Test Of Time

Words come and they go. They show my age, my level of understanding, my grasp on my own perspective. I’ve written a lot here over the years and come in and out of popularity only to see these pages sit dormant for nearly a year now, or has it been a year already? I would check but it’s not really all that important. 

When I sit down to write now I find myself awash in trepidation that I am no longer able to craft sentences together in any sort of meaningful way; and if I’m not looking at a camera reading this as a script while music gently plays behind me to the intercut backdrop of photos of of a city timed to the sound of an old camera shutter, will anyone actually hear these words? Is your perception of what my voice must sound like enough? This is, of course, all nonsense. I’m not sure if I even believe this excuse anymore. I feel like the last several times I have posted have been about this same thing. I have anxiety about sharing* but I want to start sharing more again. Then I don’t. It’s a self defeating problem and I’m sort of tired of writing about it.

Saying it out loud makes me feel trite and somehow disingenuous despite my willingness to admit I have been frozen with creative block for what feels like several years now. Fact is that it’s less about fear and more about giving my mind space to create. My routine, if you could call it that, leaves me little to no time to reflect. There are no longer quiet moments during my week and if there are I want only to rest. Work continues to gets pushed a little earlier into the mornings and then a little later into the end of the afternoon so as soon as 5pm hits my anxiety shifts home as I wait for the message “thoughts on diner tonight?” to vibrate in my pocket as it burrows its way into my soul just a little deeper. By the time all of the check marks are checked my brain has thoroughly checked out and the thought of writing or sharing from any genuine place of mindfulness feels all but impossible and sharing little quips often end up feeling rushed or tinted with some sort of temporary frustration rather than joy. 

It’s no ones fault. Work is busy because running a buisness will always be this way. Especially in this climate, if you’re not on, theres no money coming in and if theres no money coming in then the bills don’t get paid. Diluting my work load means hiring more people, means getting more work, means working more to get the work, means… It sounds simple, just take one day off a week, or two? Yet see above. It will settle, one way or another I know it will. Yet this is why, when I do somehow get an hour two during a morning that doesn’t start as soon as the family is off to work and school, my soul begs to simply sit silently for a while. Without rest there is no reset. There is no room for the  contemplation of beauty. Some days I do try, I pull out a camera when I notice morning sunlight peering through the window of our rarely quiet house that I think deserves my attention but then when I reach out to absorb its calm my vision is hazy at best as I try to compose and consider anything beyond the sound of a shutter. A sound that once brought such joy as it passed through my ears yet recently feels like a mere echo of some past effort, not the benevolent connection to an art form that I love so dearly. 

I recently traveled solo for just over a week and it felt like somehow I was cheating. I could never settle into the fact that it was real or that I deserved it. I only felt this anchor of home pulling every ounce of myself toward the center of the earth. I continuously thought to myself, I can’t afford this time, I can’t afford this ticket, I can’t afford this rental, I can’t… Though through that doubt, here’s what I remember of that trip offhand; I got off a plane after a half night of sleep, made my way into a car and drove for hours and hours, as far into nothing as I could get, to one of my favorite places. I parked the car and watched as the fine desert sand settled around the car after driving down a dusty narrow dirt road. I turned off the car, opened the door, and starting walking, watching each step I took in the reddish sand and the footprints being left behind until I was at the edge of a large bellowing red rock canyon that I swear had held its breath as it waited for me to return to this spot after so many years away. I looked out across vast desert canyons and cried big ugly tears as I felt the overwhelming weight of silence fully envelop my awareness and then, nothing. Or everything. I don’t really know. The moment I arrived back home after this trip I was not actually home, I was moving again, and the view of my memory of this place was already hazy and muddled by the focus needed to work, work, work. 

The first thing out of anyones mouth while I was traveling and once I returned was “ok now you had your chance to relax you should be all better now”, or “ready to work” or something along those lines. How lucky I was, how fortunate, now that thats out of your system… Why then do I look back on that trip taken so recently and feel as if it was but an echo of some past vision. As if I never left the front door of my house and merely had this dream as I was tucked away hibernating. 

