_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.


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

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


(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)


(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)


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.


The center of the world

_C1_3223.JPGThis mountain bears the likenesses of some of the most influential people in United States history and took more than a decade to carve. It’s a striking and masterly monument, without question. But even more impressive, at least to me, is the other history tied to Mount Rushmore and the rest of South Dakota’s Black Hills.

From a geological perspective, some of this rock is about half the age of the planet. Some of it is the rounded and durable granite you see above. Other outcroppings have been squeezed and deformed, sometimes until the original rock layers are vertical, and sparkle in the sun with countless flecks of mica. All of it is topped with rugged pine and spruce that give the Black Hills their name.

As for humans, they’ve been living around here for at least 12,000 years. The hills are therefore heavy with myth and religious significance, including ties to Oglala Lakota creation stories. A holy man named Black Elk called this place the center of the world, and his people called Mount Rushmore The Six Grandfathers, referring to the earth, sky and four cardinal directions, which might make Rushmore something like seizing and then carving into the Sistine Chapel. The U.S. swore it wouldn’t take these lands but broke the promise because of gold. (The U.S. Supreme Court in 1980 ruled several tribes were owed compensation now worth more than $1 billion because of this, but they haven’t taken it, preferring to get at least some of the land back.)

Despite all of this, it isn’t hard to see much of the Black Hills as they have been for ages, even just around the corner from the monument.






IMG_2719.JPG(Note the climber there in the lower middle)

The Black Hills also hold more wonders hundreds of feet underground, and I don’t mean that gold. Wind Cave National Park, about 20 miles south of Rushmore, holds at least 150 explored miles of passages that could connect to several times as many unexplored miles, according to the National Park Service. Those passages are often brimming with formations called boxwork — tangled, glittering, translucent blades of calcite about the width and sturdiness of tortilla chips. I couldn’t photograph it adequately, but try to imagine this coating the walls and ceiling around you:

IMG_2681.JPGSome chambers feature calcite in other forms, like spiky frostwork and little rounded blobs called cave popcorn, or, in this case, both:

IMG_2682.JPGIn the end, all of the Black Hills’ contents have something to offer. Just remember where you’re standing.

Thanks for looking,