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ZION NATIONAL PARK UTAH This image was made during the fall of 2015 in SW Utah. It was one of three parks that we visited on this tri...

Friday, July 31, 2009

BARN OWL ©1977


Shenandoah Valley of Virginia 1977

This image graced the front cover of VIRGINIA WILDLIFE MAGAZINE shortly after this image was made.

Other than that, it has remained in my 2 1/4 slide file for thirty-two years. I have never considered myself to be a bird photographer, but having made one great image, I called it quits while I was ahead.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


Highland Sheep in Snow

Virginia's Little Switzerland

As my car snaked around an icy hairpin turn in Virginia’s northwest mountains, my mind was focused on concepts. Terms such as “visualization,” “anticipation” and “decisive moment” spun through my head. I had a spot staked out that needed just the right amount of snow and ice to complete the image I held in my mind. For two years, I had been waiting patiently for the elements to be as near to perfect as possible. This was the day. Six inches of fresh snow, continued flurries and gusts of wind were what I needed to complement the Highland County barn and split-rail chestnut fences that had caught my eye.

Much of my art begins with long-range planning. Lighting and other variable elements are seldom right when I initially spot a potential subject. In my mind’s eye, I sort through the numerous possibilities. Would the image be better on a cloudy day or a sunny one? What time of day and what season would best express my artistic mood? Eventually, I know exactly how I want the finished image to appear in print. Then, when all the elements are perfect, or as near to perfect as possible, I go back to the site to record a happening that may never again appear to me or to anyone else in this form.

Of course, there is also the spontaneous moment—that sense of being in the right spot at the right time and being able to make a quick judgment about capturing that occurrence on film. Many artists encounter a situation such as this. The key is recognizing a decisive moment when it presents itself. A second or two can spell the difference between a successful image and one that is rather ho-hum, or a total loss.

That day in the snow I was heading to my predetermined site when I saw another potential image in the making. This was fresh, unexpected subject matter that demanded a closer look. A group of sheep had begun to make their way, single-file, down a hill near an old barn. I slid to a halt. Grabbing my pack and tripod, I jumped from my car and immediately fell hip-deep into a snow-filled ditch by the side of the road. A glance told me that I had to hurry, as the lead sheep was about to make the turn by the barn.

My next barrier was a four-strand barbed-wire fence. Using my tripod (with my medium-format camera attached) as a hiking stick, I attempted to vault out of the snowdrift and over the fence. Most of me made it. My trousers didn’t. Try as I might, I could not free myself from the fence. In desperation and disgust, with the sheep in near perfect position and my trousers firmly secured on the fence, I lunged forward and jammed my tripod into the snow. Out of my mouth came some colorful language as I tried to focus the camera and read my light meter.

I do not remember exactly what I said that early winter morning, but whatever it was stopped the line of sheep dead in their tracks. One sheep turned and stared right at me for a moment. It was long enough for only a single exposure and then the sheep fled in panic. That split second is what is referred to as the decisive moment.
Highland Barn, the image I was initially pursuing, would have to wait until another day.


Chesapeake Bay

I spent a couple of days on a converted mine sweeper in order to complete this part of the Chesapeake Portfolio. This was one hot and sweaty place to live and work during mid-August 1975.

This image was taken from a Kodachrome transparency and transferred to a 4 x 5 sheet of Kodalith high contrast film and then converted back to a positive image which you see here. It adds an abstract touch to what was otherwise a rather drab image.

These were menhaden fishermen and the fish were used commercially for oils and dog food; among other things. At the time, the fish were referred to as "junk fish." This is just another reason why sport fishing has rapidly disappeared from the Bay. You set the nets for one fish, but you also catch a lot of other species as well. Many go to waste.

I watched a special on National Geographic a couple of weeks ago and during the course of the documentary, it was said that "Planet earth does not belong to us. We belong to the earth." We, as a species, are rapidly destroying, the natural resources including a large percentage of all living creatures and plants. It is sad to watch such destruction.



Cimarron Range Colorado

I headed for the high country to the east of us and the purpose was to take in some of the scenic views. Of course I had my camera and the trusty ultra-light fishing gear.

The White Horse just sorta unfolded before my eyes. I anticipated what was to take place. The setting was beautiful and there were several horses feeding in the background, including one white stallion that stood out above the rest.

My first few images included all four or five horses, but the white one just told me to wait and anticipate what would happened next. My dog Jake could not resist the temptation to cool off so there was a slight splash as he jumped into the water to take a good soak. Meanwhile, my camera and tripod were set up and waiting for the next move. At this point, the horses began to move away from the clearing leaving the white all alone. I waited for the remainder to go behind the trees to the left and then made my exposures of the White Horse.

I not only came home with several nice images, but a large enough trout to add to our dinner menu. It was a great day in the Cimarron Range of SW Colorado.

Left click on the image to enlarge this beauty.

Monday, July 27, 2009



This is why we moved to Colorado.

Wyoming was nice, but there is wall to wall scenery here on the west slope. If you need a break from stunning mountain scenery, you can go about the same distance and be in any number of spectacular canyons. Plus, the desert is wide open for a variety of scenic vistas, rock scapes and flora. There is no end to great outdoor vistas in this part of the world.

Tomorrow I am heading for the high country to try my skill at trout fishing. The streams and lakes are endless with one bubbly brook after another. Of course, my trusty camera will be with me, as will our dog Jake. You haven't met Jake yet, but he will show up shortly in one of my images. He loves the outdoors every bit as much as I do. He is half border collie and healer and full of energy. Sharp as a tack also.

For a larger image, click on the San Juan's

Saturday, July 25, 2009


Shenandoah Valley Farm

A winter landscape


Click on farm for larger and sharper image


Ice Storm at Reed's Gap

Blue Ridge Parkway, VA


Click on image for larger and sharper picture

I'm not that well known for my color images, but I made quite a few over the decades. Many have been used in Annual Reports and magazines for covers and filler images.

Just recently, I scanned close to two hundred of my best 2 1/4 transparencies before they deterrorated, and many of them turned out better than the former originals, thanks to some minor adjustments in color. These are now filed away on discs for future use.