So when I sit down on a day like today to write I do all I can to listen for those echos of what’s left and write them down before I hear my name called out again for this or that, and thats okay. Despite the sour taste of what I wrote above I don’t resent my “adult” life, it simply is, and I do find joy within it. Though sharing any of this here makes me equally anxious knowing family or friends will read it and make their own assumptions of what it means or what their part in these feelings are when in fact this is simply a meditation, a way to connect with anyone else that resonates with this sort of feeling. When my mind does calm down enough to see through that haziness my memory does crystalize and I feel excited about the photos that I have taken recently, absent minded or not and lately, for the first time in a long time I feel the itch again to pull photos and words and paper together again and create something or share what I have already created (looking at you pile of cassette tapes, lathe cut vinyls, and zines).

While sitting here I came across little outlines of ideas and feelings I wrote down while I was traveling and would love to pull from them and elaborate on those thoughts and rediscover them. I want to compile photos into zines, write more, create more. Always and forever these desires remain. If anything my inspiration has shifted away from fresh feelings of getting lost and moved into a new mental space entirely. Now its my family and my wife YoungDoo and her creative optimism that pulls me back from the depths of creative apathy. She’s gotten me to a couple of galleries and a museum showcasing fine art photography recently and that really send my mind spinning. I love that dizzy feeling of a new idea striking like lightning in a quiet mind. That glossy eyed stare as I am genuinely lost in thought. I can sense it there still inside of me, I just need to figure out how to coax it out.

At any rate, it’s good seeing you, dear whoever you. Till next time, for now, back to work, pretty sure someone just called my name in the other room… 

*I am pretty deliberate when I use the word sharing. This shift to the idea of “content” and “content creation” feels incredibly disingenuous. The term sucks the soul out of so many creative minds work and commodifies it into a disposable form of vacant, white noise for passive consumption rather than the deliberate, genuine love for something it often is. Don’t belittle your creativity by calling it content. It reduces it to pennies on a dollar of the platforms using you as you share yourself… but thats a digression for another day.

Things I Am Thankful For No. 1

I’ve been thinking and slowly making a list of simple things I have felt thankful for these past few weeks as the world collectively slips into an unpredictable future. I have wanted to spend more time writing, gathering photos for wallpapers to share, and creating things but life with a 4 year old is proving to be a near insurmountable obstacle to achieve such goals. Tonight, somehow she fell asleep a full hour earlier than usual so I slipped out and decided to write.

Where to start, looking at my list here it’s hard to decide. I have had a lot to be thankful for lately but let’s start with something simple. Let’s start with a book. Just as news started to indicate that things were getting heavy here in the states I decided to make a trip to a book store and find a couple of new books that I could enjoy with Milla (said 4 year old) and spent too long considering options. She loves picture books and she loves to imagine so I took a chance on something new to her, a graphic novel.

I knew I would have to point to the panels of the book as I read them and I would also need to invent story and dialogue to help her follow the plot and sort out what was happening within panels without dialogue but that seemed perfect to me, a chance to be creative with her and connect in a new way.

I stared at shelves full of options for several minutes knowing full well I shouldn’t be hanging around browsing books for long and one lonely yet stout book jumped out at me high up on the shelf. A book called The Adventures of Anders, written and illustrated by Gregory Mackay (series website). The simple illustration of a cat with a bug on its back as it flew through the sky seemed somehow perfect. I glanced through its pages to discover a charming world of friends new and old paired with mild adventure and I followed my instinct and bought it without hesitation.

Over the course of a week before bedtime we worked our way through the three stories and many chapters of the book and came out on the other end with one of Milla’s new favorites. It’s a truly wonderful book and I have genuinely loved reading through it with her. There is a charming balance of humor, adventure, wit, knowledge, and life lessons hiding among these pages. I love the way tension or conflict may get introduced from time to time along the way but these tensions dissolve into joy at every turn. The authors ability to explore trust and friendship is heartwarming.

Each of the three stories play off of each other and slowly introduce new characters into the fold. Now, Milla knows all of the key characters names and has favorites she chooses to pretend to be while we’re out in the back yard having our own time to explore.

I would love to go into more specifics but I’d hate to spoil it for anyone. I have a feeling this book would be great for kids of all ages as it explores friendship in such a wholesome and fun way and leaves plenty of room for imagination and curiosity. It’s been nice to have this to share with her and I wanted to take a few minutes and share it with anyone else here that maybe could use a light hearted graphic novel as well.

I’ll be back again to make my way through this list of modest things to be thankful for, sometimes products, sometimes moments in life, because I hope to maybe inspire someone else to consider the things they have been thankful for even when life is a bit on the messy side. Hang in there, stay healthy, be kind, and I’ll see you again soon.

