Saturday, August 08, 2009

Vanishing America Coffee Table Book

I'm test marketing a coffee table book of my favorite images from The Vanishing America Project. It's a large 116 page 11x13 inch hardcover with a glossy dust jacket, and it looks great.

Since this is just a test marketing effort, the book is not being mass produced. It is being produced one at a time (as they are ordered) at

Since they are only printed as they are ordered, they are not cheap. However, they are beautiful.

Take a peek at, and vote for it for the Photography.Book.Now People's Choice Award!

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Alpharetta's Dixie Diner

The Dixie Diner had been an Alpharetta icon since 1964. You could walk in on any given morning and find an eclectic mix of locals from farmers to businessmen... all sharing in some coffee and some comfort food to help them jump start their busy day.

I'd been meaning to photograph the diner since I began this project in 2007. But, by the time I made my way back to Alpharetta from California, the diner was gone. One of Alpharetta's last ties to its small-town country past finally gave up the ghost to progress and development.

The empty lot has since been paved, but nothing has moved in to take its place. So, I took advantage of a break in the rainy weather and walked from Wills Park up to the sacred spot where The Dixie Diner once stood. It was a beautiful morning, and I was rewarded with the gentle scent of honeysuckle and the delicate white flowers of wild blackberry growing on the side of the road. Everything was covered in morning dew, and the sun was just beginning to peek above the treeline.

To truly understand why I took a photograph of an empty lot, one would have to know The Dixie Diner... or at least have fond memories of a beloved old diner in their own hometown. Just like the smell of a warm apple pie can bring back childhood memories of your grandmother baking in the kitchen, a photograph of a favorite place can conjure up its own memories of good times and good friends long forgotten.

I wish I could provide you an old photograph of the Dixie Diner from its heyday, but all I could dig up was a shot of the original building, back when it was a Jolly Chef. Yet another reason The Vanishing America Project is so important... Without photos and stories as reminders, the memories of Alpharetta's Dixie Diner will fade away with the passing of each generation.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

On the way to Arizona...

I hit the road today, with Reggie in the co-pilot seat and Missy hiding under the couch.

After a slow start, around 1pm, I left Alpharetta, GA headed for Prescott, Arizona for the first Overland Expo ( where BABS and The Greasy Beast will be on display for a crowd of over 300 attendees. But, more on that when I get there.

Right now it's raining, and I'm sitting in a Flying J parking lot near Olive Branch, in the far Northwest corner of Mississippi, just a few miles outside of Memphis, TN (yes, Memphis is right next to Mississippi.

Having lived the bulk of my life in Georgia, it's natural for me to compare every place I travel to my home state. Not that I think my state is better than any of the other 49, but you have to have some point of reference in order for the world to make sense, and Georgia is my reference.

In that vein, I couldn't help but notice how similar northern Alabama and Mississippi are to North Georgia -- or, rather, how North Georgia used to be. I'm talking about the countryside of North Georgia, just south of the Blue Ridge Mountains, where trees and streams and rolling hills define the terrain. A lot of that terrain has been (or is currently being) developed to accommodate the surge in population and the desire to live outside of the city limits.

Streams are being diverted (or destroyed altogether), lakes and ponds are being filled in, trees are being cut down, and houses and shopping centers are being planted in their place. It all happens so fast that we often don't even see it coming.

My drive through Alabama and Mississippi reminded me of how beautiful Georgia used to be. (Don't get me wrong, Georgia is still beautiful, but it's nothing like it was 20 years ago).

These two Southern neighbors are, as yet, untouched by development (comparitively speaking), and therefore are full of grand vistas of trees, rolling hills, and tiny valleys coming together in narrow streams with overhanging trees and an abundance of green.

In my travels, I've only crossed a few streams in my vehicles -- as most of the bridges I travel upon cross over other roads. But in Alabama and Mississippi, as I headed West over the relatively new Highway 78, there were very few crossroads. Almost every bridge I crossed spanned a beautiful stream or pond that would be completely missed by anyone in a car zipping along at 70mph. (Fortunately, my high vantage point in BABS allowed me to see what everyone else is missing. Unfortunately, because it is a new highway, there wasn't any room to pull the bus over for snapshots.)

