Saturday, September 22, 2007



Since I left San Diego in May to travel through California, I haven't seen a single drop of rain. Not one. Now, I know it's rained in California since I left... I just haven't seen it.

But today, it's raining. And, it's been raining all day. I love it. The ground needs it. It helps even out those 100-degree temperatures. It's wonderful.

So, I'm spending the day in the RV working on images, listening to the beautiful sounds of rain falling on my roof.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Vanishing America Videos

I'm back.

It's been a while since I've updated the blog, and I apologize. No real excuses. Just not much about which to write.

The time has been spent wisely, though. I've intentionally taken a week or so to get my business organized. Since May, I've shot well over 2000 still images, and over 10 hours of video that have to be uploaded, cataloged and edited. And, that takes a lot of time.

But, I've run into a snag... I can’t upload (capture) video to my computer. I have a $3500 Canon XH-A1 Hi Definition pro camcorder, a firewire connection, and the top of the line Mac dual quad core Xeon maxed out with 16MB RAM, almost 4 Terabytes of hard drive space, and the best video card available. When I try to transfer video from the DV tape in the camera to Final Cut Express HD or iMovie HD editing software, the program quits -- without warning or error messages. It just quits. Every time. And, in random places during the capture.

I know that's more information than most of you wanted to read, but I included it in this blog entry because I actually need some help.

I’ve been on the phone with both Canon and Apple tech support for a total of over 4 hours. I've reinstalled the editing software, deleted the software's Preferences file, reinstalled the computer's Operating System, tried a different camera… nothing works.

Canon told me that there is no reason there should be any incompatibility between the camera and the software, and that they’ve had no complaints about problems capturing video from this camera. Apple told me that the Canon XH-A1 isn't on their "approved" device list and that I may have to upgrade to either the $8000 Canon XL-H1 camera or the $1200 Pro version of Final Cut's video editing software. That may allow me to upload video, but it still doesn’t answer the question of why the problem occurred in the first place. And, I'm not sure I'm ready to drop $1200 (much less $8000) to find out.

I’m at a loss. I've done everything I know to do, but I still can’t upload my video. Can anyone help me?

Friday, September 14, 2007

Beautiful sunsets and Birthday girls...

Sunsets and Lava Rocks,
Champagne and body shots...

Last night, just before sunset, I drove over to Hwy 36 to get some shots of the rolling fields bathed in that lovely golden evening light. I had a little trouble finding a place to pull over that gave me a good angle of what I wanted to shoot, and I didn't have time to set up my big cameras, but I brought out the next in line in my arsenal, and I made the best of it. I'll go back tonight with the big gear and make sure I get there in plenty of time to set up.

And, all those rocks and boulders you see in the images... Well, I've been told, that a long, long time ago, Mt. Shastina (Mt. Shasta's twin) blew its top and scattered volcanic rock for hundreds of miles. The whole area of Redding, Lassen, and others I haven't been to yet, are strewn with millions of these rocks from the mountain.

After shooting, I figured I'd head out to dinner, and as luck would have it, I got to spend some time with 5 beautiful women at the Market Street Steakhouse in Redding. Craving one of their signature steaks, I went there for a quick dinner (by myself, as usual) and ran into my friends Nicole and Cami. It was their friend, Darcy's, birthday, so they asked me to join them and their two girlfriends
Chris and Katy (did I spell that right?) for a toast... One toast turned into two, two in to three, and the night carried on from there, with singing waiters, 80s music on the jukebox, champagne, and colorful shots with fancy names. (I tried to talk the girls into doing body shots, but nobody was brave enough.)

I had to leave early to go catch up with my friend Lindsey, who was working over at the Sundial Bridge, before it got too late and I turned into a pumpkin. I wound up chatting with Lindsey and her boss, Linda, for over an hour. And, let me tell you... Linda can tell some great stories! If I weren't so tired, I could have stayed there listening to her all night.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Wild Horses... Icons of the American West

(Remember, if an image is too small to see the details, you can always click on it to enlarge it.)

Part I:
Helping these Icons thrive... history and destruction.

Up until about 10 million years ago, horses (and their ancestors) roamed over 60 percent of the present day continental United States. From that time until about 10,000 years ago, with their migration North into Canada, and across the ice bridge into Russia, and South into Central and South America, their numbers here dwindled to just a few small, scattered herds. We stayed relatively "horseless" until sometime around the 1500s when horses were reintroduced to North America by the Spanish and English. It is these horses and their descendants that gave life to the iconic roaming herds of the Wild West.

