Thursday, May 14, 2015

Workshopping with a Wolfe

Me and Art Wolfe at his gallery in Seattle (photo by Karen Lanzendorfer)

Last year I had the distinct pleasure of meeting one of my favorite nature photographers, Art Wolfe, while visiting his gallery in Seattle. He was gracious enough to stop and talk with me and my relatives, and more than willing to accommodate a photo. 
Well, one year later I have the distinct pleasure of attending one of Art's photo workshops in the Olympic Peninsula. Art grew up in Seattle and has always considered the Peninsula his backyard and will be taking us to some of his favorite spots in Olympic National Park.
Considering photography has always been a solo sport for me, working with Art and another 20 people should be a lot of fun. I also hope to learn a thing or two from a world renowned master photographer. 

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

I'm Opening My Doors

Since moving to a larger studio on the 4th floor of the Park Trades Center last year, I'm finally opening my doors to the public. On display will be some new works printed really large, including the portrait above. So if you're in Kalamazoo this Friday, hopping around for the biggest Art Hop of the year, stop on by and pay me a visit. The art and I would love to see you!

Monday, April 13, 2015

The Colony Farm Orchard - Back in the News

Not only has it been a while since I last posted, it's been a really, really long while since I last posted about the controversy surrounding development of the Colony Farm Orchard in Kalamazoo. 

This is an issue that became centrally important to me 5 years ago because I was spending a ton of hours photographing wildlife in the Orchard and was concerned that WMU and legislators were looking to absolve the deed restrictions that were protecting the Orchard from any significant development or public disturbance. It was one of Kalamazoo's most unique wild spaces.

Well, the Orchard is back in the news again because WMU is very close to actually breaking ground on the property and beginning their expansion of the BTR Park. But their developments have not gone unnoticed. Protestors, organized in large part by the Kalamazoo Peace Center, marched outside the gates of the Orchard on April 3rd, 2015 to voice their opposition to any future development. You can read the Mlive article by clicking HERE.

My response to the controversy five years ago was the creation of a 20 minute documentary about the Orchard and WMU's plans to develop it. I recommend it as an educational primer for the issue. Given where the video leaves off, it comes as no surprise that we're now facing WMU's subsequent plans to finally move ahead with expansion. They're pretty much right on schedule. The question is what happens next?

Friday, January 9, 2015

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas

River Otter at Salt Creek with a starry flounder. 

Merry Christmas from the Olympic Peninsula. May the world always bring you the gifts you need.

There are many themes circulating around Christmas, including the idea of peace and hope in the birth of Christ, but the theme of gift-giving is by far the strongest and brightest in America - and we all know how that's exploded into a banquet of excess.

Once again, the natural world reminds us to keep in touch with the necessities in life, and how the Earth can provide for us all. 

What truly matters most? Food, shelter, warmth, love, family, friends, and of course a few indulgences like chocolate or wine. But if we have more than we need, perhaps it's a good idea to just stop, or perhaps share what we have with those who lack. Generosity can be a beautiful thing.

There is enough to go around, and around, and around...

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

My First Drop-tine Buck

Rutger in 2014

Rutger in 2012 

Monday, December 1, 2014

Black Friday for Wildlife

While hordes of shoppers stormed the shopping malls along Westnedge Avenue in Portage, Michigan this past weekend, I was literally a block away walking along the Portage Bicentennial Trail in search of wildlife. And I might as well have been in a parallel universe given the contrast.

While the rest of humanity was possessed by their material wants (and perhaps some justifiable needs) I was able to capture a couple of fellow creatures completely caught up in their diligent pursuit of some life essentials: A red squirrel packing up on protein for the winter and a pileated woodpecker either hammering away at grub, or chiseling away at a future nest-hole.

That's one of the great gifts of wildlife photography and observation: reminding ourselves of the core essentials of survival and how so much of the material accumulation of life is really just clutter and distraction.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Jessica Clark - Life in the Trees

Many moons ago, when I first started my portrait series, MY ANIMAL AND II was describing the concept of the work to a curious barista at a local coffee house, and before I could even ask her what animal, she said with a quiet assuredness, "my animal is a flying squirrel". 

I was thrilled.

First, by the fact she loved flying squirrels, which are downright amazing, and actually quite common but rarely seen and almost never, ever discussed in everyday conversation. Secondly, I have a fondness myself for flying squirrels because one became an instant hit in my urban wildlife documentary, ANIMALS AMONG US, because of a shot I captured of it flying right towards the camera at night. Thirdly, by the fact she knew precisely what animal she identified with, and it wasn't the all-too-familiar top predators, like wolves, hawks, eagles, etc. 

I knew immediately that I wanted to do her portrait, and only after I began work on the collage did I come to realize how thoroughly she was like a southern flying squirrel

"Jessica Flying Squirrel"  Southern flying squirrel photo by Joe McDonald
Many years passed between that first encounter and the creation of the portrait, and during that time Jessica was doing some significant work in environmental activism.

In response to the disastrous 2010 Enbridge oil spill into the Kalamazoo River, Jessica joined MICATS and began actively working to stop further expansion of the Enbridge pipeline that was the source of what is now known as the worst inland oil spill in U.S. history.

How did Jessica decide to fight one of the largest energy companies in North America? By doing a tree-sit to halt construction of Enbridge's Line 6B tar sands pipeline in LaPorte Indiana. She tree-sat not once, but twice! On the second sit, her wooden platform was held up by a rope that was tied to a bulldozer, thereby incapacitating any progress on the pipeline (learn more about it HERE and HERE).

Jessica tree-sitting in protest of Enbridge tar sands pipeline expansion in 2013. Photo credit: MI CATS
Eventually deceived by the police into coming down from her tree, Jessica was arrested and eventually appeared before a judge in a La Porte County courthouse where she made a brave and compelling statement explaining her non-violent protest. In the end, Jessica was sentenced to 26 days in jail for two counts of trespassing and one count of theft, all for what she believes was a necessary defense of the environment and everything within it, including ourselves.

All this corroborates Jessica's connection to flying squirrels in a beautiful and profound way. I'll add as well that she's small in stature like flying squirrels, but when she fans out her spirit and persona she's able to glide through life with a tremendous amount of grace and agility. If you meet her, you'll know exactly what I'm talking about.

Great video by National Geographic - although I'll argue they're not weird at all, and let's not assume that's a "he" up there!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Pale Male Lives On

Here and Now, the NPR program hosted by Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson, just broadcast a nice piece on Pale Male, the famed red-tailed hawk of Central Park in New York City. The ultimate urban animal, Pale Male continues to reign over the Park at the unusually old age of 24. 

I bring this up not only because of my love of the urban animal, especially through my documentary ANIMALS AMONG US, but because my ongoing body of animal portraits includes a picture of Pale Male, representing the spirit animal of a dear friend and teacher, Jorge Arenivar.

The photo was taken by Pale Male's most inspired and devoted chronicler, Lincoln Karim, who's documented the hawk almost every single day for the past 12 years. 

Thursday, August 7, 2014


For those of you following my documentary on the King Highway Osprey, I had to make a very difficult decision recently to scrap the project. With all the time, energy, and effort I put into the film, the decision was not easy.

For more information on my decision, please visit my blog for the documentary: WHEN HOPE HATCHES.