Within the past three years my collection of digital images has increased enormously and I now have quite a collecton of fall color from the high country of Colorado and Wyoming, plus many more from the canyon country of Colorado and Utah. I tell people that I am just having fun doing what I enjoy. These are also available for stock art as Hi Res jpegs or tif. Fact is, SuperStock has several hundred of my color and a healty list of Black & White on file.

Friday, July 24, 2009


Adobe Hills: Nature's Abstract 2008

This is a digital image which was made near our home in Montrose, CO.

I am not into a lot of high-faulting tinkering with digital imagery. My objective has always been to make a proper exposure to start with and then use the same basic processing tools that would correspond with the old-fashioned lab techniques. Simplicity and patience has been the name of the game for me.

I had staked this site out at an earlier date and I was there promptly at nine AM to make my exposure.

Making the transition from film to digital was quite easy for me because I had been working as a fine art B&W artist for the better part of my life. The only difference is that I must now think in terms of pixels rather than silver particles.

I am also enjoying my bout with color and the western landscape.

Left click on the image for a larger and sharper presentation

Wednesday, July 22, 2009



I introduced you to Rufus earlier on my hike into Cash Hollow, (see article posted on web site, Mountain People), but he managed to become the center of interest in this image quite by chance. This photograph was made along the Appalachian Trail, which parallels the Blue Ridge Parkway south of Waynesboro, VA.

As I pointed out in an earlier chapter, many of my concepts begin with long-range planning. The mood is not always what I might envision on the first outing. This is particularly true when I am dealing with landscapes that require the right touch of lighting to blend with numerous other elements. I might wait for a year or more after spotting a potential concept before all the pieces come together, making it as near to perfect as possible. And, there is always the added variable of spontaneity—being in the right place at the right time and being able to make a quick decision about capturing a particular scene on film.

Dog in Deep Woods is a combination of these principles. This image was on my mental list for a year or more, waiting for just the right amount of snow and fog. When it happened, I had to get there within a half-hour, before any of the snow fell off the twigs or the fog lifted.

My original visualization involved capturing the mood of the forest and the soft carpet of freshly fallen snow. That concept changed dramatically when Rufus jumped out ahead of me on the trail. I yelled at him to stop while struggling to set up my equipment as quickly as I could. Fortunately, in this case I had the tripod, with camera attached, already over my shoulder. He stopped dead in his tracks when I yelled at him and told him to stay. Rufus’ idea of stopping at this point was maybe all of ten seconds, but in that brief time, I was able to make a couple of memorable exposures. This is yet another example of the Decisive Moment. No second chances.

Visit our web site at: http://www.jeffersfineart.com/


Chair & Shoes 1969

This was my first fine-art image in what would become the Mountain People Portfolio.

A friend and I were hiking a side spur off the Appalachian Trail when we spotted an old abandoned mountain cabin along a small stream. It was as if the folks had just walked away and left everything where it was. I captured quite a number of fine images at this site. One could just imagine the old fellow sitting out on that front porch passing the time of day.

This image always stood out when I displayed my work in a gallery or an invitational show.

I did pick up some trash and re-arranged the shoes slightly but the concept did not change.

Click on the image for a larger and sharper view.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


Click on Hugh for larger image.
Hugh Panel was a mountain man by birth and was raised in the back-woods of the Blue Ridge. In fact, what is left of the cabin in the background was his old home.
Word was getting around that I was roaming the Blue Ridge searching out those few who still remained in their old home sites.
The National Park service moved most of the mountain people out during the mid thirties, to make room for the Blue Ridge Parkway construction which had already begun near Cumberland Knob, North Carolina. Those that lived further back in the hollows and along side ridges remained until old age forced them to move out into the real world.
Hugh had moved in with family members who lived in the Shenandoah Valley, but he never forgot his home place.
I received a call one day from a family member asking about my hikes through the Blue Ridge, and he wanted to know if I would be interested in taking Hugh back to his old boyhood home for a brief visit. I said yes, and to make a longer story short, we did just that. I even loaned Hugh one of my hiking sticks.
Hugh turned out to be a pretty good hiker and this image was made while sitting in front of his old log cabin.
I will never forget the look of excitement on his face when we came within sight of that old place. It was times like this when I truly appreciated what I was doing.


Cyrus the Mountain Man

This is the image that launched my first book and because of the length of the story behind this image, I will refer you to our web site. Click on: http://www.jeffersfineart.com/ Then go to Jack's Articles and click on Mountain People. This article is worth a read.

It took me about a year and many visits to his old home place in the depths of the Blue Ridge Mountains before Cyrus would allow me to make a photograph of him. When it finally happened he was standing in front of his weathered chicken house and after several exposures he put his hand up and said, "that's enough."

Years later, following his death, one of his daughters wrote me a short note and said that I was the only one he would ever allow to "take his picture." And that included them. This is a fine image but it did require a lot of time and patience.

I always tried to give the subject a print of themselves and Cyrus was no exception. I had to wonder how they would react to the image I made, but with Cyrus there was no doubt. The local postmaster at that time told me that he showed that photograph and the following book to just about everyone in that part of the Blue Ridge. It was a long ten-mile hike out of Cash Hollow to the old post office which also doubled as the neighborhood grocery store.

Now, go read the complete article.



This image is from my early nature portfolio. During the sixties, I was on quite a roll with simple abstracts of nature. In those days I was using an inexpensive 2 1/4 Yashica-Mat with a fixed 80mm lens. It used 120 roll film. Great camera by the way, and most of the art for my first book (WINDOWS TO THE BLUE RIDGE) was captured with this camera. I think I paid somewhere around sixty bucks for it at the time.

I hate to say it, but I have forgotten exactly where this image was made. Upper New York state I believe.

Monday, July 20, 2009


Twin Buttes Wyoming 2002

For most of my landscapes,I keep a polarizer filter on the lens. It darkens the sky and cuts down on unwanted reflections. And that goes for color as well.

This image was made well off the beaten trail, or by some accounts, back in the sticks.

