Theft of Moqui Marbles in Grand Staircase National Monument

These round balls are called moqui marbles are natural and take millions of years to erode out of solid Navajo Sandstone – They are hard concretions of iron that formed in the sandstone. After they are exposed to millions of years of sunlight they develop a dark polished patina called #DesertVarnish which takes eons to form.

Currently, these #moquimarbles are under threat because of their value on the #BlackMarket. They are also popular with the new age tourist trade and they can fetch a pretty penny by the piece. Last I spoke with a BLM Officer, they stated that over 30,000 lbs of these marbles have been stolen from off of Grand Staircase National Monument in Southern Utah. This is truly saddening, because I’ve actually gone to many of the locations where these marbles have gone missing and it destroys and scars the landscape where they were heavily removed. If you’re caught robbing these off of a federal monument, you may as well rob a bank because the consequences are just as severe!

While I do not believe that wilderness is virgin, untouched, or pristine – I do think that humans have an innate responsibility as stewards over the land. The people who rip off these moqui marbles do so for a quick buck. The beauty, once changed, is irreplaceable.

The image above shows a moqui marble out in the wild in an area where theft has occurred regularly for decades according to sources that live in the nearby community of Escalante, #Utah. Mostly what I was able to find here were bits of marble in a place that was once filled with shiny black marbles, smooth and baked in Desert Varnish.

An Alien Landscape – Grand Staircase National Monument

I captured these landscapes a few years ago out by Big Water, Utah on the way to Lake Powell, just after sundown.

In the early 1990s, Bill Clinton, President of the United States declared this national monument a rare treasure and designated over 1.7 million acres of land in Southern Utah off-limits. It stirred  a noteworthy controversy with local ranchers who have worked on the land for generations. On the other side of the token, there are countless historical Indigenous cultural and archeological sites inside the monument as well as an unknown treasure trove of undiscovered dinosaurs and other prehistoric life.

I do empathize with the ranchers and people whose livelihoods were affected by the monument’s creation, including my own family, but it was worth preserving these irreplaceable and priceless resources.  These sacred places do not belong to us; they belong to the future generations who have yet to be born and these histories cannot be rewritten and can easily be lost in time, forever, with any sort of carelessness.

As a photographer, the landscapes of the Grand Staircase remind me of another planet – a strange alien world in another galaxy and that is an amazing feeling to tap into. Places like Big-Water can heal the soul with its sheer beauty and you can feel the ancient ones (historic tribal peoples) whom once used this land. Traces of their long existence are found all over the monument.

I’ll be returning to Grand Staircase pretty soon with a Sony A7R and capture much more details photos of these alien landscapes.

 

The Latest-Greatest Cameras Will Not Make You a Better Photographer

I love hearing about photo junkies spending thousands of dollars on the greatest and latest cameras knowing for a fact that having the latest-greatest fancy-pants camera will STILL NOT MAKE YOU A BETTER PHOTOGRAPHER. Remember this and save thousands of dollars! That being said, if you are going to invest thousands of dollars spend it on glass (camera lenses) because good glass is still key to higher quality, and not necessarily the newest cameras along with their marketing hype. Cameras depreciate faster than lenses and the latter hold their value longer. I’ve been with Micro Four Thirds for 8 years now. That’s a pretty good track record. Why do I recommend this format? Because it’s dirt cheap, affordable, excellent image quality, and the fact that it works well, being mirror-less technology. In the end, It’s going to be the practice and passion that you put into composing images that will help you grow to become a better photographer. Remember that and avoid the marketing hype. I purchase old discontinued camera bodies at steeply discounted rates and invest the money in glass instead. It’s been a while since I’ve purchased gear and I’m happy with my choices. Practice makes better photos!

The Story of my Stolen Camera Gear and the Cedar City Police in Utah

This month of September marks a little over One Year and a month since I located my stolen Nikon V3 with an 18.5mm Nikkor lens in a pawn shop in Cedar City, Utah. It was turned over to the city police in August of 2014. Since then, It’s been in police evidence for longer than it remained stolen from me which is pretty aggravating. I’ve called the police multiple times and even met up with a few officers in their physical offices but the bureaucracy failed miserably to return my stolen photo gear.