State Of Things at 50ft HQ

Hi! It has been long enough at this point to warrant a little check in, how has John been doing? post. It’s something I try to avoid because posts like these feel like big excuses to as why nothing else has made its way across these pages in so long.

Well, first of all, lately my 50ft energy has lived on in slow motion via, old school, stamp sticking, IRL mail in the 50ft Print Club which is alive and well despite perpetually being a couple of weeks behind sending out each print. I am on the 32nd print at this point in the series and thats so hard for me to believe. It has been such a joy to sign and send these out to points all around the world each month.

Something dawned on me recently though, outside of my initial launch two and a half years ago I have done zero promotion for the series, well nothing outside the occasional mention on instagram or the little link there on the home page of the site so I wanted to call it out here today. I suppose I didn’t want to feel like I was burdening visitors. It’s true, I am not a particularly good salesman.

When I started up the Print Club idea I chose a $7 a month entry point for the cost because thats what it took to break even and bring in enough profit each month to put toward the prints, envelopes, and stamps then have enough left to also cover hosting and any odd domain renewal that may come to pass. As time went on I decided to quietly reduce the cost of the series to $5 a month for new sign ups because I felt it wouldn’t hurt too much on the back end and may give a few new people the opportunity to sign up for a while and get some snail mail from yours truly every now and then.

The new lower cost still stands and I would be humbled and thankful to see a few new faces come to the fold. Members have come and gone through the past couple of years but the total base has continued to hold steady enough to keep the series alive. I currently have print overruns starting to turn into a formidable little tower of prints on a shelf and I am always wishing they had a good home to go to so any new subscribers will also get as many back log prints as I can comfortably fit into the envelope the first month to get caught up.

As for digital perks, I will admit I have been dragging my feet but there is a nice solid collection of HD copies of wallpapers in the Gumroad user library ready and willing to be snatched up and I still have a slowly building collection of cropped and ready images that I am planning on releasing as a pack that will also be added as soon as I manage to get that finished up.

Let’s move onto the future. I have a few things weighing on my mind when it comes to my personal creative projects. First photography, why many of you keep checking back after all these years. Its sad to say but I don’t have a day to day digital camera outside of my iPhone and have not had one for quite a while. My trusty Fuji X-Pro up and died a long while back and I have not had an opportunity to replace it. My wife, YoungDoo has a Canon 5DII and III in her work kit but I often don’t want to keep it out of her reach because she actively uses the rig for work projects day to day. I do carry various film cameras with me and have a number of exposed rolls lined up but I am really missing having a fully functioning digital camera around.

As you could imagine, it has had a big impact on 50ft and how often I have new images to share among these pages. I am slowly making my way through back catalogue images from trips but I really miss capturing little bits of life and objects to share here.

I have considered running some kind of crowd funding to raise the $2k I need to jump back in with what I would like to settle into next, a Sony a7II paired with a Voigtlander 35mm or 40mm f/1.2). I just cant bring myself to do it. I could use books or prints or memberships or something as rewards for helping but the production cost of those items would raise the goal by quite a bit and I have this senseless anxiousness that is afraid to fail so I simply wait until life blesses me with an opportunity to jump back in.

So, for now, I will continue to pull from my archives and borrow the 5DIII on occasion (which I did recently and have something new to put up!).

Second, my humble music project. I lean on making music more and more since the death of my camera. Some of you may remember I released an album a couple of years back digitally and on cassette and I really enjoyed putting it together. While that was more a loose, random collection of tracks assembled for the fun of releasing some music, I have a new album that has been more or less finished for about a year now that I am genuinely proud of and am ready to jump in and release.

It has a short story paired with it and I am working on selling the album digitally and also paired with a small zine sized book containing photos and the story. It has been through a dozen or so revisions but I am hoping to finally jump in and get the thing out into he wild. I am also tossing around the idea of taking group buy style orders for a lathe cut vinyl version but we’ll see how that pans out, short run vinyl is maddeningly expensive. My goal is to get this released in the fall and by mentioning it here I hope to feel a little more permanence to the idea and get it done.

Also in music, I have a new 50ft Radio mix finished, it has been for a couple of months now but I need time to assemble it and get it out to you guys on the podcast feed.

