Blog: Uliana

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During my first two months or so of living at Old Faithful, in Yellowstone National Park, I was more than content walking the local boardwalks, and taking short day hikes out of the village. The many thermal features made for interesting subjects to photograph. In early July I did a full moon, long exposure shoot of the Castle Geyser, and the comet Neowise was a reliable early summer model as well— Astrophotography (landscape photography for that matter as well) is not where my passion lies as a photographer. It is the emotion in the human face, and the shapes and lines of the human figure that inspire me to pull images through my lens.

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I met Uliana while we were working a summer gig together at the Old Faithful Lodge. I was planning to do my second full moon shoot of the summer, with the Grotto Geyser as my subject. I invited Uliana along. Unplanned, we took a couple of impromptu shots of her, with camera on the tripod, and the full moon as our only light. While the long exposures opened the door for some motion blur, the effect was still fun. one thing led to another, and we had more impromptu mini sessions on our weekly hikes, and did a few more formal shoots as the summer waned. While I had a pair of speed-lights with me, I had no stands, or modifiers. Some improvisation was in order, including using a white chef’s hat as a makeshift softener.

I never expected to have the opportunity to shoot a human during my time in Yellowstone, let alone to have the gift of being able to work with such a beautiful and talented model. While not a model by profession, Uliana was a natural, and needed very little direction. I must also note that this was an opportunity for myself to hone my skills at the very important aspect of portrait and boudoir photography, that is making sure the client feels comfortable in front of the camera!

Under the Full Moon

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These sessions have allowed my style to drift into a new direction. While I have created darker, low-key images in the past, I have made a conscious decision to concentrate on that aspect for a while. I will be using more dark shadows and negative space to allow subtle messages of emotion come from soft highlights. This style is speaking to me; let chiaroscuro reign.

Behind the Scenes with Chef’s Hat Catchlight

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Blog: Wherever I May Go

10/29-31/20  Manatee springs State Park to Key West Florida

During the two days at Manatee Springs I thought over my original plan, to ride back to New York and to fly back out to Yellowstone for my winter contract. Having my bike back, the temptation to stay in Key West was growing. It was also fueled by a message from my former landlord, informing me of a rental that he had available. The decision was all but made. On Thursday I rode down to Jonathan Dickinson State Park in Jupiter. I met up with Uliana, the inspiration for much of my current photographic style and direction. We had a nice evening around the campfire, only dampened by relentlessly miserable no-see-ums. On Friday morning we went to the beach for sunrise. She treated me to a nice lunch at the Pelican Cafe, then I rode on to Key West, and to my new residence.

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Tuna Sandwich with Avocado and Homemade Coleslaw at Pelican Cafe

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10/27/20 Pensacola, FL to Manatee Springs State Park, FL

The first 250 miles was on the interstate, another long haul of 70 MPH with the frequent turbulence from semi trucks. It was nice to exit and start to head south, with more comfortable 65 MPH speed limits and occasional slower passes through towns. 

Somewhere along US 19 a powerful feeling washed over me, it was the old familiar force of the Great Southernmost Magnet tugging at my soul. It will be tough to turn around. 

 I have always had exceptionally good experiences with Florida State Park campgrounds. Manatee Springs is proving to live up to the expectations. The showers are amazing, large and clean with the water hotter than needed. There was a noticeable absence of mosquitoes, completely unexpected, especially considering the dark damp shady conditions of the campsite. I hope they stay away again tonight! 

Having escaped the cold, and gotten past the path of the hurricane, I decided to spend two nights here. This is a welcome opportunity to rest my bike, my back, poke around and do some laundry.

10/26/20 Sea Rim State Park, TX to Pensacola, FL 

While at Sea Rim I became aware of the approaching Hurricane Zeta. Looking at the expected landfall location and timing, it became apparent that I would have to adjust my itinerary. I had hoped to spend a little time exploring the Gulf Coast in the three Deep South states that I had yet to visit. 

 Traveling East on I-10 I didn't realize that the I-12 route was more direct, with I-10 jogging south to New Orleans, adding a few more miles to my trip. At least I got to see the city, albeit at 60 MPH. 

 The motel in Pensacola was on the seedier side. The shower was slightly warmer that the one in Temple, but not as hot as I like them.

10/25/20 Temple. TX to Sea Rim State Park, TX

This trip is more about getting there than I would like it to be. Funny thing is, I’m still a bit off on where there will be. I always prefer rides through unknown towns on local roads with no concern for covering miles. 