Since then, I have given up ever hoping to get my gear back. Even when your valuables are stolen it doesn’t do any good if the police secure them because there’s a good chance you’ll never see them again.  By the time that you do, your gear will be so outdated it will be a waste-of-time anyway. I just wanted to go on the record about this for the journal.

The image above was one of the last photos I captured with the Nikon v3 which I hadn’t even owned for longer than two weeks before it was ripped off in a vehicle burglary. The robber broke into my Jeep while I was watching the Hobbit movie at the theater. I learned a lot that day.

Waiting on the Alien Greys

This image is of Alisa Meshkova – from one of my earliest model shoots. I titled it because of the light coming into the basement of this abandoned house through a window. The wind was blowing pretty hard and is what lifted her hair. I’ve always been inspired by the UFO Phenomenon and so I titled the image accordingly. Alisa attends Southern Utah University and is very intuitive as a model. She knew how to pose so I could focus on taking images.

Monument Valley on the Navajo Nation – along with Smugmug embedding of my Images from here on out!

 Monument Valley on the Navajo Nation
Monument Valley on the Navajo Nation

So I’m very resistant and reluctant when it comes to change, but once I shift it’s usually because of a major convenience and benefit. Usually I’m very hard to please especially when trying to trust someone like a company. I’ve been with Smugmug for an easy five-years now, and I’m about to invest in their company by relying on them as my primary backup storage for images both on my blog and elsewhere and they are also going to become my primary business solution. They have proven themselves with the test of time and have been stable for the most part. Not only am I going to host my images primarily with them for my photoblog, but also with my printing needs as a professional photographer. I also LOVE how their resized images display on my WordPress blog but I love their tools to protect my images.

Also any links to Smugmug on this site and through this post will net an automatic 20% to anyone who joins me on there, that is, if you are a photographer looking for awesome solution. I searched high and low for a company that could beat Smugmug but that hunt turned out to be futile because the dozens of companies trying to beat Smugmug just cannot match up to what they are offering me as an Intagrammer, and a Photoblogger. As much as I am a photographer, the web has made me who I am and whether I care to admit it or not. Smugmug has played a very helpful and useful role in that evolution…

Iron County Steamroller

steamroller_cedarcity_utah

Old steamrollers like this stretch clear back into Cedar City's recent past and this particular one was relocated to Frontier Heritage State Park in Cedar and somewhat restored with a paint job but I loved it most in its original rusted glory when it was in its natural environment. I guess this is why I like to document things before they are changed.

Lensbaby Composer Pro With Sweet 35 Optic for Micro Four Thirds

Superior Auto Service in Cedar City, Utah

Lensbaby Composer Pro With Sweet 35 Optic for Micro Four Thirds! – Superior Auto Service in #CedarCity, Utah. 

So today, I created photographs using the Lensbaby Composer Pro for Micro Four Thirds with the Sweet 35 Optic; my primary tool and my new muse upon receiving it a few days ago. Lensbaby, out of Oregon is sending this one to me on loan to test and try and I LOVE IT! Lensbaby is a great company and these optics are specialty lenses that require a lot of creative vision and advanced experience from photographers. They are not for the faint-of-heart but the Sweet 35 optic seemed to work well with the Micro Four Thirds format and more than I was expecting. I’m looking forward to writing more about my experiences. Stay tuned.

Aspen Trees are the World’s Largest Organisms

Aspen Grove near Cedar City, Utah
Aspen Grove near Cedar City, Utah

According to this website – Aspen groves are the world’s largest living organisms. I believe it since I always love photographing them. There’s a really strong photogenic energy to them tied to their spiritual essence. I’ve also heard that they are in decline which is disheartening to know.

I have to thank my friend, Michael Titus for sponsoring this trip up onto the mountain. Photo was shot with an Olympus EM5 with Rokinon 12mm F2.0 wide-angle lens.

I’m updating this site now and will try and develop a consistent habit of posting my images here so that people can enjoy my work along with categories for lenses and cameras used. As an artist, I know people like to know the geeky details like that but know that I’m just barely starting this. I’ve spent too long overthinking how to organize and build this blog but I finally just gave up and simplified whether than getting frustrated and letting it sit without getting updated.