The square

_MG_2352.JPGThe Columbine High School shooting happened when I was 8 years old. I heard somehow that 12 students and one teacher were killed and remember immediately going to my bunk bed and crying for a while. The event was such a horrifying shock for the country that years later we watched a documentary about it in history class during my freshman year of high school. It’s not the same now. The country has experienced several mass shootings in schools and other places during the past few years with more victims than Columbine, sometimes several times more.

One of those shootings killed 17 people at a Parkland, Florida, high school last month. Several of the school’s surviving students have since become a political force, pushing Florida to tighten some laws for purchasing guns and calling for marches around the country and beyond. Hundreds of thousands of people took part in them yesterday, including several hundred in a couple parts of northwest Arkansas.

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_MG_2332.JPGMy coworker Ashton Eley reports in today’s paper that more than 400 people gathered for the demonstration in Bentonville’s square, where I took these photos. (And if you want to see more photos, our photographers have a gallery of great stuff.)

Teachers, students, parents, grandparents and others together demanded such policies as providing more complete mental health services in schools, supporting research into gun violence, banning assault-style rifle sales and confiscating guns from domestic abusers (which has some conservative support and happens in several states). Volunteers helped people register to vote, and teenagers coming of voting age swore they would soon wield their votes for the gun-control cause.

Police and sheriff’s deputies meanwhile paced around the square and watched from the surrounding buildings. A few counter-protesters came out, too, including black-clad members of a white nationalist group started by an Arkansas neo-Nazi. Other counter-protesters, including a group in blue called the Freedom Crew, vehemently distanced themselves from such racism and said they were there simply in support of the Second Amendment. Folks on this side of the debate generally see tightening gun laws as burdening a constitutional right or a dangerous limit to personal liberties.

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_MG_2505.JPGThe debate’s an old one, but it does seem different after the Parkland shooting. I’ve seen veterans and doctors speak out about the unique devastation assault-style rifles can inflict on a human body, which I don’t remember before. Others rightly point out complications: School shootings are still rare, and most firearm deaths in this country happen because people turn their firearms on themselves. Many of the youngest among us say they won’t just go to their rooms to cry, that their voices will be part of the debate. We’ll see what happens next.

Dan

Marching on

_MG_1416.JPGSaturday afternoon was misty, dreary and below freezing, and it turns out it takes more than that to stop Fayetteville’s Mardi Gras parade. This one was the city’s 27th and my fourth. The weather certainly cut down the size of the crowd from past years, but everyone who came out cheered extra loud, decked themselves out in extra color and dove for thrown beads and candy with extra enthusiasm in spite of the gray day.

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_MG_1581.JPGHere’s to a happy official Mardi Gras this week and a happy Lent after, for those observing it.

I meant to end here, but all of that mist and drizzle spend the evening and overnight freezing to every surface. Roads and sidewalks this morning around my apartment were too slick for much more than slow hobbling. The grass was crunchy. This wasn’t frost; it was a half-centimeter or so of solid, unadorned ice. I had to see more.

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_MG_1692.JPGThanks for looking, and stay warm out there.

2017

_C1_9629.JPGIt’s just about time to close out the year. 2017 has taken me across more than 3,000 miles to an solar eclipse, two national parks, five hikes at Devil’s Den and other sights new and old. I hope I always remember daylight falling behind the moon as my manic excitement reached ever higher in the middle of Nebraska back in August. Not a bad year for photos.

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_C1_3399.JPG(From Through the Wall, taken Aug. 23)

_C1_3223.JPG(The center of the world, Aug. 22)

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(The eclipse, Aug. 21)

IMG_2613.JPG(Nebraska, Aug. 19)

The year was eventful in other ways simply as a guy who takes pictures and wants to share them. I made a Facebook page, went to one of Fayetteville’s First Thursdays and took a shot at doing some family portraits this fall. I dream about doing what I do on this blog for a career and creating photo books and traveling the world, and I agonize with insecurities about whether I’m actually any good. Maybe I’ll get a little further with all of those things next year, too.

IMG_2872.JPG(In the wind, Sept. 16)

IMG_8448.jpg(Devil’s Den in white, Jan. 7)

IMG_9563.JPG(The forest floor, June 19)

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(Mushrooming III, May 29)

As it happens, this post is #200 since I officially made this WordPress into a photo blog a little more than four years ago. This place been a lot of things for me: a photo diary for friends, family and exploring my home; a travel blog; an extension of work; an experiment in storytelling and new ways to shoot. Basically all of my fear and joy in photography goes here. I’ve tried to learn and deliver at least a touch of art. Some of my shots, especially early on, are embarrassing, really, and I needed to learn a lot about editing down to the best images. Other early pictures aren’t bad. I’ll probably feel the same about my recent shots in another four years.

If there’s anyone from the earliest days who still visits, bless you. For everyone else, thanks for joining me. I look forward to another year.

_C1_9583.JPG(The Hawksbill, Dec. 3)

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IMG_2742.JPG(Twin Cities, Aug. 26)

_C1_0567.JPG(Fools’ parade, Feb. 25)

_C1_9794.JPG(One day, two cities, June 24)

_C1_9849.JPG(June in February, Feb. 11)

_C1_4813.JPG(Fall’s first days, Sept. 24)

_C1_1718.JPG(Belly of the beast, March 9)

If you’d like to see my past year-in-review posts, they’re just a click away: 2014, 2015 and 2016.

Dan