But, with Man's encroachment on their territory through his self-proclaimed Manifest Destiny...
The American claim is by the right of our manifest destiny to overspread and to possess the whole of the continent which Providence has given us for the development of the great experiment of liberty and federative self-government entrusted to us. It is a right such as that of the tree to the space of air and earth suitable for the full expansion of its principle and destiny of growth.
John O'Sullivan, 1845

...the wild horse has been crowded into ever smaller parcels of land. And whenever an entity is forced into too small an area, whether that entity be man or beast, that area becomes over-burdened and decimated, ultimately resulting in land that is devoid of sustenance for even the smallest band of creatures. We've seen it with cattle over-grazing as well as with human consumption. Too much stress on an ecosystem will cause that ecosystem to fail.

And it's this stress on the horses' ecosystem, with Man taking it over for farming and habitation, and horse populations too large for their remaining lands to support, that caused the Federal Government to step in and take measures to begin reducing their population. Thousands of undernourished and weak horses were removed from their herds and sent to processing plants for feed, cosmetics, and industrial supplies. Over time, the populations were culled even further to include perfectly healthy horses -- partly as a means to reduce the stress on the land, and partly to keep up with the increasing demand for horse-based products.

The emotional part of this tale is beautifully told by John Huston's The Misfits, starring Clark Gable, Montgomery Clift, and Marilyn Monroe. Mostly character-driven, the movie does a great job of depicting the desperation of the wild horse as two down-on-their-luck wranglers (Gable and Clift) try to make a few bucks rounding up the last of the ill-fated mustang herds.

As horse lovers began to recognize the plight of this vanishing icon, they began to foster these horses and set aside land of their own so that the Wild Mustang could once again roam strong and free. Diane Nelson's Wild Horse Sanctuary is one of these places.

A rocky, tree-lined and scrub covered 5000
acres of Mustang paradise located in Shingletown, CA, the Sanctuary sits at the bottom of a sloping hillside that will test the limits of any hiker in the summer, but becomes a virtual garden of eden in the spring. This small patch of land is where over 300 wild, feral, rescued and donated North American Mustangs call home.

I spent 3 days camping in the woods near their tiny, drought-stricken watering hole, hoping
to get some candid shots and compelling video footage of these magnificent animals in what, these days, passes for their natural habitat.

And, even though 5000 acres is a lot of land, it is nowhere near enough for 300 horses to survive on without help. Horses are migratory grazers, just like bison or elk. When they strip an area of food, they must move on to the next area of abundance. When they strip that one bare, they move on to the next. And by the time they come back to where they started (having given it time to reseed and sprout anew), that area is once again lush with food. But with most of today's lands fenced off or developed, these animals can't migrate like they once did, and they are forced to subsist on lands that can never have time to regenerate. So, they must be fed or they must die.

And, Diane has chosen to feed them -- as have many rescue workers who have taken on this tremendous task of saving these beautiful animals. In order to keep their interaction w
ith humans to a minimum, and thus help them retain their wild characteristics, hay is dropped off at various locations for the horses to come eat at their leisure. Without this hay, the horses would literally starve, as they've already eaten and trampled virtually every bit of food naturally available to them on the limited property.

It's far from a perfect world for the horses, but with all the competition for space from developers, farmers, and the American Way of Life, it's th
e best that anyone at this moment in time can do.

Part II
Three days in the WILD... photographing Wild Mustangs!

Wild... It's all in how you look at it. Does it remove you from the convenience of the local Kwik-e-Mart? Do you have to pack in everything you'll need to survive? Does your cel phone stop getting reception past a certain point? If you "fall down go boom" will anyone come to your rescue?

It doesn't matter if you're only a mile or so from a road. If your goal is to rough it without help, then for all practical purposes, you're in the wilderness.

Now, to be honest, I did have to leave the "wilderness" at one point and tend to some
domestic errands in town. But, it wasn't to go get a burger or to take a nap in the air conditioning. No, it was an urgent, quick errand, and the remaining 90% of my time was spent with the horses... in the wilderness. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it!

And, I'll admit, my stay with these incredible creatures was both exhausting and exhilarating. It's hot out there. And dry. But the horses made it all worthwhile.

On my first day, Diane took a few moments and showed me how to get around the property on a photocopy of a topographic map she had. We had a little bit of difficulty finding the correct streambed on the map, but once it was located, I was off to find the watering hole. According to the map, the watering hole was only about a mile from the road, so it shouldn't be too difficult to just strap on my full complement of gear and set up camp all in one trip.

