Dairy Queen

Inspired by an essay on the loss of memory by a German philosopher, Larry McMurtry once wrote a book called "Walter Benjamin at the Dairy Queen." It wasn't the greatest book. It's an interesting look into McMurtry as a writer and told a little about growing up in Texas. But the thing that stuck with me were the passages about the Dairy Queens in and around Archer City, Texas.

In Texas (at least the part west of Fort Worth) road trips are measured by the distance between DQs. Children recount priceless memories based around the DQ in their grandparents town. Old farmers chat every morning over a Dilly Bar and a coffee.

So why should it be any surprise the parking lot at the DQ in Logansport has the strongest cell signal... and therefore became my press room for the basketball game I just shot.

Bayou Bliss

Just like we did in 2003, the staff of The Times' Photo and Sports departments are producing a LSU National Championship book. Here is the website: www.bayoubliss.com

The book will contain a chapter for each game including the SEC and BCS championship games and will feature stories and photos by the Times staff.

The website is already up and taking orders and is offering a pretty decent discount for ordering your book in advance of the January release date.

Road Trip Part Two (Degrees Fahrenheit)

Jeepers! It's cold up here, yeah?

Well we survived the storm and now are spending the last day in Minneapolis with tons of snow on the ground. In the in between, we have driven through the first major snowstorm of the year, spent a night on the shores of a frozen lake with Nancy and Bob (Fran's aunt and uncle) in the middle of nowhere.
We had our photo taken with a giant ridiculous fish at Mille Lacs (a giant frozen lake where all these people go to ice fish) and we had a little involuntary off road incident on the forest road to Bob and Nancy's cabin.

Hope all is well and warm there.

Road Trip Part One

Fran and I have arrived in Minneapolis after a few days of camping at Lost Valley in the Buffalo National River in Arkansas. The weather was beautiful save for a 2 a.m. cold front this morning that shook me awake and left me half frozen when the sun came up.

Now for the photos. I just sent a few, but I thought I would give you all a taste...

First is Fran hiking on the Lost Valley Trail. It was a great 3.5 miles with lots of elevation change and a ton of cool rock features. Natural bridges, caves, fallen boulders, etc.Next is a shot from inside the natural bridge looking out over a spring fed pond. My not-yet weary feet are in the foreground.

Since it was early in the morning, there were deer scattered along the trail and most of them had a bit of interest in what we were doing in their forest.After finishing that trail, we packed lunch and headed to the ridge to hike the 3 mile trail to Hawksbill Crag where we had lunch. That's Fran standing on the crag... and yes... it is just as amazing as you would imagine. The view is well worth the big elevation changes to get there and back. We finished the entire trial and had lunch and shot photos in under two hours.
This morning we headed out of town. Watch out for the Ozark Road Blocks. ;)The final photo attached is the only interesting photo ever made of Iowa and sums up most of what I remember of the last 12 hours (AR, MO, IA, MN) with the exception of the stop at the huge Bass Pro Shops in Springfield, MO.
Now we are in Minneapolis at Fran's grandfather's house where it is a balmy 18 degrees outside. And after a good scrubbing are ready to hit the road again. Tomorrow we are headed to Grand Rapids,MN where the temperature is supposed to be 4 degrees with a wind chill of -13 degrees. On top of that, they are predicting a foot of snow........... Oh Boy. ;)

Wish us luck...more later.

Chronically Hungry....

... Think about that term for a moment. Think about what it means to you. Try to apply it to yourself. When have you been "chronically hungry?"

How about that time you went camping and didn't take enough to eat. How about that week you worked so hard and didn't really have time to stop for lunch. Do any of them really apply? Do they really hold up to the reality?

Just outside my office, a few blocks down the road, but still in the deep shadow of the multi-million dollar downtown towers is a school... Ingersoll Elementary. At Ingersoll 90 percent of the students qualify for free or reduced lunches. Let me state it another way. Think of your 10 best friends when you were 8 years old. Now imagine that you were the only one who could afford lunch.

Now imagine that several kids in that same group not only got free lunches at school, but that many times that was the ONLY meal they ate before they went to bed. Maybe even the only meal they ate all day long.

That is chronically hungry.

Unfortunately there are more than 100 students at Ingersoll that were identified by their teachers and school nurse as chronically hungry. There are lots of indicators. Maybe they can't concentrate at school until after lunch. Maybe they stuff themselves on Friday afternoons. Maybe they come to school with a stomach ache every day. Whatever the reasons, they have been identified as consistently not having enough to eat.

Fortunately for these 100 students there is a pilot program called the BackPack Program that sends them home every weekend with a special backpack, one filled with foods that are simple so they can prepare it for themselves.

On this Thanksgiving week, I hope you will take a second to read the story that Diane Haag and I just published. Then I hope maybe you will take some action. Volunteer for a food bank, hold a food drive, make a donation... do something.

I just got back from the scene of a shooting where 8-year-old Joann Bell's (above) uncle was shot by an 8-year-old's uncle after he broke up a fight between the two girls.

Think about that... Let it sink in... what does that say about us as a people? As a society?