It was truly refreshing, and encouraging, to see so much untouched Nature so close to a major highway this far East of the Mississippi River. But, it was also bittersweet... for the current Highway 78 is to be the future I-22.

Yes, another major Interstate Freeway is in the works, and I will tell you right now, that the vistas you see along Highway 78 today will be pockmarked with subdivisions, malls, gas stations, and shopping centers tomorrow.

Catch it while you can folks. It's a Vanishing America.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Newsletter and updates

This is the first of a series of regular updates (newsletter-style) to keep supporters of The Vanishing America Project informed.

As the support base grows, the newsletter will be improved, and as the bond strengthens between the Project and organizations like The Captain Planet Foundation, The Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeepers, and The Sierra Club, new educational elements will be added.

For now, we'll keep it simple and easy to read.

See you on the road!


Colorado and Utah -- The Humane Society has received a donation of two Pre-Owned Land Rovers to help them with their study, The Assateague of the West Wild Horse Project – a program designed to help control the herd population on BLM lands. I am currently in touch with The Humane Society’s public relations department to get permission to join the scientists in the field so I can document their efforts and capture some exceptional images of mustangs in the wild. If the trip is approved, I will begin the task of raising the $3500 it will take to get me out there and keep me there for a month. Sponsors, warm up those checkbooks!

Arizona -- On April 18th, I will hit the road in BABS, with The Greasy Beast in tow, to attend the First Overland Expo in Prescott, Arizona. The vehicles will be featured at the expo, and I will have an opportunity to meet numerous vendors, travelers, and power players in the world of overland travel. It could be an opportunity to bring aboard more sponsors and get national recognition for The Project. I’ll also be taking classes ranging from off-road vehicle recovery to navigation and safety. This trip is sponsored by one of my biggest supporters, Carole Webb.

-- After the event in Arizona, I will be taking a brief side trip to San Diego to take care of some personal business.

Tennessee -- On May 9th, BABS and I will be donating our services to photograph the Third Annual Pink Bandanna Ball in Chattanooga, Tennessee. It is the goal of Emily's Power for a Cure to raise funds and awareness to fight Neuroblastoma, while helping families who are actively fighting this disease. In 2008 Emily's Power for a cure pledged $300,000 to TC Thompson Children's Hospital for the purchase of a pediatric CT scanner. This scanner will greatly benefit the lives of children with cancer and make it easier to diagnose and treat many childhood illnesses. Check them out at


The Vanishing America Project is in a constant search for funding sources, and is currently looking into “Fiscal Agents”. Fiscal Agents are 501(c)3 organizations that help artists, scientists, researchers, etc. by allowing them to channel fund, grants, and donations through the organization’s tax-exempt umbrella. If accepted into one of these organizations, the number of grants and funding opportunities available to The Vanishing America Project would increase by up to 90%. Though never a guarantee that funds will find their way, or that grant applications will be accepted, the odds will be improved.

Print Sales

Several hundred of the best images from The Vanishing America Project are now on sale at:

Limited time only!

Beginning Monday, April 13 and ending Monday, April 20, I will offer supporters a special discount on print purchases at A password is required, so email me if you would like to take advantage of this special offer.


This coming June, Land Rover Lifestyle Magazine is planning a two-page spread about The Vanishing America Project. I’ve seen the mock-up, and it looks great! I’ll keep you posted. In the meantime, check out the magazine online at


Name Your Dream Assignment

Unfortunately, The Vanishing America Project fell out of the top 20 in the Name Your Dream Assignment contest. I begged, coerced, and pleaded with everyone I know to go online and vote, but no matter how hard I tried, I simply couldn’t obtain enough votes to stay in it. I’m disappointed, but that’s the way it goes.

Nature’s Best Photography

The Vanishing America Project is also entered into Nature’s Best Magazine’s 2009 Windland Smith Rice International Awards competition.