 The traffic near Houston was maniacal. One pickup used the left side exit ramp to pass me while having the option of three more lanes to my right. I watched him speed onward using the other vehicles as his own personal slalom. 

 Sea Rim State Park was a bit charming. The beach was just a few steps from my campsite. There were plenty of birds around to be seen. The mosquitos were quite unpleasant. At first they were just hitting my feet, by late night they were waiting outside my tent eager to barge in as I opened the zipper to step out for relief. They are not my favorite creature. I knew coming in that park wouldn’t have showers, an amenity that would’ve been appreciated.

A Pair of Grackle in the Surf at Sea Rim State Park

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10/24/20 Lubbock,TX to Temple, TX

It was nice to have the weather turning toward warmer, cold in the morning turned into a warm evening. It was disappointing to rent a motel room and not have hot water. It was tepid at best.

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10/23/20 Lamar, CO to Lubbock, TX

I try to avoid making reservations for accommodations ahead of time, it makes for long days of pushing on, to reach decided upon destinations that could easily be second guessed. It leads to reasons not to stop and explore, reasons not to change direction at the whim of the wind. On Wednesday night I made a reservation for an AirBnb tonight in Lubbock, Texas. It would be a 340 mile jaunt from my Tuesday night stopover. Looking at pins on my map, I believe this may be my longest one day trip on the bike to date.

It was cold again this morning. I’m not trying to complain, or sound ungrateful (I mean, I did have the Eroica in my ears, my favorite uplifting early ride accompaniment), but the chill has been the most noteworthy quality of my trip so far. 30. deg again from the start—the temperature dropped overnight in Lamar. Looking at the weather maps I chuckle at how this mass of cold air seems to be following me, or more accurately, leading one step in front of me. It saw a sign with thermometer reading 37.4 just under an hour in today. Sometimes you wonder if the fingers on your left hand will respond to the command to clutch.

By the time I reached Campo, CO, just north of the Oklahoma border, I was quite compelled to stop and warm up. the Campo Cafe was the spot. After stepping off the bike my numb hands had dexterous difficulty removing my helmet strap. I hadn’t felt that feeling in 4 years since the late November ride from Denver to Cheyenne, my last ride before this week. The crew at he cafe were warm and welcoming, the coffee and homemade stew hit the spot.

I had a lot of miles ahead of me. Some sunshine came and went in Texas, the air warmed slightly to a less biting chill. I thought about stopping for gas and to piss while riding through Dumas, but I had about 170 miles on the tans, and figured I had plenty of gas to make the next 40 miles to Amarillo. Well about 15 or so miles later on the ribbon of lonely highway my low gas light came on. I was really thinking about a plan for when I ran out of gas, something that to this day, after many many miles of driving I have yet to have done. Would I try to flag someone down, would anybody stop? It was a long 25 miles to the next exit. It turns out that 4.6 gallons filled my 5.2 gallon tank, so I easily would’ve had another 20 miles to work with, but lesson learned, perhaps.

I expect it to warm up starting tomorrow afternoon. I plan to transition into camping soon.

10/22/20 Sidney, NE to Lamar, CO

What can I say, it was a cold day. It was 30 deg. when I started in the morning, maybe got up to 50 by the end. Riding for hours to get to a destination, while fulfilling to the soul, is not a fun thing. I see sights that I would want to stop and explore, but with a destination in mind, I push on. I stopped in Sterling, CO to grab a bite to eat at a small lunch spot called Cecilia's Kitchen All Cuisine. I had the spaghetti and meatballs, the meatballs were a little light, but the sauce tasted fresh and homemade. I would hang my helmet at the Green Arrow Motel in Lamar. It was fine for a dive. The flies seemed to like it, and I would certainly stay there again.

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Whitewood, South Dakota to, Sidney, Nebraska

I had been keeping an eye on the weather forecast last week and into the weekend as worked on fixing my bike up to road worthiness. Tuesday and Wednesday were shaping up to provide the best window for my escape from the pending winter pattern developing in the Black Hills area of South Dakota. It turned out that Tuesday would be the better of the two, by far, but I would leave on Wednesday. It was a decision made by circumstance, not by preferred choice.