An interesting thing harppened while I was hiking to the buttes. I had two dogs at the time. One was a Virginia dog who had a mental problem, but still a very friendly dog. And there was Sarah; our Wyoming dog. She was an Australian Healer or "dingo dog" according to what I learned. She was sharp as a tack. Both loved a good chase, but trooper wasn't a very good runner compared to Sarah. They were both pound dogs.

As we were approaching the buttes, I heard Sarah growl. Not a bark, but a low growl and I knew she had seen or smelled something that I was totally unaware of. Almost immediately, a mountain lion jumped up just in front of us and ran toward twin buttes with Sarah hot on it's heels. It ran up the side of he vertical cliff to the right and topped the hill at full speed. Sarah did not give up. She ran around the butte and took an easier route but the lion had long since left her behind. I have had people who have lived in Wyoming all their lives tell me that they have never seen a lion. Signs yes. Actual lion, no.

This reminds me of another lion experience which took place in the high country of Wyoming. My wife and I were paddling our canoe across a lake and I eased over to a point where I could cast in a little closer to the shoreline. At that point we heard a commotion over in the forest followed by a doe deer bellowing. Next we spotted the deer running for it's life followed by a lion. Right behind the lion was a big buck. We watched them until they disappeared over the crest of a hill. I could not possibly have made up a sequence of events such as this.

It didn't take long to figure out why the twin-butte lion was where it was during mid day. There were remains of a deer and the lion was obviously feeding on what some hunter left behind; which was everything but the head. I was real glad the dogs were with me that day and out in front. That could have turned a good hike into a tricky situation with a lion feeding on a kill. I would not have seen it because of the sage brush between us.

I have nothing against hunters, but I do have an ax to grind with those who are little more than trophy hunters. I used to hunt small game when I was a teen, but we always ate what I brought home. Since then, my hunting has been with a camera. Most serious hunters in Wyoming hunted for food and for many, that was what they depended on during the winter months.



-It's time to talk about a few of my Wyoming images.

Before I tell you my story about Kevin, I will simply say that this is not a pure photograph. It is mixed media. This image started as a silver sulfide print, but I added layers of transparent oils.

Shortly after moving to Wyoming I completed a series of hand-painted photographs because of the variety of bright colored rock to be found in this part of the country. It was a challenge, but it also enabled me to capture the red rock country which is so abundant throughout this area. I had worked with oils a bit when I was back in Virginia, so it was not a completely new medium for me.

I entered this framed work in the Wyoming Artist's Association annual art exhibition shortly after it was completed, and it took a Governor's Award. That is second place as I understood it. This was the more recent league that did not accept photography as fine art, but under protest, they set up a special category for me. To this day, I believe the two judges who were teaching workshops at this conference honesty thought it was a painting. Once again, I put my art where my mouth was.

Here is the story behind the scene:

Kevin McNiven 2001

There is a plaque that hangs in the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody, Wyoming that reads:
The cowboy is a mythic character in America. We admire him for his independence, his honesty, his modesty and courage. He represents the best in all Americans as he stares down evil and says, “When you call me that, smile.”

More than one Wyomingite has told me that there are three things that you don’t criticize when you are talking to a cowboy: his hat, his horse and his wife. And in that exact order.

Some years ago, my wife and I were attending the local Cattlewomen’s Christmas party when we crossed trails with Kevin. The gals here in the Cowboy State used to refer to themselves as the Cow Belles. They have since become the Cattle Women's Association.

Following a dinner of roast beef and multiple desserts, plus a couple of quick stops at the two punch bowls resting behind the heavily laden table (the ranchers referred to these as leaded and unleaded) out strolled Kevin McNiven in full cowboy attire with a guitar under his arm. I grew up with cowboy singers such as Gene Autry and Roy Rogers and quite frankly, I did not know what to expect when this fellow ambled over to address the awaiting crowd. The ranchers obviously knew something that I didn't, and it only took a few moments for this cowboy singer to prove that he was as much at home in the midst of good folks as he was out on the range with horses and cattle.

The life of a cowboy has changed somewhat over the years, but ranching is still a tough business. There isn’t that much money in small spreads anymore, so many of today’s cowboys have had to look for supplemental income. Some, like Kevin, have maintained their cowboy status while working other jobs in addition to punching cows and training horses.

I learned a lot about Kevin that night. He was not only the genuine article, but also a world-class cowboy singer and yodeler. In fact, he recently won the world championship-yodeling contest that was held down in Tucson, Arizona. He also took a first place cowboy singing award. Is he good? You bet. It is seldom that we are treated to traditional artists of this caliber. I discovered that Kevin was a true horseman. He does not just ride horses; he lives horses and has done so all of his life. Like father, like son.

After asking for permission to make a few photographs, I later discovered that Kevin is also a professional horse trainer and maintains a sizable herd of horses for use in the motion picture business. In addition to supplying horses for various sets and background action, he often subs for the lead actors when the riding gets a little rough and risky. His expertise can be viewed in a historical production of Geronimo, which was released in 1993. He also appeared in a more recent film titled The Patriot. This production required that he transport his horses to South Carolina for three months while the filming was being completed.
I made the image you see here just outside of Lander, Wyoming atop a red rock out cropping that extends to the southwest of town and links with Red Canyon.

It is because of cowboys like Kevin McNiven that the cowboy spirit has had its place in shaping the history of America. Deep down, and within us all, there will always be an American Cowboy. That same spirit still lives on in Wyoming where the deer and the antelope still roam freely across the Great Divide.
Kevin has recorded a number of his songs, and you can check them out on his web site at:

Sunday, July 19, 2009



If I absolutely had to select my favorite image from the thousands I have made over the years, this would likely be it. And it would be for a number of personal reasons.

It obviously was the number one image for collectors, and I almost let the edition get away from me before I realized what was happening. I did, however, manage to put two originals aside to remain in my personal collection

The location for this image was the Saint Mary's River Gorge which is located in southern August County, VA. During the terribly floods and landslides generated by Hurricane Camile during the August flood of 1969, this river gorge was changed forever. It was as if it had been flushed by a giant tidal wave. The entire topography changed literally overnight. Many people were killed in the surrounding areas that night and most their bodies were never recovered from their watery graves.

