Hunting with Girls with Hawks

March 14th, 2016 Permalink

A couple of weeks ago I went to my second meet with the Indiana Falconry Association.  I was told it was often the best because it was the last of the season and the food was “to die for” (I kept hearing things about bean soup).  The last meet I photographed was held at a [...]

A couple of weeks ago I went to my second meet with the Indiana Falconry Association.  I was told it was often the best because it was the last of the season and the food was “to die for” (I kept hearing things about bean soup).  The last meet I photographed was held at a church and it was pretty funny seeing raptors and their owners hanging out in a sanctuary hall.  But this meet in Terre Haute, Indiana proved to be just as interesting.  I pulled up to the address I was given and there they were, hanging out with their birds near storage units at “Don Garvin’s U-Store-It”.  Unsurprisingly, there was Don, stirring a huge pot of bean soup.  The soup and the corn bread were amazing but the best part was going on an actual hunt with two teenage sisters and their red- tailed hawks.  Although the demograhics are changing, falconers are usually male and middle-aged.

Stephanie and Caroline Thomson have been hunting with their hawks “Drea” and “Criere” for about 3 years and this was going to be one of their last hunts before letting them fly free.  It was unseasonable warm for late February (60 degrees) but the light was great.   I was warned by many of the other falconers that the warm day made the birds “lazy”.  One guy said, “They’re like a bunch of teenagers in love right now and the warmth produces hormones that make them want to hang out on the tree and look for a mate, not food.”

Caroline was up first with Drea and we headed into a small field on the border of suburbia and farmland.  It was amazing to see this 17 year-old direct the hunt and make her own decisions with just the counsel of the other members who came along to help ( made up of of mostly men).  After Caroline let Drea go, the hawk flew up to a branch and the crew began whaking the bushes to scare up rabbits.   I followed Caroline and was glad that her younger sister told me to take off my fuzzy winter hat.  She said, “If you want to keep that hat, you better leave it, or you’re gonna give it up to Terre Haute.”   I found out what this meant after being impaled and hung up by numerous thorn bushes.  Rabbits were plentiful, but Drea did just as the other falconers predicted and she sat in the tree while Caroline attempted to coax her down with fake and dead prey.   We were all instructed to leave after about an hour so Caroline could work with the bird alone.

One man said something like, ” That’s the way it goes – sometimes you get nothin’.”   I wasn’t disappointed, the whole thing was fascinating and I was kind of glad that a rabbit was spared that day.  Just before I was getting ready to leave I heard Stephanie talking about her bird Criere.  She said,  ” I’m not a very emotional person, but I’m going to have a tough time letting him go.”

Another Way

February 18th, 2016 Permalink

Sometimes, I’d like to create an Amish app that destroys all of my social media accounts in one tap of the finger. (Grocery Shopping – Nappanne, IN – February 2016)

Sometimes, I’d like to create an Amish app that destroys all of my social media accounts in one tap of the finger.

(Grocery Shopping – Nappanne, IN – February 2016)

Avalon and the Ancient Sport of Falconry

December 15th, 2015 Permalink

Last week I spent a Saturday with a group of falconers at an Indiana Falconer’s Association meet, and on the drive home, I wondered what had led me there.  Honestly, my initial fascination with this ancient sport shallowly started with Roxy Music’s album cover for “Avalon”.    (From what I’ve read, Bryan Ferry put his [...]

Last week I spent a Saturday with a group of falconers at an Indiana Falconer’s Association meet, and on the drive home, I wondered what had led me there.  Honestly, my initial fascination with this ancient sport shallowly started with Roxy Music’s album cover for “Avalon”.    (From what I’ve read, Bryan Ferry put his girlfriend in a Medieval falconry hood and had her pose with a hawk to evoke King Arthur’s last journey to Avalon).  I also began associating flying with that album,  as my Walkman (an ancient piece of electronics that played cassette tapes) would frequently have Avalon rolling while I was taking off and landing.  I’ll never forget my first descent over European soil in college – the album’s song “True to Life” was playing as we landed at Heathrow.  Whenever I hear it, it forever gives me the feeling of soaring over a patchwork of English farms and cottages with the all of the excitement over the novelty of a new place, a new quest.  It’s a harder feeling to obtain as you get older, but that song brings me back to it.

After I discovered this amazing piece by photographer Asher Svicensky about a 13-year-old Mongolian girl huntress on my twitter feed, I wanted to learn more about the realities of falconry and photograph it myself.

Lafayette, Indiana didn’t have the mountains or the little girl, but it had a very passionate group of falconers that included two teenage sisters.  I missed their hunt, but I learned so much about how much it takes to learn and maintain this ancient art. Over 70 percent of birds of prey die within the first year of life, but falconers save some of them and teach them to be stronger hunters with better survival skills.  If you want to become a falconer, you must pass a written exam and are strictly monitored by the DNR.    You must also apprentice for 2 years with a General or Master class falconer.  The realities of participating in this sport do not negate the absolute beauty and mystery of these birds, and seeing them up close takes your breath away.

I’ve told friends and family that if I am on my deathbed, please play that album in its entirety while giving me a bit of whiskey and graham crackers (a surprisingly great pairing!). If  I am ever to be reincarnated, I want to be a hawk.  A British hawk.


The Ghost of Christmas Past Shoots

December 2nd, 2015 Permalink

Back when I was a staff photographer for the local papers of Chicagoland (Pioneer Press – now TribLocal), we’d be sent to cover every Christmas/Holiday event in just about every church basement, school gymnasium, pubic library and town square.  We loved our jobs, but I remember (fondly) all of us whining  a bit:  ”I’m so [...]

Back when I was a staff photographer for the local papers of Chicagoland (Pioneer Press – now TribLocal), we’d be sent to cover every Christmas/Holiday event in just about every church basement, school gymnasium, pubic library and town square.  We loved our jobs, but I remember (fondly) all of us whining  a bit:  ”I’m so sick of Santa Claus!”  ”What kind of shot am I going to get at another craft fair?!”  Let me tell you, finding a good photo in a church basement is far more of a challenge than shooting  any story in oh… pick an opulent, bucolic setting….. anywhere.  I was going through some of my old files and I found these.  Thanks to all those photographers out there who taught me to always believe that there CAN be something worth sharing in the depths of bad light and a church basement.

Max’s Album Cover Shoot

October 30th, 2015 Permalink

Well not really, but my old neighbor’s child is a really cool kid (extremely nice too).   I hadn’t seen him in awhile, but when I saw those long legs, that great hair and that touch of  early-teen awkwardness (just a touch Max – and yours is cool), I said “I have got to photograph [...]

Well not really, but my old neighbor’s child is a really cool kid (extremely nice too).   I hadn’t seen him in awhile, but when I saw those long legs, that great hair and that touch of  early-teen awkwardness (just a touch Max – and yours is cool), I said “I have got to photograph him”.  (Add some Midwestern background and his talent and we may just have the next Eddie Vedder or Tom Morello).  If he is, he’ll have some great early photos and I’ll have my bank account ready.   Thanks, Max!  No pressure or anything.

Goodbye to Summer 2015

September 17th, 2015 Permalink

Photographed this boy at Marquette Park in Gary, Indiana at the beginning of the summer.  I saw him looking into the water with all of this wonder and it reminded me of myself when I was that age.  I used to go to local ponds and collect aquatic creatures of all sorts  (and then I’d [...]

Photographed this boy at Marquette Park in Gary, Indiana at the beginning of the summer.  I saw him looking into the water with all of this wonder and it reminded me of myself when I was that age.  I used to go to local ponds and collect aquatic creatures of all sorts  (and then I’d come home and scare my older brothers with them).  If this kid doesn’t bring summer in the Midwest (and a little Opie) to mind, well you’d better hurry and find your own summer nostalgia before it’s all over.

Every American Should Know of Kivalina, Alaska

February 4th, 2015 Permalink

At this time last year, I didn’t know about Kivalina either – until I started looking for a photo project.  This 1.9 mile island about 50 miles north of the Arctic Circle is said to be inundated in 10 years due to climate change.  KUOW (NPR Seattle) interviewed me about my visit.  My trip was [...]

At this time last year, I didn’t know about Kivalina either – until I started looking for a photo project.  This 1.9 mile island about 50 miles north of the Arctic Circle is said to be inundated in 10 years due to climate change.  KUOW (NPR Seattle) interviewed me about my visit.  My trip was made possible by generous donors, Brent Newell and the Center for Race Poverty and the Environment.  Please take a moment to learn about the people who live here and their struggle to find a new home.  http://kuow.org/post/photos-alaskan-village-will-be-underwater-10-years

PNW Portraits

January 15th, 2015 Permalink

One of  the great things about photography is meeting people you might not ordinarily approach.  So glad I found all of these generous, interesting locals.  Take a look at their faces, I bet you can see some of who they are.

One of  the great things about photography is meeting people you might not ordinarily approach.  So glad I found all of these generous, interesting locals.  Take a look at their faces, I bet you can see some of who they are.

Al Green in Gary, IN

December 12th, 2014 Permalink

After hearing about Al Green’s Kennedy Center honor, I remembered one of my first freelance assignments for “The Post Tribune”.  I was lucky enough to photograph him during on of his concerts at a high school in Gary, IN.   It was a magical night for many reasons.  

After hearing about Al Green’s Kennedy Center honor, I remembered one of my first freelance assignments for “The Post Tribune”.  I was lucky enough to photograph him during on of his concerts at a high school in Gary, IN.   It was a magical night for many reasons.  

Beautiful Haze

September 30th, 2014 Permalink

Gloomy?  Yes sometimes, but the Pacific Northwest always makes light interesting for photographers.

Gloomy?  Yes sometimes, but the Pacific Northwest always makes light interesting for photographers.