-set, unassuming chair, was so carefully aligned with the American flag behind, and the 8-tier fountain in front, it wouldn’t have surprised me if it also synchronized with the Great Pyramid. Had there been a compass on his sax, the needle would surely ossify towards Giza.

Coupled with the building’s towering facade, the courtyard’s tree-lined borders offered reprieve from the sun’s dogged harassment. Opposite the building, the stage faced three sections of folding chairs, perhaps 50 each, filling in quickly with eager jazz fans.

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Behind the seats were the fountain and traffic-filled streets, both of which were unremorseful in their noise pollution. The clamor of the fountain eventually faded though, as the water’s sound remained steady and mostly agreeable. The ebb and flow of the street noise though was contemptuous, especially when the world’s most annoying vehicle raced by: the Harley Davidson; source of the most grating and discordant sound known to man-kind.

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I digress…

The concert started precisely at 7pm and zero seconds. Born in 1919, Joe McQueen’s voice carries less volume than decades past, but his placid voice quieted the crowd promptly. Although succinct, his intro was lively and warm, furnishing his listeners with anticipation and smiles before even the first note was played.

The Quarter played a full hour, gifting the audience with eight songs.

The first was “Blues by Five”, a song I later concluded was a warm-up. It started slow albeit smooth. Lots of sax at first then a break for a guitar then keyboard solo. At least two instruments were on go at all times. The pitch and tempo were mild and deliberate, which is why I felt this was an appropriate inaugural selection. The crowd applauded three times during this first piece, somehow knowing exactly when to do so.

The breaks between songs were 30 seconds or less, but song two seemed like a continuation – like a 1a. It started with a strong but brief sax lead before the others jumped in one by one. It was a nice moderate crescendo that hovered nicely into a keyboard straight solo. Crowd applause validated the merriment-like notes. The song made me feel, well…delight – because it made me feel liberated in a way. Like I wasn’t an adult shackled to adult responsibility. It all made sense when the guitarist later told me the song’s name: “Donald Duck”. He said it with a chuckle, then repeated it. “Donald Duck”, he said, as if trying to convince himself that the song harbored no chagrin. That no, he was not the novelty act at a child’s birthday party, but instead an erudite, professional musician with a blog and a fan-base. He was almost apologetic about the song’s title, but I didn’t care. I mean, the name matters little – the substance is the music that permeates your heart. I thought that, and now wished I had actually said it. Regret.

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Next was “Elevation”, a piece that started fast and zealous. Right away I felt like, OK, this is the first real song. Their warm-up was cool, but this is hot. The sax opening was raw, full, and without excuse. It was the match that lit the crowd on fire. As the others joined in they played hard with a confidence that was inspiring. As they worked their instruments, they focused on their hands, like a bad typist on the keyboard, but then they looked up, almost in unison, smiling. Their hands still moving, playing, charming from their device all the right tones, tunes and sounds.

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As a listener It’s easy to determine how much you enjoy it when you look down and realize you’re clapping, and you don’t even remember starting. It’s as if your hands, out in front of you, heard the music first, then reacted, before the notes even made it to your ears.

“Elevation” rolled into a guitar solo as the others played softly in the background. Brad led the strings exactly where he wanted and it felt like he had no particular destination in mind – just a journey. And the expression from the audience told me they were honored to be along for that journey. I wasn’t sure how the solo might end, but when my eyes caught Ryan the keyboardist, smiling, I knew it didn’t matter.

As if teammates in a relay race, Brad seamlessly passed the baton to Ryan, and the talented organist wasted no time hitting stride. Back and forth, back and forth his hands dashed, as if his hands weren’t playing the keys, but the keys were playing his hands.

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The crowd cheered throughout, unbridled, as if the two solos were accompanied by free ice cream.

At 7:28pm, the fourth selection, “Days of Wine and Roses” began. A solo sax that was so smooth it tasted like silk, and notes so bright they seemed to veil the traffic noise. A fleeting look towards the sky I could almost discern the exact moment when the music reached the seagulls. As soon as their flight path entered the courtyard airspace their gears down-shifted from flap to glide, as if hypnotized by the riveting harmony.

The solo was slow and full-ranged — two full minutes of variation, cadence, and improv. Even at 97, Joe’s lungs didn’t seem any less eager to breathe out magic, and the audience let him know they were grateful.

“Days of Wine” continued into a mellow guitar solo, allowing Brad to highlight his versatility. In this solo he stood upright and postured like a department store mannequin, as though he were advertising his skills in lieu of active wear. The rhythm was surprising at times. Brad put an ellipsis where I expected a period, and an exclamation mark where a comma seemed imminent.

It reminded me of when Bob Ross painted a happy little tree in front of the perfectly good cabin he had just finished. At first you’re like, “Noooo! How could he do that?!”. But as the tree’s details and personality came into focus you begin to accept, and then embrace it.