I returned to the Saint Mary's in October 1969 and several times following the flood. Mother Nature has once more taken control.



Minersville, PA

My travels took me into Pennsylvania and even as far north as Nova Scotia, but since we are talking about old wooden buildings, this is one to remember.For all I know, this may have been the last such structure left, and I just happened to get off the Interstate and make a short detour before driving by this relic. Once again, it was pure chance that brought me to this site and I made the best of it.

This was (or should have been) a historical landmark, but like the West Virginia barn, I went north again on another project two years later and I made it a point to swing by and take one final look at the old coal tipple. There was still smoke rising from the site of this old structure. My guess is that someone torched it the day before.


West Virginia Barn July 1972

I was working the area around Marlinton W. VA when I spotted this old relic. It represented the perfect image and the lighting was soft because of the over-cast sky. Someone had driven a tractor through the field to the barn and that created an ideal visual lead-in. The barn appeared to be on the verge of falling in, but there was still hay stored in various places on the upper level.

If I heard it once from art patrons, I have heard it a hundred times. This image reminded people of Andrew Wyeth's painting: Christina's World. I wasn't that familiar with Wyeth's work at the time but I went to the library after I returned home from that show and looked it up. There was, indeed, a similarity, but still we were miles apart on the finished subject. Many people have compared my work to Wyeth's, but I took that as a compliment.

When you have observed a collection of my work you recognize it as Jeffers. When you view a collection of paintings by Andrew Wyeth you recognize them as Wyeth. That is how it should be. Over time, a mature artist develops a particular style and that style becomes his or her signature.

As a final note about the West Virginia Barn; I went back two years later to take a second look while on another field trip, and there was nothing left but a pile of broken and rotted lumber partially covered by honeysuckle. As with most wooden structures, the end comes quickly when the roof fails.



I was working at Radford University at the time this image was made and I had canoed this river many times and knew the area well. I was looking for a late afternoon image of the river from the high bluffs and it just felt like the right day.

It was about a ten mile drive to the location that I had in mind and my timing was pretty good. I made several exposures and waited to see if a boat might possibly come along. I knew from experience that during the late afternoon, boaters would float the river and sure enough this one provided me with a focal point for my image. It was much better than having a blank open river. Best of all, it turned sideways as it entered my image zone. Perfect, and I can remember it to this day.

The New River flows south to north from North Carolina to the Ohio River. This was the same area where a rogue band of Indians kidnapped a pioneer woman, Mary Draper Ingles in 1755 and forced her to travel 800 miles to the north. She later escaped and made her way home alone but she was described as a walking skeleton and naked when she arrived back at her home at Draper's Meadow near Blacksburg, VA . She was 23 years old, and this was November with a light snow falling. You have to wonder how anyone could have survived crossing that river alone and climbing the high bluffs along the river. This was not far from where I captured this image.

Her story was described in detail by Alexander Thom in his book, The Long Way Home. In 1995 a movie was made for TV titled, Follow the River.


October 10, 1979 Shenandoah Valley of Viginia

This was a hard, unexpected snow storm that stuck to everything. An artist's dream so to speak. I worked under an umbrella this time and this image was one of my public favorite.

Click on barn to bring up larger image

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Fence & Weeds: Winter Abstract ©1975

Fence Line 1975

Shenandoah Valley of Virginia


Ernest and Cat 1973

When I’m working with people I always try to make them feel comfortable and to learn to anticipate likely gestures I might want to capture. And as you have already become aware, I often try to catch them off-guard when they are not posing for me. “Ernest and the Cat” is an example of this. I was documenting the old man as he sat in his chair. Within a short while, I had made several nice negatives of a grand old character.

I had already started to pack my gear when the old field cat ambled in and climbed up on Ernest’s lap. The entire mood suddenly changed. Thinking I was finished, the two of them shifted their focus to a world of their own relatedness. They were united as two of a kind. I made my exposure at precisely the right moment. Ernest’s brother Fred later told me that I was lucky. Generally, the cat showed up about once a week and spent only a few moments on Ernest’s lap before calmly getting down and returning to the fields and barn beside the house. Luck or destiny aside, it was certainly the decisive moment.

Of all my images of people, this one seems to have the most profound effect on viewers. A man walked into my booth one day at an art show and stood there for some time staring at the large framed piece I had on display. I didn’t pay much attention to what was going on. The gentleman finally turned to me and said, “Jack you really did it to me this time.” There were tears running down his cheeks. To this day I don’t know who he was.

Friday, July 17, 2009


Some would say that copying another artist's concept is the highest form of flattery. In reality, it is the lowest form of thievery.


Highland Sheep in Snow

I consider two hundred miles per day to be about par for a good winter photography field trip. This image was made in extreme NW Virginia during a snow storm and the sheep were just standing around doing what sheep do naturally.

This image became the subject of a copyright infringement in 2003. I was at home in our previous home in Wyoming going through the latest issue of SOUTHWEST ART when I spotted a quarter-page advertising spread of a group of sheep standing in front of an old barn. I immediately recognized that image as mine. Although it was executed as a watercolor, the concept was irrefutably mine; right down to the faces and position of the sheep. I will post this copy above this entry as an example of what constitutes an infringement. .

I was floored because this meant that someone held on to this image for over twenty years before copying it. They had cut it out of a magazine that had published one of my early articles.

This was not the first time that I had to take on an artist who stole my work, and I don't mind saying that this could have gone to Federal Court and the artist's reputation would have been ruined. Instead, I charged her several thousand dollars as a usage fee and clearly stated that she would have to go through the entire pile of reproductions (falsely referred to as "prints.") and put in a statement that this concept was taken from an original by Jack Jeffers. A copy of my letter also went to the editor of SOUTHWEST ART.

Many painters just don't get it. Copyright infringement is a serious offence. It is stealing, and that is a no-no. See the notice at the bottom of each of these blog pages. It means what it says. There have been numerous articles written about copyright including one of mine, and it would behove everyone who paints, draws, or sculpts to study up on what will work and what will not. Just because you copied a photograph using watercolors or oils does not justify thievery. It is still an infringement when you use someone else's concept.