MidSouth SV Rally

First off the map. I think that we figured it was right under 500 miles
of beautiful twisty roads in the mountains. And those who rode it all,
did it in 2.25 days.
Choices, choices choices. There are so many great roads up there around
Jasper. Ryan told me when we were planning the rally that he could put
two hands on the map around Jasper and not touch a bad road and really
that's very true.On Friday after breakfast we headed east on 74 to 123 and then south to
Pelsor, which is nothing but a post office and a general store that is
only open on the weekends. However, on the weekend you can get the
world famous "sanwiche." I don't believe anyone tried one.

From there, we headed back up 123, which was a fantastic road. Big
sweepers, great scenery and a section of 10mph switchbacks that are
twice as tight as anything I saw in North Carolina. Seriously.

From there we took 374 back to town and shot some photos at the
overlook.374, Jack and I agreed, was one of our favorite roads. It was a
fantastic ride. Fairly open roads with some tight sections and one
bastard of a decreasing radius right hander. I would put 374 and 123 on
the "must ride" list.

After that, we headed back and hooked up with the rest of the people
who had showed up. Fil, Terri, Charles and Andrew all showed up midday
on Friday. Then most of the group headed off to Boxley Valley to see
the elk while I diagnosed a charging problem on my bike. (loose
battery cable)

Friday night there was a bonfire and beer and a few shenanigans. There
were bets on the lawn tractor and after hours a little motorcycle
shuffling care of the Dallas contingent (Shelby, Andy and Patrick) that
had arrived around dinner time. We all thought it was good fun and a
reminder to lock our triple trees. The guy who wasn't from our group
who had to hunt down his Daytona 675 in the morning... well... he
didn't think it was so funny. HA! Oh well, no harm, no foul.
I really can't say enough about The Hub. A stellar location with
stellar people running it. They really cater to motorcyclists and
provide beer runs and firewood for bonfires. Hell he even got after his
dog with a shock collar when he started barking at motorcycles.I have to give all the props to the Bike-Shufflers for showing up not
only to the morning ride, but also to breakfast after a long night of
polishing off Teri's vodka. They redeemed themselves and had a good
introduction to the mountain roads.

After breakfast we headed back down 374 to 123 and then across 16 to 27.

374 and 123 were brilliant again. 16 was beautiful and was on my list
of really great roads. 27's only real attribute was that it lead us to
341 (Push Mountain Road) But first we stopped for gas and drinks in
Marshall. It was about noon and we lost the late night riders to the
hopes of a nap at The Hub. Meanwhile Teri decided she had had enough of
people giving her hell for a dirty bike and she was off to the car wash
to hose it off.... mid-ride... ha!

The rest of 27 and 14 were great roads on par with the rest of the
weekend and finally we got to Push Mountain Road. The road is super
fast and smooth with no traffic. It's got great rhythm, but you can
really get in too deep too fast if you don't watch it. We stopped and
talked with the guy shooting photos (a la Killboy) and watched Ryan
make a few passes on his home road.

Then it was back down 14 for a short stop in Harriet. At this point we
lost a few more riders to fatigue and the short way home and the pace
picked up a notch.

Then things got a bit frustrating. Being Saturday afternoon the
Harley groups were out and there was one group in particular that was
a total whipping. I will just say that Teri has some some serious
skills and if those guys only knew that it was a 40-something year
old mother of two that passed them like that... well they would have
turned in their assless chaps and brake lever tassels in shame. It's
really too bad that some people just have to be like that. No one
owns the road and it's so much easier to let us pass and never see us
again than to block the road and ride so tight and so slow that no
one can get around you. Not all the Harley groups are like this.... I
met a lot of really cool Harley riders on our stops and there were a
ton of groups that let us by. But NONE of the other groups act like
this, BMWs, sport bikes, dual sports, Goldwings.... everyone else
always lets us by and we let everyone by that is running faster than
us. It's just a shame.

And despite what my father says, it's not about hating Harleys... or
their riders... it's about a distaste for inconsiderate people on
the road. People who would rather spend 20 miles preventing you from
passing rather than spend a 1/4 mile letting you pass and enjoy the
rest of their ride at their pace.

P.S. We have plenty of power on tap. You don't have to actually stop
to let us by. It's OUR job to make a safe pass and we can do it...
all you have to do is just hold your line, ride single file and not
be an ass.
Here is Teri fueling up after the Harley Incident.
This kid rode a 1000 miles round trip and slept in a tent and still
rode well. Hard core guy.

After the fuel stop, the remaining riders decided that our feet
wouldn't leave the pegs again till we got to the Hub. So at a blurring
pace we hit 14-235-65-123-74-7. It was a great ride at a great pace and
ended with dinner and another bonfire and cold beer at The Hub.
Sunday morning, we rode out to Boxley Valley on 7, 74 and 21 at pretty
good clip. We didn't see any elk, but it was a great way to spend the
morning and the photos were nice.
I did meet one really really cool Harley rider. This guy bought this
shovelhead brand new in 1981 and has put 75k miles on it since (in
addition to a few years where the odo didn't function!) You should
have seen the puddle of oil under this beast and it had only been
parked for a few minutes. HA!


I have made a lot of nice photos on the issue of faith over the years. So many in fact, that I think I may add a section to my portfolio website. I always think about it when I am on the Sunday morning shift, but it may well happen this time.


.... sometimes you find a new one.
Today I took a hot air balloon ride over downtown Shreveport. It's funny because I have made dozens of flights over the area shooting aerials over the years, but never have I seen the area from a balloon. It's a totally different view than an airplane. So low to the ground and so close to everything.
As a matter of fact, I have never ridden in a balloon.

B-52... Check.
Blackhawk... Check.
Careflight... Check
Tiny Private Plane... Check.
Balloon... Check.

Now all I have left is a rocket and the space shuttle... anyone know someone at NASA?

Fishin and Learnin

A couple weeks ago I posted a blog about heading down to the coast with some buddies. What I didn't mention is that most of them are photographers I have known for a decade or more.
Above are the photographers that made the trip this year (left to right). Jeremy is a freelancer and magazine photographer in Fort Worth. Mike is a freelancer and color tech at the Dallas Morning News. Gary is multimedia and online producer for the Dallas Morning News and Shanon is a freelance commercial and fashion photographer in Dallas.

For nearly a decade we have made the pilgrimage down south to chase fish and photos. And with five of us there it's always interesting to count up the number of cameras and photo-related toys that make the trip down to the coast.

This year was no different. I brought my first point and shoot. A Canon G7 which everyone agreed was a very cool little camera. It makes wonderful photos for such a teeny little thing and includes a lot of the features of my much larger DSLRs.
Jeremy brought a wireless TTL flash system that we played with (and I ended up buying from him) as well a plethora of used gear that he bought at a stupid cheap price.
And Gary brought the gear he uses to produce 360 degree panoramas. An 8mm fisheye, a Nodal Ninja and a computer software program called PTGUI.

Most of the day we lay around, eat, fish and have a few beers... sometimes a nap. But then at dusk a crazy thing happens. In those last waning moments of daylight when everything is golden and beautiful everyone seems to scramble. I snatch up my DSLR and wide angle lens to shoot the sunset. Shanon grabs his cameras and starts shooting stock images of fishing poles on the porch and Gary bolts down the long boardwalk to the pier with his pano gear.

Some years I shoot a lot of photos and some years I shoot none. But it never fails that on the trip I will learn something from my friends and recharge my creative batteries. Then I return... tired but rested, ready to take on the world of the daily newspaper again.

To see Gary's very cool pano of the fishing pier click on the photo below. You will need Quicktime, but it's free and well worth the time to download.

Two Years

Two years ago today I emerged from a newspaper building in South Louisiana to find the world turned upside down. Over the next two months I was in and out (mostly in) of the southern end of the state covering Katrina and her sister Rita. It was probably the biggest assignment of my life and although it affected all of us who covered it in negative and positive ways, I don't regret a minute of it.
I wanted to share part of a short essay and a photograph that I made in November of that year on a trip back to New Orleans after the water had receded. It was an interesting trip and I remember hoping at the time that New Orleans would recover quickly. I still hope that, but I no longer see it as a possibility. New Orleans' problems lie outside the reach of it's residents. The Crescent City needs the continued support of the state, the nation and the world to be what it once was... or better.

All of my blogs from that time have been transfered to this blog and are now available in the archives on the right hand side of this page.

Portrait of a Young Survivor

Children run through the halls of a French Quarter Catholic school while nuns in flowing white habits try to slow the excitement. The warm, humid November air blows off the river and through the courtyard filled with basketball and four square courts. Guided by the enthusiastic cheers of Sister Mary Rose a group of children unload donated supplies and toys from a truck with Indiana plates while a young survivor gives an interview in the corner.

Earlier... a toilet overflows in a bathroom and a nun tells a group of children they must use the one down the hall because this one is flooded. Moments later a young girl, no more than five, tugs on the sleeve of the glowing white drape. In a worry-filled voice the girl asks "Sister Mary Rose... how high will the water get this time?" My heart breaks.

Photographing Faith

It never ceases to amaze me how often I am allowed to waltz in and photograph some of the most intimate moments in people's lives. Yesterday I went with Diane Haag, the religion reporter here at The Times, to St. George Greek Orthodox Church. I really enjoy working on stories with Diane because she always seems to put me in places to photograph the core of people's beliefs. And I love working on stories about religion because I find it so fascinating how people of different cultures worship and that there is so much diversity in just the Christian religion alone.

I grew up in a Baptist church and still go to a Baptist church here in Shreveport (though copy editor Terrie Roberts would tell you not often enough) but I find it so interesting how other Christians worship and how they practice their faith. Here are a few more of my favorite images from my years here in Shreveport.

Time Away

On occasion it happens. We get a little time to rest and relax. So this weekend I am off... headed to the Texas coast with some boys I have been known to hang around with from time to time. Friday and Sunday we are fishing in the bay and the Gulf and for the first time we will be fishing offshore on Saturday. Hopefully it will yield some nice images and an even nicer dinner. So until I get back, here are a few images from last year.