Well, I still managed to follow the wrong streambed (it being dry season, there were several from which to choose), and take the wrong turn on the path (I went left when I should have gone right), and I soon found myself almost to the far edge of the property almost 3 miles from where I needed to be. After having lugged 100lbs of camera and camping gear 2 miles in and another mile up the hillside, I picked a spot, dropped the gear, and scouted the territory around me hoping to find signs of the watering hole.

Another mile of hiking through dusty, rocky terrain and all kinds of scratchy scrub and manzanita, I neared the top of the ridge and still wasn't anywhere close to water. Fortunately, I brought plenty with me. Having reached a nearly impassable stretch of dense foliage, I retraced my steps and made my way back down the ridge toward the road where I parked the car.

I was exhausted. I began my hike around 9:30am and it was now after 2pm. My legs were
trembling from carrying so much weight, and my spirits were crushed because I couldn't find such an "easy to find" watering hole.

I had totally given up on my idea to camp and track the wild mustangs, and was about 10
minutes from the car, when I saw an angel.

No, I wasn't hallucinating. On her way to the watering hole to change out the memory cards in her cameras was National Geographic photographer, Melissa Farlow. She was there on assignment, and had heard I was there to photograph for my Vanishing America project. (Word does get around!) Boy, was I glad to see her!

She told
me we were very close to the watering hole, and she had me put down my gear and follow her. And, she was right. Not more than 100 yards from where I stood was the dried creek bed. The correct one this time! And another 100 yards beyond that was the triple set of shallow pools, fed by a trickle of a mountain stream where the wild horses went to drink.

From there on, I was in my element. I set up camp amongst a
grove of trees on the east side of the creekbed, far enough away from the watering hole so as not to spook the horses when they came by for a drink.

I set up two video cameras in varying strategic (and hidden) locations to get footage of the bands coming in and out of the area, and I took to various hiding spots with
my still cameras to get the best vantage point for some great horse portraits.

It was a lot of work to do on my own, but for now, I wouldn't have it any other way.

Now, Wild Horses are a skittish bunch, and even though these guys were used to seeing humans occasionally, they were no exception. Any move I made could send them running off in another direction, ruining any chance I had of getting a decent shot. And, sometimes I wasn't the only one to send them running. Since the horses tended to group themselves into small bands of anywhere from 3 to 15, the arrival of another band could be enough to cause them to turn tail and head for the hills.

But, through patience, persistence, and keeping an ear out for the sound of hoof on rock, I managed to have at least one camera in the right place at the right time, and came away with some successful shots. And, even though some of the shots are just "documentary" and don't meet the high standards I have for my artwork, they are great images nonetheless. This
image, for instance, of the horse that had had just about enough of the heat was fortunately captured both as a still and as hi-def video. And, he was doing exactly what I had wanted to do since I'd arrived -- go for a swim!

Unfortunately, there wasn't enough water for me to take a dip. There was just enough for the horses to come by for a drink and then mosey back to wherever they came from so they could attend to whatever business horses have to attend to.

It's a little surreal when all you see are full-grown horses. But on occasion, I was fortunate enough to see a momma with
her little foal. Life out on the Sanctuary is protected, but it's tough. And it's real. And these horses are living life just like they had for millions of years... playing, fighting, mating, and having babies. And, the babies are as healthy and playful as anyone would expect a foal to be. But, they're obedient, too. They know that they'd better not get too far away from mom and dad, lest they become lost, or worse yet, lunch for a hungry mountain lion.

All in all, it was a tiring, but wonderful experience. And,
although much of what I've come back with is documentary, I've learned a lot about how to photograph horses in the wild. Granted, the herds in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming may be more difficult to track, much less get close enough to for pictures, but I at least have an idea of how to approach them -- and, more importantly, how to set up the next shoot so that I can obtain some truly great images.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Sleeping with the Horses...

I'm back!

Once again, I'm beat. Three days of camping and shooting in the Wild Horse Sanctuary in Shingletown has flat out exhausted me. Damn, I'm out of shape! I was camped only about a 15 minute walk from the road, but it was tough terrain. The whole area was hot, dry, rocky wilderness (and, yes, for all practical purposes, the Sanctuary IS wilderness terrain).

And, I got some great pictures. And some great video footage, as well. But, you'll have to wait. It will take me a couple of days to go through it all and post some images for you. I'm resting today (or should I call it "recovering"), but I'll try to write a good piece and post it tomorrow.

After that, I think I'm headed to Oregon (finally).

And, the Land Rover conversion is coming along nicely. Pretty soon I'll have my own 4WD and won't have to keep using rental cars.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Sleeping with Wild Horses...

Well, okay, not really sleeping with them, but I will be sleeping near them. The folks who run the Wild Horse Sanctuary in nearby Shingletown just gave me permission to spend a couple of days on their ranch while I work on getting images and video footage for my Vanishing America and Untamed projects.