Thursday, July 16, 2009


Click on the image to enlarge the illustration
This image was captured about mid February 1979 and it was purely by chance that I just happened to be in the right spot at the right time.
The owner was giving the team a good workout and that gave me ample opportunity to make a number of nice exposures. Since he was going around the field in circles I had time to pick a nice spot and wait for the next pass.
This was a difficult image to print the way I had originally envisioned it, and the negative required special processing. In addition, I used a home-made screen to soften the dark areas. The final print actually comes across as light misty snow. This, plus the fine snow that was already falling, gave me the mood I desired.


Here I am with several of my vintage images. circa 1980

Click on image for larger view.

During the early seventies I developed my own style of mounting, matting and framing, and it has changed very little over the decades.

Instead of mounting my image behind the mat as everyone else does, I elected to mount my image and then make a bevel cut along the print edge which allowed the original to stand out above the inner mat and then place my double mat outside the mounted piece. This results in a three-dimensional presentation, and none of the original ever comes in contact with any of the matting.

Buyers have been quick to note the quality of this style of presentation, and many have tried to duplicate it, but told me later that it was too time consuming and tedious. I have always tried to hold my mat cuts to within a millimeter of the guide lines. I would have to say that, for me, it has been worth the effort and time required. All of my matting was done by hand, the old fashioned way.




This image has drawn many positive comments over the decades and a favorable number hang in the establishments of private and corporate collectors across the land.

When hiking through the forest, I have always been observant about my surroundings and my eyes are quick to pick up on new concepts. This image was an easy one to miss, but the slight ripples in the mountain pond gave it away and I took advantage of it.

I first noted the old cabin on the hill, but the reflection in the pond brought my equipment out in a hurry. Without the ripples, it was just a rather ordinary image. Also note that it is presented upside down. It is also sepia toned which adds to the subject matter and long life of the print.

I have mentioned more than once in some of my essays that I have never used photography galleries and for a number of good reasons which I will not dwell on here. But this is an exceptional case. Several years ago, my wife and I were visiting galleries in Santa Fe. This is the second largest fine art city in the country I am told and it is well worth the walk. It also has several highly rated photography galleries, and I decided that while my wife visited her galleries, I would check out several of the photography establishments just to see how they might have changed over the years.

The first galley I selected was in the basement of an old hotel. It had some fine work but most of the images that were hanging were printed by someone other than the photography who made the original negative. Not a good start! After a brief chat with the owner I asked if she would like to see several pieces of my art. I just wanted to see what her reaction would be. Reflections just happened to be one of the three or four that I had with me ,and it was double matted to about 27 x 29 inches. It was a beautiful vintage image.

She quickly looked at the first three and the focused on the cabin and pond. He ecomment went like this: "I can't hang that on my wall. My customers would think it is out of focus." Go figure...

I cannot let the second gallery go by without also relating that experience. Pat and I both walked through that one and it was one of the first photography galleries that was established back in the early seventies. We spent a good twenty minutes scanning the images. Not once did the man in charge notice our presence. He was reading a book or a magazine, and he never looked up or said a word. I asked myself, is this a gallery that I want to represent me? Absolutely not! I have never had these sorts of experiences with a Multi-media gallery.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


Effie the Mountain Woman ©1972

My encounter with Effie came about quite by chance. Reverend Hatter, who was a local Mennonite preacher in the small community of Love had told me about her and said he would take me over for a brief visit. He was familiar with my documentary and thought that Effie would welcome our visit. He was also well aware that she lived alone and made it a point to see that her basic needs were taken care of.
Effie lived alone in a small mountain cabin a half mile or so up a nearby ridge. I did not know it at the time, but she was nearly blind, and had to use a stick to get around. Still, she was a tough old lady who spoke her piece.

As we approached her place, I could see her sitting on her front porch rocking away in a chair. My gut instinct told me this would be one of the images I wanted, so I started unpacking my tripod and camera as Rev Hatter and I hiked up the trail, which was not easy.
I was maybe twenty feet from the house when I stopped, jammed the tripod into the ground, and made several rapid exposures. After my introduction, I made another series of images. This time I was able to move in a bit closer and capture the true character of her face. I was right; that was my photography session for the day. When I told her that I had made the first image from a distance she just laughed and kidded me about why anyone would want to have a picture of an old woman. This was a line that I had experienced before. I told her that her face had lots of character. And I was dead serious.
One evening, several years following this visit, I was sitting around a campfire enjoying good tales and fellowship with a group of Mennonite friends who lived in that same general area. Suddenly there was a sudden commotion in the distance, and several of those in the group took off in a pickup truck to see what was going on up the road. I knew nothing at the time except that it involved Effie. About an hour later the group returned with everyone laughing and kidding each other about what had transpired up at Effie’s place. Apparently, a neighbor had heard her yelling in the distance and sent for help. Knowing her condition, everyone expected the worst.

What had happened was that some of her chickens and a small pig had escaped from their pen. Despite her near blindness and the advancing darkness, she took off down through the woods and brush after them. I’m not sure how, but she somehow managed to get hung up real good in a wire fence that was supposed to keep the livestock in. My friends said she was completely stuck and was mad as a wet hen. Fortunately, the only thing that was affected was her dignity.

It wasn’t too long after this incident when the wood stove in her house backfired during the night and when the neighbors checked on her she was gone. They think she died of smoke inhalation during her sleep. There was no damage to the house.


Simon Ward and the Tennessee Mule

This is one of those rare circumstances when a concept can suddenly appear out of nowhere.

I was returning from an art show in Nashville, Tennessee when I decided to take a back road from Knoxville to Kingsport. It was old US Rt 11W. It sort of reminds you of Historic Rt 66 out west with all the old and dilapidated motels and filling stations that dot the landscape. Relics of the past I call them. Most of my finest images have been discovered along these old trails and back-woods byways.

I had just passed through the town of Surgoinsville in my 72-cargo van when I happened to glance over my left shoulder and spotted an old fellow and a mule going through a fresh field of tobacco. He was using an old wooden harrow weighted down with several good size river jacks to make the blade penetrate the soil. This was a sight to behold, as one large mule appeared to be dragging both man and machine through the clod-filled field.
I was caught totally by surprise, but I had my camera pack in the back of the truck and decided to take a chance and capture this image before it passed into oblivion.