Which brings me to frustrating little technical issues. The unlisted podcast feed does work but from time to time my Droplr hosted files will stop wanting to allow direct downloads so I do my best to keep up fixing them so they can all be downloaded to a podcast app for enjoyment. Then there is the images on the site here, I have had a number of reports that images are not loading, it seems to work for many but not all and it’s most certainly due to security certificates but I have not had a good amount of time to attend to it and figure out where the problem lies. Thanks for the patience there!

While this custom theme of mine has had some seriously long legs and is as dead simple as it could manage to be, I am starting to wonder if it’s time to refresh it to get it fully compatible with the latest versions of wordpress and possibly refresh the look. There are some glaring holes in its logic like my never ending archive button but all in all I’d say the design has aged well!
SO, as time moves on and hopefully I start to see a little extra free time to put into personal projects again (September was one of the busiest work months I have had in ages) you should start seeing a few new things around here again.

I don’t think I need to go into how busy life continues to be while managing an event production department and doing my best to be a good dad for my 3 year old, Milla. Seems not really the point of writing today. For those who have left heartwarming comments and sent emails while things have been slow, thank you, truly, from the bottom of my heart. It has meant the world to me to see that this site has had a positive impact on the world in its own little ways and I cant wait to get back to posting regularly again.

Even in this weird moment in technology where tiny blurbs of information and headlines rule the short attention span yet high expectation landscape, I think there is plenty of room for slow paced personal websites and blogs to hang out like wallflowers in the distance. Speaking of which, does anyone have one i should be following along with in my RSS feed?

See you soon.



Time Clicks By

I started to write the following several months ago late last year over a year ago while in Korea and I never spent the time to edit and post it so I’m here to remedy that. I have since added quite a bit to the original passage and have been editing it off and on for several months over a year. Upon reading it again I fear I come across as a little self indulgent, I mean, how many adjectives and metaphors do I need to contemplate time and passion anyway? This and it jumps around a bit thematically, but hey, this is my space to connect with others and commiserate so lets dig into being a creative without time to be creative:

Time clicks by, marches forward, tip toes along, sprints ahead, whatever it does, it’s doing it. I have only been here in Korea for a few short days out of the three weeks I have available here but I already feel it slipping by so quickly. Every moment of peace in the breeze or rush behind a camera as I find something to shoot leaves me wanting to pause and hold on as long as possible to the feeling of untainted joy. While traveling away from home I have been seeking out moments of stillness to take advantage of my mental freedom.

Impossibly simple things have become immense in scope and sighs of peaceful contemplation feel endless and satisfying. For instance, I caught myself spending time staring out the window of YoungDoo’s old room in her parents home considering nothing more than light hitting the drapes in just such a way. Another day I found myself watching a rotary fan they bought to help with the late summer heat slowly survey the room.

It felt so good to not worry about life’s constants. Being able to stare at a fan turning its head for a few solitary minutes without a lingering worry that there is something else that needs my attention is true bliss. Turns out, heaven is the ability to watch a fan blade spinning round and round with a clear mind to consider its spinning. Odd to imagine that an oscillating fan is just what I needed in that moment. I have started to embrace how good it feels to focus on one single thing in the present moment. It clears my mind and brings me peace, even if just for a few minutes.

I remember younger moments in my life when I would recognize the act of blinking or breathing to the point where I thought I may never be able to live another second without being acutely aware of such innate, automatic details of being alive. Thinking about it now I realize it was a sort of accidental meditation, something that happened intuitively when I was younger but have come to realize often escapes my daily routine now that I am older. Getting lost in a single thought or idea, imaginary or otherwise, is an essential part of learning how to be aware of our surroundings and I think it’s important to hold onto it as long as we can.

For some reason, as adults, we pretend to have answers for all of the “whys” that we asked when we were children. We let ourselves get trapped in the belief that we know anything at all when in fact we as individuals know very little and in our wise old walk of arrogance we loose sight of the moon in the night sky. Sometimes it’s important to allow the full breadth of the world humble us and I often find myself forgetting to find time in my mind to embrace this.

I’m not trying to transcend to a place of spiritual awakening or anything so dramatic. I just want to be able to find a way to relax and become free in any given moment again, not just while traveling away from the clear and present stress of work and home. I want to get lost in the rhythm of my own breath again, a skill that I have let slip through my fingers unknowingly. What is the secret to time and understanding its erratic language?