Suddenly I was like, “Oh. Of course. Brad’s ellipses were way better than periods.” And so, without even knowing it, the guitarist in the Joe McQueen Quartet taught me about music. Whether that lesson was merely patience matters little. It rendered me a better listener – perhaps for the concert. Perhaps for life.

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The 5th song, “Caravan” was an assertive, collective jam. Eyeing the audience closely, I could tell this is what they came for. It started with a sax lead, and it felt like Joe was playing the toughest notes of the concert – and nailing them. It reminded me of something Sidney Bechet might play, so I went exploring. Well, after a dozen or so Youtube videos I couldn’t exactly find a familiar note, so I guess I was wrong about the comparison.

“Caravan” continued with a guitar and drum tandem – applause during. Shortly after, the keyboard jumped in, and they were playing with a harmony as if it were just one, six-armed person on all three instruments. The cadence shifted too. First the guitar set one, then the drums. Suddenly their tempo slowed, allowing the sax to join in – like teammates all jumping the same playground rope.

Within seconds Joe’s sax bellowed. Strong, sonorous notes that buoyed the crowd instantly. His last name and talent, akin to the most commanding piece on a chessboard, were just as versatile and remarkably, as mobile. Parked at center stage, his feet were fixed throughout, but the notes he played were boundless. Soon the mild tempo increased. Then again. The band turned their jog into a run, into a sprint.

Humans have a limited amount of minutes on this Earth. Each one is a gift, yet a countdown to our last breath. So it seems only natural to be selfish with those minutes. Watching the band, jamming in unison, giving us all they had, was a bit of our lives well spent. Minutes invested in profit and joy — not wasted on keeping up with the no-talent Kardashians, leveling-up in Candy Crush, or desperately scrambling for the next rung on the corporate ladder. Looking around the courtyard I could tell, everyone there wanted to be there. The skills of the talented quartet coaxed from the audience applause, captivation, and smiles. The band seemed to know it too – and play better because of it.

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Song six, “Girl from Ipanema (?)”, started with a mellow guitar solo. He hit new chords not yet heard and it almost felt like he was playing notes that even HE never played before – like a champ. This is the time I headed closer to the stage to get a new perspective, and I’m glad I did. I studied him as he played, wondering how some folks are born with a talent, and others, not. As he strummed, my eyes darted from his expression to his hands, and back again. He looked lost in the music, and I admired his courage. His vulnerability. He didn’t need or even desire the audience’s permission, but got it anyway, I suppose because the music sounded innovative and edgy.

Joe’s sax interrupted with an almost gentle apology, and it was then that I first noticed the moon. The sunlight sliced across the sky above the courtyard, stretching a perfect line from the Station’s high wall to the sidewalk across the street. Above the line was a vivid azure sky that muted to a soft celestial blue. It looked so inviting I wanted to take off my shoes and rest my feet on it. The higher my gaze the more peaceful I felt, and that’s where I found the moon – half obscured by God’s overzealous blue brush, yet still content. As the jazz flowed through me I felt the moon looking down with approval and delight.

The song continued with a keyboard solo. Drums joined later and they played off each other like a tennis match. After a few back and forth volleys they played in unison – a nice rhythm that seemed to intoxicate the crowd. For a minute or so I couldn’t hear any other sound. Their music had somehow put superfluous noise-cancelling headphones on my ears, and stress-cancelling headphones on my heart.

The intoxication ended sharply though when Joe’s sax belted out a sobering beat. It was loud, imposing, and arrogantly played over the top of the band. More importantly, we loved it! It was met with tons of applause. And when our 4,000 lbs of validation smothered the stage, I could almost see the corner of Joe’s mouth curl upward, even as his lips remained firmly attached to the mouthpiece. Forty-five seconds or so later, the song ended to more and unanimous applause.

After a short break, Joe introduced the next song, and the name alone stirred the crowd. Cheers and applause followed, prior to even the first note of, “Take the A Train”. And so it began…with bongos. I certainly wasn’t expecting that, which is what made it so special. A pleasant, upbeat timbre that lured a smile from my lips as I busily scribbled on my pad. I looked up to two seagulls, silently swooping above, as if offering a bird’s ear-view validation.

As my gaze swept from the gulls to Joe, I caught the last of his smile as he put the sax to his lips and exhaled brilliant notes. The other members joined in and together they quickly seized this great rhythm that subdued the crowd. It was a medium tempo with some repetition and high range. Unfortunately, my ears are not 20/20 (the ear chart is quite blurry), so I couldn’t tell you the meter, key, or texture – but I CAN tell you the result:

…the hundred or so folks on that little slab of concrete that evening — on Wall Ave in Ogden, UT, were riveted. I didn’t know but the band did, that this would be their last full song of the night.

I drove to this concert with all intent on studying the band, but I found myself analyzing the audience almost as much. The band’s performance was action, and the crowd’s expression was RE-action. It was wonderful to see (and feel) the interaction between the two. And now I know, that this last piece, appropriately named “That’s All”, was dessert. Joe McQueen’s Quartet had fed us well – we were full and content, and unbuckling our metaphoric belt. The music was delicious but this last piece was sweet as well. It ended with a sax solo – slow, loud and pacifying.

The concert was a thrill ride from front to back. Twenty minutes after the concert the courtyard is nearly empty. There’s Joe, still on his stage chair, shaking hands, signing autographs, and talking to loyal fans. A few minutes later Joe directs his band. He points and they do. As they pack up I can see a little fatigue in them all. That seems reasonable, considering they put so much of themselves into their music. The benefactor of which is a grateful audience.

They leave empty. We leave restored.

-Jeff Labossiere

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Hope you enjoyed the write up and the shots this time around. I’ll hopefully get to posting more in the coming weeks, but since I haven’t gotten out to shoot much it’s been slow going on posting as well. As always, until next time –Thanks for reading!
-D

Epic Family Roadtrip #2, Part 2: The Sunshine State

I can’t believe I haven’t posted this yet! As it turns out, the reason you never read about the second half of our family road trip is because it somehow got axed out of my pending post list. Whoops! Nonetheless, here’s the details:

After spending some time with family, we made the long trip out towards Santa Cruz, California. When we set out I figured it would be a drive, but I had no idea just how long and exhausting it was. We did get to cruise along the route 66 for a bit which was fun, and stopped at this quirky gas station somewhere in the west-Arizona/East-California mess:

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Once we got into California, it got so hot and miserable that I wasn’t sure if I could do it in one swing like I had hoped. In fact we actually had to stop a little town called Bakersfield to spend the night and make the last few hour drive the next morning. That night was largely uneventful. We drove around a 3 block radius trying to find a hotel with some vacancies in it which took a while, then grabbed some IHOP as it was the only place still open at 10:30 at night. Apparently. the town rolls up its streets around 8:30, and is dead most of the time. But since there was a wildfire going through most of Northern California, a lot of the fire fighters were staying in Bakersfield.

We got up the next morning and shoved off hoping to see some beach before too long. When we got in around lunch time, we stopped at a little Choice Hotel near the boardwalk and took the first room available as I didn’t want to fight to find one later. Once that was done, we headed over to the boardwalk to take in some sweet sweet ocean living.

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Thursday and Friday were spent lounging on the beach and hunting for shells/sand dollars for the kiddo but I did manage a few good shots when we toured the wharf.

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Of course one of things I was really looking forward too was finding the Kraken piping, which was something I’d heard about online and it was an even cooler sculpture in person:

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Saturday was spent driving around the Santa Cruz area trying to find more stuff to take pictures of. The entire reason I had planned the trip out that way was to hit up Natural Arches State Beach, but when the kiddo and I got there, it was crowded, dirty, and consisting of only a single small arch covered in seagulls. The disappointment was super real. However, while the main objective was a total bust, the rest of the trip was incredible. Even the Saturday excursion ended up with some pretty strong shots.

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Better yet, the waves seemed to be good (not that I could tell if they weren’t) as there was a pretty decent number of people surfing. I opted to stop along the walkway and see if I could snatch a couple pictures of some sweet wave action and ended up with a few I was happy with.

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I really enjoyed the feeling of the top two images as they are part of a large memorial to those who have been lost while surfing, and in the spirit of the sport, the rules of sharing the ocean so that everyone can enjoy the waves. The other shots were of various surfers either scouting the landscape or riding out the end of a pretty large wave.

All in all, it was a pretty good day. We hung around in the evening and ordered in pizza to the hotel as everyone was sunburned and tired. I figured it wouldn’t be the worst idea since we were going to be driving back to Ogden on Sunday morning. The drive home was uneventful. There were a few places in Nevada I would have stopped at to snap some photos, but I was tired and had been on vacation much too long at that point. I just really wanted to get home and sleep in my own bed.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the photos as much as I’ve enjoyed taking them. In the spirit of the Santa Cruz surfers: Be good to each other, and until next time — Thanks for reading!
-D

Epic Family Roadtrip #2, Part 1: The Land of Enchantment

Wednesday June 22nd at an ungodly hour of the night, My wife and I loaded up the car and started the long drive down to Albuquerque, NM to spend the next few days with her family. Her grandparents had put together a family reunion of sorts and we figured we could lump that and some time with her parents in together as the first leg of our trip.

The drive itself is around ten hours if you don’t stop at all, but since we need things like food, water, and gas for the car (not to mention the occasional stop for a photo-op), it is in reality around 12 hours. However, even though it’s insanely long and not terribly interesting at 2:30 in the morning when it’s too dark to see, the sunrise on Thursday outside of Monticello, UT was super worthwhile:

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It’s also only the second time I got to break out the new camera. I recently (about three days prior) had upgraded into a full frame Sony A7Rii. The only shot I had managed to take with it prior to the road trip (that was salvagable) was this one:

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I snapped this one from Willard Bay on Tuesday night as my wife and I drove around the greater Ogden area trying to catch the sunset. Of course, all that is neither here nor there.

The rest of the drive into New Mexico was fairly uneventful as I tried to sleep for most of it. I’ve always found New Mexico to be fairly ugly –largely the opposite of picturesque. I’m sure a lot of that has to do with having grown up here and spending roughly twenty plus years of my life in various parts of the state. Once you’ve kind of seen everything a place has to offer it tends to lose its luster. Given that, I haven’t really broken out the camera a whole lot on this initial leg of the trip as there isn’t a lot that inspires me to take any pictures. I did however feel that it would be worth getting up one of the mornings while we were up in Los Alamos to try and catch the sunrise. The reason being, is that the mountains sit fairly low on the horizon from the vantage point of the east canyon you drive up to get into town. So that mixed with a valley and the few trees that have managed to thrive in this barren wasteland of a state looked like it might be worth an early morning. As it turns out, it was. I managed a 4-shot panorama that came out surprisingly well:

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While it isn’t going to crack into my top tier of photos I’ve taken, it was pretty good considering how biased I am against the aesthetic value of the state as a whole.

The trip however has been anything but a bust though, as we’ve gotten to spend some time with family, in which I repeatedly put my foot in my mouth trying to be funny. We got the chance to see some friends we haven’t seen in a while and catch up/reminisce about the olden days; and on Tuesday we went down to the Albuquerque Zoo/Bio Park, to take the kiddos (our child, and my wife’s little sister who’s eleven now) out for a fun filled afternoon of complaining about how hot it is, and how much their feet hurt. I even managed to take some pictures while I was there and ended up with a few winners:

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As for the next stage, Wednesday morning finds us heading out super early in order to make it to Santa Cruz as the second leg of the trip will involve lying on a beach and enjoying the sun. I can’t tell you how much I look forward to that. So the next post will likely come on Sunday or Monday pre-4th once I’ve gone through those photos and recharged the batteries on both my gear and myself enough to write another post. As always, until next time –Thanks for reading!
-D

Admiring the Night Sky (again!)

Since the kiddo is spending the month of June with my parents out in Kansas, I tend to have weekends free to drive and do a little more for myself. And since there isn’t a bedtime involved, that means getting out to shoot the stars on clear nights! Since the summer time is usually the best time to view the Milky Way, prepare to be inundated with a multitude of posts about it! Since I have covered shooting the stars in at least three other posts previously, I’ll do you a favor and keep this one short and just post the images from this last excursion. I feel as though the stars themselves are much better in these shots than some of my previous ones, but the foregrounds and other incidental stuff in the frame is much worse. I’m not entirely sure if this is just the trade off I have to make, or if I need to start doing a lot more composite work in Photoshop to get both. Either way, here’s some pictures:

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I’m sure there will be at least one more post like this over the course of the summer, so if you’re ready to see the same picture 3, 4, maybe even 5 times get pumped! I know I’m excited! As always, until next time — Thanks for reading!
-D

Tag the Timberlodge: An Ogden Art Project

Mid June brought about a bit fun for the artistically inclined when the local sandwich shop Even Steven’s invited people from around the city to come and tag up the side of one of their buildings. The company which had bought out the old Timberlodge showroom building, was planning to demolish it in lieu of additional parking behind Washington street was presented to idea by one of its own to let people go nuts and spray paint the side of it prior to its removal. The idea being, that if it’s coming down anyways, why not let people have a chance to do something they’ve likely wanted to do, but haven’t due to legal concerns.

What happened is about 30 people showed up and went bonkers: creating a massive collage of faces, animals and even a wall or words people would like to see go away. Being someone who would love to be artistically inclined myself, I jumped at the chance to join in and throw a tag up on the side of the building:

As you can see, graffiti art isn’t my strong suit. Nonetheless, I was both thrilled and thankful to be a part of the process. What came of the whole thing was a great experience, tons of fun, and an excellent PR opportunity for a local business that already is out doing some great things in the community. Here’s some of the shots I took from the event:

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Aside from a fun filled day of tagging, I also got the chance to pop into the old building and snap some shots of the inside, letting me catalog yet another soon to be part of Ogden Forgotten. So stay tuned for the write up on that piece as it will have a decent number of photos in it as well. I didn’t want to post along with this as I want to do some research on the building and provide a little context as well as the shots (as I have with other Urbex shoots) in hopes to give it that historical feel it deserves. All in all, it was a great day and I look forward to the next time something like this comes around. As always, until next time — Thanks for reading!
-D