I pulled off the road, donned my forty-pound camera pack and quickly climbed over the remains of a fence as the farmer and mule disappeared over the distant crest of the hill. I figured that when he made the next pass, I would be set up and ready to capture this image for posterity. It happened just as I had planned, and I made a couple of precisely timed exposures before the operation came to a halt. Now, I would have to explain to this man why I was standing in the middle of his field with a heavy tripod and camera aimed in his direction.

I did not have my dog Rufus with me on this trip, but I quickly introduced myself and told him exactly what I was doing. Simon Ward was his name, and he just shook his head and chuckled over the whole sequence of events. Bottom line, he was flattered that I would want to photograph his mule Kate.

Simon was quite a character. He probably didn’t weight more than a hundred and twenty pounds with all his clothes on. But he sure could handle that great Tennessee Mule.

We chatted and he told me all about Kate and how he had traded a watch for her some year’s back. She was 22 years old and huge. The interesting thing was that the watch he traded for Kate had been lost for some time before he happened to spot it one day lying out in a field. It still worked, so he traded it for Kate. “Been together ever since” he said.

It’s a good thing I grabbed a quick bite on the road, because Simon would not hear of me leaving before I hiked over the hill with him to see his second mule Meg. He sure was proud of those two mules. I ended up spending most of the afternoon talking about mules and other things relating to farming, fishing and hunting. One thing Simon had plenty of was time and good tales. He also had a good listener. It was a hot afternoon in June 1974 as we sat and passed the time of day under a large oak tree.

Before we parted company Simon insisted that I photograph both mules. This time I was able to capture all three of them, as they stood high off the ground in grand style.

In November 2003, I received a totally unexpected e-mail from a lady whose address was RIDGERUNNER. Her name was Lynn Ward, and she had tracked me down on the Internet to learn a little more about two images that she had uncovered in her grandfather’s possessions. My name was stamped on the back, and she just had the urge to track the artist down.

As I read her letter she explained, “I hate to be the one to tell you this, but Papaw died 08-15-97. The doctors told him he had leukemia in 1987 and he never went back to the doctor again, but he lived for another ten good years after that. He raised me since I was two, and I was one year old when you took that picture back in 1974.”

I was deeply touched by the fact that someone would go to the trouble to track me down after all these years and ask me if I was really the one who had made those images. My goodness, that was thirty-five years ago.



Near Montebello, VA 1976

While we are on the subject of waterfalls, I will share this image of the highest cascade drop east of the Mississippi. What a day hike this is, and just when you think you reach the top, there is yet another fall. It is an altitude gain of about 1500 feet. There used to be a sign at the top warning you not to step out onto the rocks.

From past experience, I can tell you that it would mean almost instant death. Those rocks are covered with slippery growth, and once you slip you are gone.

The exposure for this 2 1/4 film image (Ektachrome 64) was about one second at f22.


Big Tumbling Creek Falls. Clinch River Valley SW Virginia ©1994
I hear this question so many times: "how do you get that fuzzy soft look to the water?" Very simple.
A tripod is a must. And a slow shudder speed is equally important. A one or two second exposure will do the trick. Even a half second will get you there. This is one time when a blur is acceptable.
If you wish to go to the other extreme and stop every droplet in mid air use a fast shutter speed. Start with about 1/200 and go up from there; bright lighting will get you an even faster exposure. At this speed you can hand hold the camera.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009



It was a hot sweltering day in July when I pulled into an antique auto show in Bridgewater, Virginia. This small burg is located near Harrisonburg in the Shenandoah Valley.
I spotted Mrs. Williams sitting in a vintage motorcar. Actually, I spotted her through an open window in the car next to hers. I thought her face was beautiful, and I loved the way she was framed behind two cars. She seemed so far away in a dream world of her own.
The weather was so hot and humid that I had left my camera pack in the trunk of the car so I had to make a quick hike back and pick up my gear. Have you ever noticed how quick people are to notice someone setting up a tripod and camera? In this case, in order not to attract the subject's attention, I set up and framed my image through the open windows of the car that was parked next to hers. I figured I had better make this fast because I had already attracted the attention of some of the car buffs.
In an effort to protect my image, I pretended I was photographing something else. Inwardly, I just knew she was going to see the growing crowd and change her marvelous expression. Finally, after my camera was in place, I was able to capture the concept just as I hoped it would be. After I packed my gear away, I walked over to her car and informed her of what I had done because I needed her name and her assurance that she did not object. I also wished to thank her for holding still despite the commotion. At that point I became aware that she was totally blind and had never noticed.
The only thing she wondered about was why anyone would want to make a photograph of an old
woman. I had an easy answer for that comment. I told her that she would make a beautiful image sitting in that old car.
This image has taken it's share of awards including a grand prize in a National Nostalgia Contest put on by the Professional Photographers of America. It is hard to believe that this took place thirty years ago to the month.



I was hiking the Blue Ridge Mountains during a chilly day in March when I ran across the remains of an old mountain church. The roof had deteriorated to the point where it was collapsing into the building. There were maybe a half dozen pews still remaining, and it was as if the congregation just got up and walked away to let the place die of old age. But it was the organ that caught my eye, and I made this image without further hesitation. I later made a second trip back to check it out again but this image has always been one of my favorites. It deserves the name I gave it.

At the time, this was a remote hollow along a small stream, but as the years have passed, the place was discovered and there are now numerous homes and cabins dotting the hillside along the North Fork of the Tye River.


I was drawn to the Bay when I was a young teenager and it was because of fishing and boating. During the forties, the fish were aplenty and you could go out a short ways in a small boat or a canoe and catch your fill of croaker, spot and trout. The tributaries were loaded with fish. But that was before the commercial fishermen with massive nets and other high tech gadgetry virtually wiped them out. As I grew older, the bay fishing dwindled to nothing. Even the crab and oyster harvests have dwindled.