I'll be hiking around their 5000 acres and camping at least one night anywhere I see fit. Damn, they're good people!

And, as luck would have it, there is someone from National Geographic out there already doing some video footage for one of their specials. I couldn't have planned it better if I'd tried! :-)

All I have to worry about is finding the herds, getting good images, and watching out for Lions and Tigers and Bears. Oh my!

Well, not so much the Tigers, but mountain lions and bears have been spotted in the past. And there are plenty of rattlesnakes to cuddle up with, so I don't expect I'll get too lonely.

And, of course, I'll bring back some fantastic images! So stay tuned...

Redding's Sundial Bridge

A marvel of modern architecture... right up my alley!

Tuesday night, just before midnight, when they turn of all the lights, I went out to photograph Redding's most prominent landmark. The Sundial Bridge, designed by international architect Santiago Calatrava, crosses the Sacramento River just outside downtown Redding, and has become one of the most recognizable (and most photographed) features in the area. Calatrava ( is known around the world for his sensual, organic shapes and creative support methods, changing the face of many cities with his memorable pieces, including the Athens Olympic Sports Complex and the Lyon Airport Station in France.

As some of you may know, Architectural Photography is the one commercial avenue of photography that really intrigues me. Weddings don't do it. Traditional portraits don't do it. Sports don't do it. For whatever reason, I have a deeply rooted connection with compelling architecture. I studied Architecture for a year at Georgia Tech, and was intrigued by the ancient architecture of the Olde World that we studied in Art classes at UGA, but my interests in the field go back much farther than that, although I can't quite pinpoint the actual moment of epiphany.

Where it came from, I don't know. But, what I do know is that it inspires me to this day. And I se
em to have a natural talent for it. I was even doing regular pieces for San Diego Magazine, and Trump Resorts, and had my work published in three separate international coffee table books before I left San Diego to embark on this journey.

What really got me into architectural
photography was the discovery of my Una Nuova Vita series of San Diego's North Park Theatre by architect Wallace Cunningham. He asked me to shoot one of his creations for San Diego Magazine, and, with a little tutoring and some loaner equipment from my good friend and photographer Pablo Mason, I got a cover shot and a 10 page spread. Everything else snowballed from there.

Since then, I've shot in Mexico, Palm Springs, San Diego, and Atlanta, and, during this trip, I'll have the opportunity to shoot
all over the rest of the country. And, with the right exposure, in the next several years, I will be able to make it over to Dubai to shoot some of the most incredible modern architecture in the world. (Do a Google image search for "Dubai" and you'll see what I mean.)

Like the phenomenal designs in Dubai, the Sundial Bridge is one
of those unique examples of architecture that inspire me. And I'd be remiss if, during my delay here in Redding, I didn't go out and shoot it at least once. Now that I think about it, I may just go back and shoot it again!

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Former hometown boy chronicles rural America

What's News in Alpharetta, Georgia? Well, I'll tell ya...!

Well, would you look at that! An article in my hometown paper. Mom will be so proud!

Here's the link to the full article:

Alpharetta and Roswell Revue & News
Photographer travels, snaps shots of 'Vanishing America'
by Christine Braden
August 29, 2007

It's a great big country out there and a hometown boy, Holt Webb, is aiming to see it all before it vanishes forever.

Over the next two years, Webb, a professional photographer, will do what he does best – take pictures to elicit emotion within people. Using his camera he will capture the people, places, culture and architecture that are slowly disappearing from the American experience.

The project, aptly named "Vanishing America," is unique, if not also just a little bit nostalgic.

"Vanishing America is equal parts fine art photography and photojournalism specifically designed to capture the beauty and enchantment of the unique elements of our history and culture that are in danger of disappearing within the next two to three generations," said Webb, who grew up in Alpharetta, but now lives in San Diego, Calif.

Inspired by a childhood of canvassing the local woods, 38-year-old Webb – back in town for his 20-year Milton High School reunion – can remember a time when community history was preserved and the wilderness was left wild.

He recalls spending many summer afternoons biking through rural Alpharetta with his brother and some friends to the old Stovall's Grocery store. Even at his young age, Webb can remember the day the boys were stopped on their well worn trail by a large tractor getting ready to plow a new neighborhood – directly in the middle of their private, boys-only world.

"I've felt a sadness and frustration as development for housing and shopping took those places away from me," he said. "And, now, as an adult, seeing that same thing happen in San Diego and across the country at an increasingly rapid rate, I've decided enough is enough." (Article continues... follow this link or the link below.)
Link to the full article:

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Petroglyph Point

Graffiti, New and Old...