The Tuesday afternoon forecast for Wednesday predicted the possibility of some scattered early morning snow showers, with temperatures rising into the high 40s during the day. By bedtime on Tuesday the forecast had changed to snow into late morning and temperatures not rising out of the 30s for the Rapid City area. I would still be leaving on Wednesday, for the weather would only deteriorate further as the week progressed.

There was a fresh coat of snow on the ground and trees as I looked out the bedroom window at first light of day. It was 6 AM, my planned departure was at 8 AM. My bike was already loaded, save for my grab bag. I drank a cup of coffee, dressed slowly, and thought about my plan for the day. Breakfast in Sturgis would make sense, to give me some time to allow the weather to improve.

I made a quick stop at A&J for a quick photo op, with Jake as the photographer, and to grab a nut for my saddle bag mount to replace one that fell off when my bags were off to make way for bike work. From there I was off.

The ride from Whitewood to and through Sturgis was chilly and wet, but not bad by any means. I was taking it slow and careful, riding on the service road. I decided that I would push on to Rapid before stopping to eat, the window for weather was narrow. I do enjoy driving in the snow, in a car, but on a motorcycle enjoyment is not a word to fit. It wasn’t an accumulating snow, but nonetheless it was unpleasant.

I stopped to top off my tank in Sturgis, to take a deep breath and pray to the road gods.

It was a miserable mile on the Interstate from the on ramp to the next exit. As soon as I got onto the highway the fog thickened, the air cooled further and the snow fell harder. It still wasn’t an accumulating snow, but the treachery is compounded when on a two wheeled chair. I had a new pair of tires installed yesterday. One might intuitively think that this would be a good thing, but they were not yet broken in, perhaps still slicker than ideal. Let it also be known that my my bike had been sitting for four years, only to be roused this past week or so. There are still certain uncertainties as to what unexpected and undetected troubles might rise. The visibility was less than ideal, there are no wipers on my windscreen, save for a few paltry wipes from my awkwardly reaching left glove. The speed limit on I-90 in that area is 70 MPH, one that those in cars and trucks would maintain in such conditions. I was able to keep up to just above the minimum of 40 MPH until I reached the first exit ramp.

My planned route was to exit the interstate at the third exit, Tilford, and to take surface roads beyond. Under ideal conditions, I avoid highways, as I prefer local roads and their winding tours through areas seen by fewer eyes. Two exits shy of my route, stopped on an unpaved road I had a few minutes to reflect and to consider.

I would push on, following the dirt road to the next on-ramp, and the highway to Tilford, just a couple of miles further down the highway.

I stopped for an hour or so at a coffee shop in Back Hawk, just north of Rapid City. I ate a breakfast burrito, had a cup of coffee, and warmed up a bit.

The ride from Rapid to the southern border of South Dakota was cold and wet still. The snow had stopped, but the misty fog was still freezing onto my windscreen, prompting me to keep my neck craned and my eyes peeked above.

As I rolled into Nebraska the fog and clouds thinned. The temperature gradually rose, and so did the wind. Leaning into a heavy side wind reminded me of the commute between Casper and Cheyenne, Wyoming. the difference here was the close proximity of oncoming traffic on the two lane highway. A passing semi truck pushes an uncomfortable wind turbulence that reminds me of the unsteadiness and uncertainty of fate.

As all I have described may seem unpleasant, let it not be lost that riding down the road throughout still raises my soul.

I stopped for the night in Sidney, Nebraska. It was in the high 50s when i got here, but the temperature will drop overnight, not to rise out of the 30s on Thursday. Southward I continue.

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Preparing to Return to the Road

After over a week and a half of troubleshooting, waiting for parts, and fixing my repairs, my bike is ready for the road. The weather here in Whitewood/Rapid City is turning fast. When I first got here on the 8th, the weather was still nice. We had a day last weekend of 80 degrees. Now the clouds and wind are a regular feature, the snow fell this past weekend, nearly 4 inches.  The temperatures are hovering just above freezing. Today and tomorrow bring:the warmest numbers in the foreseeable future, high 40’s, with more snow predicted for this coming weekend. I hope to roll out early tomorrow morning, and head due south.  

I must extend special thanks to the Travis and the crew at A&J Supply here in Whitewood. They were always helpful on my trips in for tools and such, including Jim, who talked me through the electrical. Thanks to Don Rice and the crew at Rice’s Rapid Motorsport in Rapid City for getting me in for a tire change on short notice. And of course the most special thanks to Freddy, Tammy and Jake for the hospitality and unending support over the past few weeks!

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