During the mid seventies I made several photographic trips down to the Reedville area and documented much of the disappearing day to day life of the watermen. I title this image "The last haul" for a good reason. Not only was this family operation coming to an end, but this was literally their last haul before hanging it up for good. They were among the very last to toss in the towel.

This image of Ray Rogers and son was made during August 1975.


In the previous entry, I mentioned the fact that with my grocery cart mobile studio, I could handle most anything including a full-stage production.

Somehow this might have led some folks to say "Baloney". You cannot do that out of a grocery cart.

This is when a picture is worth a thousand words.

Incidentally, this was the annual university production of The Nutcracker utilizing theater students as performers. The lead dancers were brought over from Europe via special invitation.



Photographing Arthur Goldberg was more like how I prefer to work with people. In case you don't remember this man, he was, at this point in life, a retired Chief Justice of the United States. He was well known during the Nixon Administration. I remember these sorts of things because I was also at my prime during those years.

I was working at Radford University during the early nineteen eighties into the mid nineties, and it was during that time that the University brought Mr. Goldberg into their ranks as a visiting professor. Our paths crossed numerous times on campus and when it came time to develop a feature story, I was the one to make a formal image to grace the pages of the Radford University Magazine
I made the arrangements to meet with the professor for a few minutes before planning the photography session. He was one of the nicest people I ever met and I could tell from the second we shook hands that he would be a great person to work with.

We sat a date to meet at a certain preselected spot at the library. It was a fitting place to photograph such a person and the surroundings were comfortable. I made a number of images while we carried on a conversation and this was the one selected for the magazine article.

One of the nicest compliments I ever received came from the family of Mr. Goldberg following his death. They wrote a letter to the president of the university stating that the image used in the magazine was the very finest that anyone had ever made of him. I will never forget that.

For those who want to know what equipment I used, I will briefly tell you. I had a medium size multi -watt strobe system which I carted around campus in a modified rectangular grocery cart.

I had the maintenance crew outfit the cart with a pair of small balloon tires which dampened the vibration when going down sidewalks. There was room for all of my equipment including at least two 35mm film cameras and several lenses. This was still during the days of film. With this rig, I could handle most anything on site including a full stage theater production. I once described this rig and some of my University images in an article for Technical Photography Magazine.


I have always enjoyed photographing people. Funny thing, a lot of folks still refer to me as the guy who walked through the Appalachians "taking" pictures of mountain people. Those images certainly proved to be an assert when I took on a more normal agenda.

Who was my favorite subject? Many have asked that question and it's a tough question to answer. I have picked two interesting images, but more for the story than the accomplishment.

Most everyone knows who Elie Wisel is. If you have never seen his image in the news you have missed one very well-known man. Elie survived the Holocaust and later received the Nobel Peace Price for his many accomplishments.

I had the opportunity to photograph Mr. Wisel at the Roanoke, VA airport. I was on assignment for Radford University and they were looking for a cover image. Normally, I prefer to have a one on one for such an image but this was the only chance I would have because he was scheduled to put on a presentation at the university that evening. This was my only chance to do the "impossible."

There was a very short press conference in a very small airport room and the press was packed in like sardines in a can. I wedged my way through the crowd and planted myself in a spot where I could view this man over the crowd. My six foot four frame and long arms stood well above most of the crowd. The only background I could see that might be useful was the American flag that stood in a corner behind the podium.

Amid the questions and answers; plus flashes going off like an active electrical storm, I made several exposures. I had to push myself along a wall a little to put that flag where I wanted it but my images turned out just fine. I made a few more exposures just to be on the safe side and that was it. I did have a second camera and my B&W followed the color. If I have said it a thousand times, I will say it again: Anticipation, and previsualization is the name of the game. Gut feeling Call it what you want, but I have always felt good about my best images. There is a time to hold back, and there is a time to make your exposure: the decisive moment. This image proved to be a winner.

Sunday, July 12, 2009


The Brownie that I ultimately wore out was quite similar to this updated version which was on the shelf about the mid forties. Mine was a brown leather-covered model that I cannot identify as to an exact manufacturers date. However, it could go back as far as the turn of the last century.
The release leaver is in the same spot. See lower left top, just under the advance knob. . The size is about the same and there is a bit more shinny metal trim. The aperture setting on the old box was simply a slide out piece of flat metal with three different size holes.
So much for my first camera. I always hesitate to tell people what brand of camera I use because better cameras do not necessarily make better photographs. "Art comes from people, not tools." I dd gravitate to a higher quality level 2 1/4 and a 4 x 5 view camera. These were well made and they have lasted to this day with no broken parts. That represents more than thirty five years of heavy use and being carried around in a home-made back pack when hiking the Blue Ridge and Allegheny Mountains.


Take a short walk of about a hundred yards and this is the view you have from the edge of the mesa. This image was made shortly after the sun rose above the distant horizon.

The lake below is several hundred feet straight down from the edge of the cliff.

These three entrees are representative of a typical camping trip into the nearby hills overlooking the beautiful San Juan Mountain Range in southwest Colorado.


When my wife Pat and I stepped out out of the RV, this is what we would see when we walked to the back side of the site.
The forest atop the mesa was made up primarily of pinion pine and juniper trees. This image was made just prior to sunset as the light rays beamed through the trees and highlighted the grass. And yes, I used a tripod as usual.


Colorado High Country
Click on image for larger view
This past week was spent in the Colorado high country atop a seven thousand foot mesa.
From where we were camping, I had easy access to numerous alpine meadows with a background of thirteen and fourteen thousand footers. There is still snow up on the high peaks, but here at the nine thousand food level the snow has disappeared and quickly replaced by lush green grass and wild flowers.
My primary purpose was to photograph wild flowers, but on this particular morning I thought I noted a group of cattle on the hill behind the yellow flowers. Boy was I mistaken, because the moment I peered through my camera lens, I realized that there were quite a number of elk feeding on the nice green grass. Lucky me, I thought. This was too easy, but I made a number of nice exposures and this is one of the results.
The image here appears to be a bit out of focus, but I suppose that is just the nature of the blog. On a full-blown computer screen the flowers are crisp and sharp and you can clearly see the antlers and expressions on the faces of the elk. Here is another case of being in the right spot at the right time. Plus, the lighting was just perfect.