More than $15,000 in cash and prizes will be awarded. The winning photographs will be published in the Awards 2009 Collector’s Edition of Nature’s Best Photography, and may be selected for our annual exhibition at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC, and displayed in other locations and photo gallery presentations related to the Awards competition. Entries are judged on technical quality, originality, and artistic merit. Winners should be announced in May/June.

For details, visit:, an online service where anyone can publish their own book and sell it through their online channels is sponsoring the Photography Book Now competition.

“Photography.Book.Now is a celebration of the most creative, most innovative, and finest photography books – and the people behind them. Now in its second year, this international juried book competition is an opportunity for photographers of all stripes to showcase their work to a world-renowned panel of judges, and take a shot at a $25K grand prize.”

I have been updating The Vanishing America Project portfolio book that was printed by last year, and will be entering it into the Photography Book Now competition. It is currently a “Staff Pick”, so my chances are good.


The Vanishing America Project presents at REI

Over the past couple of weeks, The Vanishing America Project has made presentations at three of the Atlanta area REI locations. The turnout was modest, but the experience and the connection with the nation’s largest outdoor gear retailer was well worth the effort.

Vanishing America Photo Contest

Coming soon…

The Vanishing America Project will be launching its own photography contest open to the general public. Prizes will include Professional Digital cameras and cash. The first round of judging will be by popular vote, and finalists will be judged by a panel of professionals, including yours truly!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Next Stop... Prescott, AZ!

Next stop on the Vanishing America Journey is a visit to Prescott, Arizona, where BABS and The Greasy Beast will be Featured Vehicles in the First Annual Overland Expo (

This is guaranteed to be a great event, with classes and seminars on overland driving, vehicle recovery, navigation, and first aid, just to name a few. There will also be presentations by well-established overland travelers and a large exposition of products and services exclusively for the overlanding community, including the highest quality equipment, vehicles, camping and outdoor gear to see, test, and purchase.

(From the Overland Expo website)

Overland Expo.2009 ~ Adventure, Exploration, & Conservation

Overlanding is a different way of exploring our world - whether 100 miles or 10,000 miles from home - in comfort, safety, and style. It's camping like you've never experienced.

Overland Expo.2009 is an all-new and exclusive event for people who see their 4WD or ADV motorcycle as a means to adventure and exploration, and who see travel as a portal to learning about the world, as well as a means to conserving its beauty and preserving its unique cultures.

No other event for 4WD or motorcycles combines intensive education modules, social opportunities to visit with hundreds of other enthusiasts and to share information and experiences, and a wide array of product

and service vendors just for overlanding-related activities, both mechanized and human-powered. Service and conservation organizations, land agencies, and clubs/associations will also be on-hand April 24 - 26, 2009.

Check them out at!

And, as always, you can find more information about The Vanishing America Project at:

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Vanishing America Photos now on Sale!

In this crazy economy, spending several hundred dollars or more on a Gallery-Edition work of art can really put a strain on the family budget. Yet, at the same time, you want to support The Vanishing America Project any way you can, and you love the images so much that you absolutely HAVE to have them on your wall!

Well, now you can.

I have set up several galleries on a special website, making available hundreds of images from my travels around the United States. From Wild Mustangs to pristine landscapes, the images are every bit as stunning and beautiful as the Gallery series. And they are VERY affordable! The only thing they lack is the signature!

Go to to order anything from a little 4x6 postcard to a huge 30x40 poster, and everything in between. (8x10 prints are only $30, and big 16x20 prints are only $75!)

You can even order t-shirts, mugs, keychains, and other merchandise with the image of your choice.

So, go to and fill up your walls with some great photographic art!

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

The Vanishing America Project NEEDS YOUR VOTE!

This is the chance The Vanishing America Project has been waiting for... a chance to win $50,000 toward the completion of this project.

The top 20 winners of the popular vote move on to professional judging, and the competition only runs for 30 days, so we need 100 VOTES PER DAY to make this happen!

If you haven't voted already, it only takes a minute. Just register here:

activate your account, log in, click the button that says “PIC IT” next to The Vanishing America Project, and you're done!

And, as always, check out the full-blown Vanishing America Project website at for travel updates, galleries, and all sorts of great information!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Collecting Used Vegetable Oil...

Many of you have asked me how I get the oil that I use to run my vehicles. Well, read on...

Now, keep in mind, you can't just pull up to any restaurant and take what you want. Most restaurants have contracts with renderers (oil collection companies) for exclusive rights to pick up the oil. That's why I avoid the chain restaurants (they are less likely to bend the rules) and focus on the independently-owned eateries (who tend to be friendlier and more interested in helping out the little guy... like me).

But, simply finding the mom and pop shops won't guarantee that you'll get your oil. With used veggie oil being such a commodity these days (what with it being used to make biodiesel, animal feeds, hair products, cosmetics, etc.), simply taking what you need without permission amounts to stealing, as most places have a bin (often provided by the renderer) outside near the trash dumpsters where they dump the oil and the renderer comes to collect it.

But, if you get permission, or make arrangements ahead of time to get the oil before it is dumped into the renderer's container, then you can have whatever the restaurant is willing to give you.

This photo series is from a recent collection visit to a country club in the Southeast (names have been withheld to protect the innocent.) :-)

Getting the oil from the dumpster to the fuel tank:

Obviously the process is easier if I collect the oil in the Land Rover because I can maneuver it closer to the container. But, sometimes I have to collect in BABS (which requires a lot more room).

To get the oil from the dumpster to the tank, I use a pump. Some people use buckets, but many dumpsters now have grates on them, and a bucket just won't fit through those little holes.

I have two types of pumps: one is an electrical pump (from an RV water system!) The other is what's called a "Barrel Pump" and is, essentially, a hand-cranked turbine. Obviously, the electrical pump is easier to use, but requires a power source... in this case, the Land Rover itself. I use the barrel pump when I have to collect oil in the motor home. There is plenty of power to run the electrical pump, but I can't get the motor home close enough to the dumpster, and the hoses simply won't reach.

To use the electrical pump, I connect the pump's electrical wiring to the Defender, connect one hose to the bladder tank in the Defender's bed and another hose to the siphon tube that goes into the oil dumpster. Then I just flick the switch and let it go. I can get up to 85 gallons in the bladder tank.

If I have to use the hand pump, I just pump directly into 5 gallon plastic containers and then dump them into the filter tank on the motor home. It's a lot messier, and definitely tiresome, but using the barrel pump is a lot faster than the electrical pump, so there is a trade-off.

And, whether I'm using the barrel pump or the electrical pump, I always cover the end of the siphon tube with a couple of layers of chiffon fabric. It's strong, lightweight, and the perfect mesh for keeping debris out of my oil.

It's a fairly simple process... I just pump the oil out of the restaurant's container and into mine. And, once I have the oil in the filter tank on my motor home, I turn on the tank heater, warm up the oil, then turn on the centrifuge to spin out the finer particles and the water. After an hour or two (depending how dirty the oil was to begin with), I have clean oil that I can use to run my engine. I transfer the newly cleaned oil into my clean veggie tank, and I'm on my way (well, after I clean up my mess, of course...)

Gettin' Greasy...

In the photos, you can see how dirty and sticky the used oil is. And, it gets everywhere. If you ever want to return to your source for more oil, you definitely have to keep your workspace clean. So, I lay down some cardboard (when I can find it) and always clean up any spills (no matter how small). The best products I've found for cleaning up a veggie oil mess is Clean-Rite's Purple Power and Scott's Shop Towels.

Let the Purple Power sit for a minute, and it will clean oil off of anything. And the Shop Towels are absorbent and tough enough not to fall apart even when wiping grease off of concrete. (And, when I'm done, I put the towels in a jar and use them as fire starters for when I'm camping! How's THAT for recycling?)

As I stated before, it's a messy job. So, if you're a neat freak... forget it. Get your gas at the gas station. But, if you don't mind getting dirty, and want to do your part to lower vehicle emissions... then get greasy!