Petroglyph: A drawing made by carving into a rock face or other hard surface.
A drawing made with inks, dyes, or other painterly methods.

Yesterday took me to Lava Beds National Monument in Lassen National Park to view the remains of ancient drawings carved into the rock over 4000 years ago.

The location is called Petroglyph Point, and is, essentially, a huge sandstone outcropping in the Tule Lake basin about two hours North East of Redding, CA. During the time of the Modoc Indians, the entire basin was covered by the lake. And, periodically, the Modoc would paddle canoes out to the island for sacred rituals, carving details of their lives into the soft sandstone.

As the years went by, the water level of the lake would rise and fall, requiring carvings to be made at different levels on the rock face. Over several thousand years, the water level would alternately cover and expose the carvings
. As a result, the older carvings that were protected by the water are in much better condition than the carvings that had to face the harsh sun and wind.

As the Modoc tribes disappeared, and white men came into the area, the water level was
low enough to expose hundreds of acres around the rock outcrop, giving anyone who wished easy walking access to the carvings. Unfortunately, because of this easy access, there is quite a bit of modern graffiti mixed in among the ancient petroglyphs. Today the rock face is fenced off to help protect the ancient artwork, but the sandstone is fragile, and time and weather will eventually erase the writings and images from the stone forever.

But, until that day comes, one can still see the ancient carvings and even hike to the top of the "island" for a beautiful panoramic view of the surrounding volcanic plains and Tule Lake.

Sunday, September 02, 2007


Water, Water, Everywhere! (with apologies to Samuel Taylor Coleridge)

A quick ride up to Dunsmuir took me and my friend and tour guide, Stephanie, to two beautiful waterfalls... Hedge Creek Falls, with a cave behind the falls that notorious stagecoach robber Black Bart used for a hideout, and Mossbrae Falls, a wide series of beautiful falls cascading down a steep rock face covered with lush green vegetation.

Both locations were a welcome cool contrast to the 100 degree heat of the day.

The walk to Hedge Creek was short and sweet, maybe a hundred yards, but quiet and pretty and easily accessible even by moms with strollers.

The walk to Mossbrae Falls, on the other hand, was a bit longer, yet much more exciting. In order to get to Mossbrae Falls, you have to walk a mile alongside an active railroad track, keeping an eye out for the trains that seem to run every hour. If you're not careful, you could be living a scene right out of the movie Stand by Me.

The path to the falls is just before the track's 1901 truss bridge, which, in itself is an exciting walk, as it
crosses the river at over 100 feet in the air. I'll make sure to get some great images on my return visit next week.

(photo courtesy of Stephanie Berg)

Wild Horse Sanctuary

Yesterday I drove to Shingletown to scout out the Wild Horse Sanctuary. Great place! I just went to check it out for a later visit with all my cameras, and found it to be not only a sanctuary for the horses, but a beautiful place to just wander around and explore.

I wandered around for about an hour (I didn't bring adequate water to stay longer), coming across numerous beautiful horses of all shapes, colors and sizes, including several young foals and a couple of newly minted babies.

This particular little fellow was so new that he hardly had the energy to do more than nap. But his momma made sure she kept a close eye on him.

I'll bring you some more images when I go back for the "real deal".

From the Wild Horse Sanctuary website:
In the spring and summer months, to raise money to support the horses, the Sanctuary offers 2 and 3-day weekend pack trips to the public. We also offer a 4 day cattle drive. Each day ride the trails created by the wild horses and burros through pine and oak-studded hills--a bit of paradise dotted with meadows, woods, creeks, and ponds. Bordering Vernal Lake, our base camp consists of frontier style sleeping cabins: a "cook" house featuring a main kitchen, a wood-burning stove, hearty meals, and bathroom facilities, complete with hot shower.
About the Sanctuary:

Rather than allow 80 wild horses living on public land to be destroyed, the founders of the Wild Horse Sanctuary made a major life decision right then and there to rescue these unwanted horses and create a safe home for them. And just as quickly, they launched a media campaign to bring attention to the plight of these and hundreds of other wild horses across the west that eventually led to a national moratorium on killing un-adoptable wild horses.

The Sanctuary is located near Shingletown, California on 5,000 acres of lush lava rock-strewn mountain meadow and forest land. Black Butte is to the west and towering Mt. Lassen is to the east. The current location features better accessibility for the public, a milder winter climate with more natural cover, and other benefits for the horses.

The Sunday paper! How about that? The first Vanishing America write-up is in the Redding Sunday paper. Pretty good start. Here's the link: