Learning to Hunt Jackrabbits with Miles Davis

April 28th, 2017 Permalink

I was fortunate enough to attend the NAFA (National American Falconer’s Association) 2016 meet in Elk City, OK to photograph and cover the only woman in the United States who hunts with a golden eagle for Amtrack’s magazine “The National”.   After covering a wild mustang story together for “Hemispheres Magazine”, writer Eric Benson and I [...]

I was fortunate enough to attend the NAFA (National American Falconer’s Association) 2016 meet in Elk City, OK to photograph and cover the only woman in the United States who hunts with a golden eagle for Amtrack’s magazine “The National”.   After covering a wild mustang story together for “Hemispheres Magazine”, writer Eric Benson and I set our sites on a new goal and found this amazing young woman and her passion for raptors.  In the article, you will learn about Lauren McGough, how she became a berkutchi in Mongolia and how she is one of the few females who is a part of NAFA.  You’ll also learn about the beauty and frustration of hunting for jackrabbits with the massive beast she calls a “Prarie Dragon”.

Eric and I went on two hunts with Lauren and Miles  (along a with a team of  ”scare-boys”), and  I have to say is it’s akin to running a hilly half marathon – often with no prize at the end.   During the chase, I was able to observe Lauren and Miles through my 200mm lens and all I could think was, “They look like they’re going to take off together.”   They were truly a team.

Photographers and writers often work separately, and I think it does a disservice to the written and visual parts storytelling – so it was great to be a team with Eric again.  With that said, I’m leaving the words to him – you can read it online here:  http://www.amtrakthenational.com/lauren-mcgough-mother-of-dragons.   As for some of the visuals, you can come along with us to the fields of Oklahoma and experience some of what it was like to hunt for miles….. with Miles.

Weigh – in time.  Miles has to step on the scale so Lauren can check his weight before a hunt.  She likes him to be a bit light so she know’s he’s hungry and motivated.

Surveying the scene.

Lauren directing us on which way to walk  (according to the wind).

Miles and Lauren charging up a hill.

Miles in flight. The rabbit won this one.

The owner of the Oklahoma farm we hunted on was nice enough to find us to bring snacks and water.

The “team” in the fields of Oklahoma.

Even though Miles didn’t catch anything, he is rewarded with rabbit bits.

And… the post-hunt reward for the “scare-boys”.

Hunt #2 – The line of ‘scare-boys” starting out with Lauren and Miles.

He’s off – hot on the trail of a jackrabbit!

Success at last!  Note for sensitive people – the rabbit dies very quickly.

Miles is taken off the rabbit and given a piece of quail.  If he stays too long with the rabbit, it can break the bond between the bird and the human.

I’m gonna miss that face.

Monster Margaritas + Wild Waves + Mass Humanity = Fun I Phone Photo Project!

March 9th, 2017 Permalink

Several years ago my brother and his wife started taking their kids up to Wilderness Lodge in the Wisconsin Dells for a little mid-winter break.  It wasn’t their usual vacation, but they started to enjoy the benefits of a weekend with a bunch of other midwesterners in a faux-tropical environment filled with chlorinated water, screeching [...]

Several years ago my brother and his wife started taking their kids up to Wilderness Lodge in the Wisconsin Dells for a little mid-winter break.  It wasn’t their usual vacation, but they started to enjoy the benefits of a weekend with a bunch of other midwesterners in a faux-tropical environment filled with chlorinated water, screeching children, and margaritas the size of a human head.  He always said, “You’ve got to see this place”.  Last year I finally went and witnessed the most bizarre environment I’d ever seen:  Fathers floating on “The Lazy River” with a napping infant, families gathered together on towels with babies and booze,  grandparents taking a plunge down the treacherous ”Hurricane”.

What a perfect sociological study!  What a perfect photo project! I quickly realized that I couldn’t pull out my large camera, as I’d really look creepy and probably get kicked out.  So this year I documented some of it on my i phone.  My niece told me I looked creepy anyway, so I eventually stopped shooting.   I think what I got was worth it; I want the world to witness this American phenomenon without the suffering.  Enjoy –  I bet you can almost smell the chlorine and tequila.

Alissa & Zach

October 12th, 2016 Permalink

On October 1st, I spent a rainy but beautiful Saturday at the Grand Geneva in Lake Geneva, WI photographing the wedding of Alissa & Zach.   Alissa’ s family has been neighbors and friends with my family for over 50 years and this connection made it an extra special wedding shoot.  Like any wedding day, [...]

On October 1st, I spent a rainy but beautiful Saturday at the Grand Geneva in Lake Geneva, WI photographing the wedding of Alissa & Zach.   Alissa’ s family has been neighbors and friends with my family for over 50 years and this connection made it an extra special wedding shoot.  Like any wedding day, there inevitably were perfect and imperfect moments, and I was so glad to be there for all of them.  In the end, the beautiful moments stood out – even during the most stressful parts of the day.

Zach and Alissa grew up in the same neighborhood and were buddies throughout childhood.  When they were 12 Zach told Alissa he was going to marry her. When they were in their teens, Zach hid outside and waited for Alissa to break up with a boy that was wrong for her.  When he left, Zach rang the doorbell to ask Alissa to their prom.  And… the rest is history.  Congratulations you two!  It was an amazing privilege to photograph your big day!

Happy Bruce Day!

September 23rd, 2016 Permalink

Happy Birthday Bruce! I just read “Vanity Fair’s” article on Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography, “Born to Run”, and he talks about how he has a major let – down after his concerts are over. It’s comforting to know he feels the pain too.  I remember after one of his concerts with a friend I said, “What? [...]

Happy Birthday Bruce!

I just read “Vanity Fair’s” article on Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography, “Born to Run”, and he talks about how he has a major let – down after his concerts are over. It’s comforting to know he feels the pain too.  I remember after one of his concerts with a friend I said, “What? We’re just supposed to leave now and go back to our normal, boring lives?”

I took this photo last April for Backstreets Magazine during Bruce Springsteen’s ”The River”  tour in Milwaukee.  It was an extra special shoot because my brother Steve was also at the concert and he had seats right behind the stage.  While I was standing on the platform with the other photographers, we saw each other and I snapped a photo of him with my sister-in-law, Debbie.  At that moment I was so happy we got to share another Springsteen concert experience.  We’re all looking a little older, but that same energy is there.

After begging to see The Police at age 13 and Tears for Fears at 15,  I was finally allowed to go to my first concert at 16.   On August 9, 1985,  I went to see Bruce at Soldier Field with Steve and a friend.  It was general admission, so we had to wait most of the day outside of the stadium.  We sat on the sidewalk in the heat for hours until they opened the doors, and when the moment came, all I remember is my brother yelling, “Run!”

We tore through people and fought our way to the front part of the field (not front row but we were closer than mid -field).   After 4 hours of amazingness and the dark, electric drive home, I took a bath, the water turned black, and I realized great things are worth waiting for.  Even if you have to leave them.

Mexican Pride

September 12th, 2016 Permalink

This little girl made September 11 a little brighter.  5- year-old Nancy Venega on her horse before the start of East Chicago’s Mexican Independence Day Parade, Sunday September 11, 2016.

This little girl made September 11 a little brighter.  5- year-old Nancy Venega on her horse before the start of East Chicago’s Mexican Independence Day Parade, Sunday September 11, 2016.

Black and White

August 2nd, 2016 Permalink

I decided I was going to be a photographer one way or another after taking a basic black and white course at the Maine Media Workshops in Rockport, ME.  I ran across the photos I took before everything went digital and I was just out having fun. Right when those little Italian schoolgirls came running [...]

I decided I was going to be a photographer one way or another after taking a basic black and white course at the Maine Media Workshops in Rockport, ME.  I ran across the photos I took before everything went digital and I was just out having fun. Right when those little Italian schoolgirls came running toward me, I knew I was hooked.  If you are ever thinking of getting away from it all and learning a new skill, I highly recommend this little gem of a place.  I learned to see Paris, Florence, and my own backyard in a completely new way.   (The last photo is my favorite.  My nephew Sean sipping pretend tea – those cheeks are gone – he’s 16!)

Atlantic City

July 24th, 2016 Permalink

“Everything dies baby, that’s a fact, but everything that dies someday comes back.”  Bruce Springsteen’s lyric from his song “Atlantic City” came to mind when I found this old photo of my grandfather’s brother Phil strolling along the boardwalk in Atlantic City – dressed to kill.  He signed it for my grandfather, “To Rog, Phil”. [...]

“Everything dies baby, that’s a fact, but everything that dies someday comes back.”  Bruce Springsteen’s lyric from his song “Atlantic City” came to mind when I found this old photo of my grandfather’s brother Phil strolling along the boardwalk in Atlantic City – dressed to kill.  He signed it for my grandfather, “To Rog, Phil”.  I don’t think I’d want some of the backward attitudes and beliefs to return, but can some of the class, clothes, and music come back?    What a dapper man (even the little girl in the picture is turning around to look at him) and what a great photo to remember the New Jersey Tennants.

The Most Beautiful Girl in the World

June 22nd, 2016 Permalink

My first memories are of spending time with the most beautiful girl in the world.  Last month she turned 80.  She’s taught me a lot about beauty – in life, in the world and within ourselves.  My mother Virginia never feared aging, never loathed getting older, and never stared in the mirror wishing her wrinkles [...]

My first memories are of spending time with the most beautiful girl in the world.  Last month she turned 80.  She’s taught me a lot about beauty – in life, in the world and within ourselves.  My mother Virginia never feared aging, never loathed getting older, and never stared in the mirror wishing her wrinkles away.  She always sees the positive and she literally glows because of it.  I’ve been a bit different and I’m hoping that her constant urging to not fear aging is somehow getting into my consciousness.  I know that I would chose her beauty over the fear and the clinging to youth that can be seen on the frozen faces of many of my generation and beyond (but check back with me, you never know as I get further on down the line).  All I know is that if I can emulate her spirit, her intelligence and her active lifestyle when I am her age (if I am lucky enough to be her age),  I will be eternally grateful.

In the 70′s Charlie Rich’s song  ”The Most Beautiful Girl in the World” was a radio billboard hit and I rememeber singing it with my mother on long road trips in our station wagon.  All of her ways demonstrated what a beautiful girl should be.  Yes, she was going to “exercise class” long before aerobics, Richard Simmons, and Jane Fonda came along.   She also had a sense of style and sort of emulated this Elizabeth Taylor and Donna Reed meet the swank 70′s look.  But really, it was her behavior that demonstrated her beauty.  I grew up in a household full of males that included two older brothers, my father, and a male dog.  In the next town over you could find my first cousins – all boys.  We had 2 female cats, but she was the only female human I could really look to.  I remember thinking that she was like the woman version of Mr. Rogers.  I used to stare at the screen and wonder why they weren’t married.  They were like twins to me.  She was always telling us to believe in ourselves, to be happy and loving, to follow our dreams and believe in the possibility of life, no matter how hard it got.

But it was her presence and her daily commitment to me that made the biggest impression.  I recently had a friend tell me she wanted her son to be proud of her career, and all I could think of was how I felt about my mother.   Not that I think women or men should ditch ambitions and go back to staying home all day, but those memories of having that person with me, sharing my daily activities was most important.  That’s what sticks in my head – not her accomplishments.

After Mr. Rogers was over we’d often go out for errands around town while my brothers were at school.  One of my favorite activites was going to have our hair cut.  At the end, she would give me a quarter to put into the pop machine and I’d pull out an orange Fanta from a contraption I haven’t seen in 40 years.  Once, I dug into the magazines while she was in the chair and found a Playgirl magazine.  I ran over to my mother with the centerfold wide open and showed my mother and the hairdresser the naked 70′s god that was only wearing a mustache.  I remember my mother just chuckling as if it were no big deal, but our hairdresser looked appalled and she buried it.   A few weeks later, I dug it out again.

I frequently had to attend my brothers’ events (I was the youngest, I had no choice), but it was my mother who attended mine.  Horseback riding lessons and acrobatics didn’t really attract a male audience.  After falling in love with horses at the age of 2 (thank you Kentucky/Churchill Downs), my mother encouraged and supported my dreams of having a horse of my own one day.  She took me to riding lessons at the barn near our home and we developed a friendship with the woman who owned the barn.  One time she called us in the middle of the night and invited us over to see the birth of a foal.  I’ll never forget my mother waking me up with the surprise and we hurried out the door with coats over our nightgowns to go watch this little miracle while everyone was sleeping.  It felt so magical and special.

Both of my parents helped me to establish a savings account and I would put my birthday and allowance money into that account whenever I could to save for my horse.  I’ll never forget that little white book in my mother’s desk drawer.  I would open it and look at the typed amount get larger and larger.  Then, I’d put it back into its sleeve and continue to hope.  When I was in 6th grade, the time was right.  I had saved enough and I had a paper route to support a horse at a barn.  I looked through the newspaper and found an ad that caught my eye “Palomino pony for sale, 8 years old, $250″.  A cream colored pony.  Who wouldn’t want a cream colored pony?  We went to look at her and that was it,  I finally purchased my dream.

The day they delievered her, we waited at the barn with my friend Julie, and as the trailer came down the street I remember my mother tearing up and saying, “Your dream is coming true!”  Being a pre-teen, I think I rolled my eyes a bit, but now I understand – now I see how beautiful that moment was for me and my mother.

This is just one of the dreams she encouraged me to pursue in my lifetime.  My next dream?   To be just like her as I get older.   And maybe throw in some botox, some chemical peels, and a whole helluva lot of courage.  (just kidding, I hope!)

This one’s for you mom!  Happy Birthday you beautiful girl.   https://youtu.be/Tzu5T0g9TFI

Full Circle

May 13th, 2016 Permalink

About 16 summers ago, I met my parents for an outdoor concert at Grant Park in Chicago.  While I was waiting for them, I saw this cute young family playing nearby.  Little did I know that that family would be in our lives now.  When my parents arrived, I pointed them out and we commented [...]

About 16 summers ago, I met my parents for an outdoor concert at Grant Park in Chicago.  While I was waiting for them, I saw this cute young family playing nearby.  Little did I know that that family would be in our lives now.  When my parents arrived, I pointed them out and we commented on how cute their boys were (then about 3 and 1).   My mother brought wine, but forgot the corkscrew, so we asked if they had one.  The woman said “How did you get that in here?!  They took ours away!”  Turns out my mother had a pathetic look on her face and the security guard said, “Oh go ahead.”

We shared our wine with them and got to know them better.  Later that evening, my mother called and said “You’re not going to believe this.  We ran into them again in the parking lot and they saw our license plate and told us they were moving to Indiana.  I said, ‘Where?’, and she said ‘Dyer!’ and they are looking for a church near there!”  A few months later, they were attending my parents’ church and Katy was helping my mother at her preschool.

That little one year old I was watching is now graduating from my old high school (Lake Central) where he was the star kicker on the football team.  How strange but great it was to photograph this dashing, blue eyed young man’s senior photos on my old school’s new football field.   Also strange to think that it is the same school where my father started his career as the school’s very first football coach.  Congratulations Austin – go get em’.