The philosophy of time is one of my oldest curiosities. Time is a constant itch, nagging with every perceived regret or lost opportunity. It eludes me. Connecting with the present moment is precious but fleeting. It feels this way because of desire, fear, anxiousness, insecurity. Want always gets in the way of falling deeply into any moment. Want being the collected embodiment of modern living; What just happened, what does person think about it, and how does my opinion differ, will this thing make me happy, for how long? With this deeply embedded need to know and want, how to turn the bliss of one peaceful moment into a life of meaning and content is something I am increasingly trying to understand, at least on a manageable level.

I wish I had the answer to share with all of you but I don’t think there is one answer to the question of time. We all need to find our own definition by looking at its weight and value in our own individual lives through personal reflection. Could this be one of the keys to happiness? I think that coming to terms with time passing and the change it stoically drags along in tow is a monumental step toward allowing ourselves to embrace happiness in a pure form, free from the baggage of worry, regret, anticipation, jealousy… Come to think of it, I think what I am trying to describe here in all this esoteric rambling, is the importance of meditation.

I feel like by embracing time as a kind of energy, as sustenance, as something that matters, I am able to respect the insurmountable responsibility it shoulders day to day. I imagine time wishes it could be swift and lighthearted but carrying the burdens of all life and infinite possibility must be a daunting and thankless job. Those who don’t consider the effects of time enough to respect it are most likely too engrossed in the minutiae of life to see the forest through the trees.

This is why I love photography, not as a distraction or even a form of art a lot of the time, but as a way to collect these elongated moments of meditation and file them away to either rediscover later in life or as a means to share with others and collectively marvel at details buried all around us. I love it as a way to somewhat permanently attempt to, with deft hand, capture the kind of poetic light which may otherwise escape from my life unnoticed and unappreciated. At last to the best of my ability. Photography is my meditation, my ode to time.

Unfortunately I have been carrying a sort of writers block lately that I am trying to shake. I catch myself in a loop of discovering then loosing moments of genuine creativity. It’s a muscle that needs to be exercised and because it is so tightly linked with my sense of personal happiness I find myself waking up to days feeling as though a part of me is missing. Even when I carry a camera by my side; I spot moments I want to capture yet struggle to connect with the light in the same way I once did. I miss the raw enthusiasm that I felt during a period of my life when all I had was time to consider light and explore the nuance of my surroundings. This makes me wonder though, where then is the passion I so often assume I am full of? Where is that endless well of creative poetry when I need it?

My creative pendulum doesn’t swing indefinitely in the direction of prolific inspiration. The landscape of my creative output has had its fair share of flatlined tracts of time. This has gotten to the point in the past couple of years where it has significantly effected my mood. There are days when I feel lopsided and unable to focus on work or life at home and I seem distant, or even sick, to friends and family. I feel an emotional void when I don’t have time to create or focus closely on creating. This could be through writing, taking photographs, exploring a new place, making or listening to music, reading, or even simply sitting down in silence for a time. When I don’t find time to create I feel exhausted, drained physically and emotionally and it effects my life in negative ways.

For years I have talked about the passion, drive, and joy that photography brings to me. Yet the more time that passes the more I understand that passion is not innate, it is earned and nurtured with time and experience. While a spark of inspiration may eventually lead to true passion, patience and dedication is the real key. Passion is a mental space where the past, present, and future all collide and as with creativity, it needs to be fed to stay alive. So recently I have been using the past specifically as a means to feed my passion and creativity. I have started to dig through old film photographs and consider who I was and the emotional state that lead me to connect to different points of view.

Combing through books of old photos shot with film cameras pulls me right back into the emotive center of different parts of my life and helps me understand how my emotional wellbeing has effected my creative output through the years. My state of mind has long dictated the way I view the world behind a camera. Passion grew from a desire to capture what I was feeling and then nurtured by spending time exploring the ways film photography complimented my point of view.

While poking around in the past there are some memories that cut deeper than others. Some periods of life that I look back on and wonder how I let myself get in that particular position. Memories that linger somewhere between regret and acceptance. There was a time when I let life lead me wherever it seemed to want me to go. Decisions were generally more passive and because I chose to drift along this way I would find myself totally lost. These haunting periods lead me to learn things that I would have never learned otherwise and I am thankful for that at least. I did take initiative enough to transform this feeling into action and took a metaphorical “lost” and turned it outward by getting physically lost as well by traveling a lot more often.