Saturday, July 4, 2009



My experience at Cass, West Virginia in January of 1977 was one of the most dramatic experiences that I have ever had in my career as an artist. I was working on a railroad documentary when this image was made of this country’s oldest operational gear-driven locomotive.

The snowstorm came up as I was exposing negatives in the maintenance shop, but a shrill whistle outside on the track alerted me. I visualized a great photograph in the making as I rushed out the door and set up my tripod and camera in the blowing snow.

In cases like this, I kept a clear plastic bag over the camera until I was ready to make an exposure, and then I jerk it off moments before I squeeze the bulb on my shutter release cable. A small umbrella also works quite well in a less than a moderate breeze. In this case, it was cold enough to allow the snow to bounce off the camera.

Two things happened in rapid succession that enabled me to capture what you see here. The steam vapors that were covering the nameplate started to shift back and forth in the breeze giving me a clear view of the engine’s nose. I made several rapid exposures, but I anticipated something much better so I stood my ground until the engineer stepped out of the cab to make a visual inspection of the boiler that was being tested. At this precise moment the nose was clear and just as the man turned his head toward the engine I made this exposure. It was not staged.

This is what one master photographer dubbed as “the decisive moment.” One split second sooner or later and you have lost it. Generally, you do not get a second chance. And, of course, there is one additional term: Anticipation.

Special exposure criteria and printing techniques can be applied to bring out details in the dark areas as well as in the snow. I still recommend that people study Ansel Adams’ books, THE PRINT and THE NEGATIVE for more specific instructions.


Friday, July 3, 2009

Constructing a Background for Flowers

This image of a Blootroot goes back to 1970 when I took a group of serious photographers from the Camera Club of Richmond to the upper ridge line of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The location was along the northern stretch of the Blue Ridge Parkway, and we could actually look out over the Shenandoah Valley and see where I lived at the time.
I have always been troubled by people who step on flowers when hiking, or destroying them when making their photographs so this would be the perfect time to give a new group of photographers a few good tips in photographing wild flowers on site.
I was using this single Bloodroot as an example because the background was totally uninteresting. and any photograph made at this time would look just like a thousand others that have been made by countless photo artists.
I was explaining a number of possible solutions that would be of help, but I was also looking around while I was talking so that I might spot something that would solve the problem. I was working with my primary medium format at the time--Black & White. Also a second camera that was loaded with 2 1/4 Ektachrome 64 roll film. I believe his was back when E-4 processing was used.
The background I was looking for was within several paces so I ambled over to a large chestnut log and picked up the knot hole you see in the image above. It was very easy to put in place and it turned out to be a winner. A few in the group made their own backgrounds but this set so attracted the group that, as I recall, everyone took their turn making images of this lone flower. Some had tripods; others did not. I used my large Tiltall. In addition I used a small square of heavy-duty aluminum foil to reflect a bit of light into the set. The toning was accomplished in the lab later on.
That tripod is still as good today (2009) as it was the day I purchased it. I perfer simple equipment that lasts for years or decades, and I am not all that impressed with many of the gadgets that I see on the market today. The only fault I ever had with this tripod was that I thought that it was a bit heavy, but by the time you add all these fancy ball heads and what not to the new gear, it actually turns out to be about the same weight as "old trusty."
I thought this was the end of the story for this set, but some years later, one of the members of that group wrote me a letter from his retirement home in Florida and provided me with some additional news regarding that particular field trip.
Bob told me that he went back to that site after the day trip was over and grabbed that knot hole and put it in the back of his car. I had placed it back where I originally found it and never thought any more about it, except when I view the framed B&W image which still hangs in our hallway. He said he had used that prop many times over the years because it was just so perfect. Or words to that affect.

Thursday, July 2, 2009


I was driving along some old country roads in central Virginia searching for old farm scenes when I spotted the backside of an old threshing machine sticking out of an old barn. I was intrigued so I stopped and knocked on the door of a nearby farmhouse to inquire about it.

Most people are real nice if you approach them properly and take the time to share their interests. In this case I asked about the old machine that appeared to be out of service. Much to my surprise, I was informed that they were planning to give it one last run come July and that if I wanted to show up with my camera I would be more than welcome to record the event. This was still winter, so I left my name and telephone number and asked if they would give me a collect call when the wheat was ready to thresh. I lived nearly sixty miles away on the opposite side of the Blue Ridge, and I realized right then and there that my chances of being there for the harvest were slim to nil. In fact, I soon forgot about it.

On July 12,1975, I received an early morning phone call informing me that if I wanted to make my photographs I should head right over because they were starting to fire the tractor up. This caught me totally off guard, but fortunately I was home and was able to make a quick change in plans. I was ecstatic as I rushed to pack my gear and head over the mountain.

It was a hot, humid day and the sweat was running profusely down my face as I set up to make my photographs. The operation was in full swing, and the entire family was in on the harvest. I made many exposures to document this great event, because this was history. The last time I had witnessed an actual threshing operation was back in the late thirties when these great machines made their rounds from one farm to another during the prime cutting weeks. The moisture content of the plant had to be exactly right and when that happened everything came together at once.

I had one final image to make and it would include the entire operation, but I was waiting for the old man to come over and join in. He, on the other hand, did not feel comfortable about being photographed so he stayed pretty much behind me. I held back in anticipation but it never happened.

The whole scene changed when I had to step back from my camera and tripod to wipe the sweat from my face. It was getting into my eyes and running down my face. I was about to give up and pack it in. But when the old man saw me step back he figured I was wrapping it up and he wandered over to the exact spot that I had visualized and leaned on his cane as he put in his final two cents worth to the other fellows. It was beautiful. All of the elements came together at once. I had three or four exposures left on the roll and it took but a very few moments for me to expose the negatives that made my day. In fact, it made my year.

Could I attribute this image to luck? The answer is no. It was a case of being in the right spot at the right time and anticipating what might take place. Finally I made the exposure at the decisive moment. This is often the case when it comes to photojournalism. With landscapes, you generally have a great deal more time to contemplate.