In being this way for so long I started to embrace the feeling and over time the idea of being lost became something of a mantra in my life. I started to feel like the only time I felt truly happy was when I was creative and my creative spirit seemed interlinked with possibly misguided notion so I continued to take chances and follow my intuition almost to a fault. I discovered clarity feeling distant from things I found familiar and predictable. The instability of not quite knowing where my next steps would lead me opened my eyes to the simplicity of beautiful things but this was a double edged sword. The mental white noise of unknown places and languages became a creative crutch and I now feel its absence when that emotional knot in my stomach felt as I got into something over my head becomes more of a limited resource.

Even still, I look at these “lost” years as my most intuitive creatively because, in some sense, I felt comforted by my hopelessness, or at least thats what I had convinced myself at the time. It seemed as though that angst somehow drove my desire to create but I now realize it is the physical act of traveling to new places that is at the core of this artistic entanglement and it’s what I miss the most when I am not able to make time for it.

The impact travel has had on my life has been nothing short of immense. The places I have been and the people that shaped these journeys made a permanent mark on my personality and the way I live my life today.

This may be a roundabout way to say, the most important aspect of my style as a photographer is discovery, so seeking out inspiration without traveling as much has been a substantial hurdle for me. It can be endlessly frustrating to want so badly to be creative and not have any way to properly scratch that itch. I find taking an hour or two out of a busy day to “be creative” doesn’t always cut it because it’s not always that easy to switch gears from pragmatic to creatively fluent.

Finding focus during slivers of solitude sandwiched between work and family requires a new kind of connection to my emotional self but maybe, like passion, this will take time and practice to fully understand. Discovering threads of what brings me joy creatively and following them to a productive space is maybe the key I have been searching for all this time.

I still pick up my Hasselblad and feel a desire to create. The weight of the camera gives a tangible memory to graft onto and the sound of its mechanics makes my spirit lift with joy. As I look out into the world through its ground glass focusing screen I see the emotion of light calling to me and the true depth of the world takes shape and yet, what, will, I, capture…

The Grand Staircase

Of all the strange, backwards, unexpected things that happened last year politically in the U.S., there was one that hit me on a personal level and left me feeling a subtle but deep sort of melancholy that has been hard to shake. That was the seemingly arbitrary act of shrinking one of the last vestiges of the untamed American west by such a dramatic amount. I am referring to the large cuts to the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. This truly humbling stretch of land is seemingly endless and beautiful, mostly untouched and free to explore in a way unlike many of the other National Parks available out west are.

Growing up I was caught up in the romanticized idea of the grand American west, southern Utah in particular, I was lost in the magic of Desert Solitaire, a book by Edward Abbey about living as a ranger at Arches in the late 1950s, and the impossibly beautiful photography of so many great photographers who’s lives work focused on the region such as Michael Fatali, I have always held this region close to my heart throughout my life through not only the stories and photographs of others, but ones from my own father as well. He would talk about his own trips west before there was as much of an impact from tourism in the region. Back when Moab was a smaller, more local town, Arches was a hard to access hidden beauty, and Mount Zion was more lightly visited. The last vestiges of the untamed west would slowly, but of course not entirely, start to fade as time pressed on.

Even within my lifetime I have seen a lot of change as camping and adventuring has become increasingly trendy which has caused more and more comforting amenities to start popping up to make it easier to access some of the most beautiful spots in this constantly evolving land. Amenities that seem nice on the surface but in some ways detract from the experience as a whole.

Among my favorite things about traveling in the region is the infinite quiet of the vast tracks of land and the ability to find yourself standing in a spot where you very well may be the single only person to occupy that land for dozens of miles. It’s a beautiful, unique feeling and part of the reason that the last few times traveling out there by car I would go in the winter to avoid the crowds of the busier vacation months.

Which brings us back to Escalante. This monument was (and yes, still is) an immense tract of land that is largely unsullied and difficult to access. There are not many truly wild, protected lands in the U.S. left and this area was set up as a protected land for a reason. If I’m remembering correctly, it’s protection was always somewhat controversial for locals in the area and of course it would be, I understand how it must feel to some, but some things are worth protecting for future generations to enjoy some of what previous generations were able to cherish and enjoy are they not?

Shrinking this monument by this mind boggling amount was a political maneuver in an endless series of actions which appear to do little more than arbitrarily tear down prior legacies, but I digress. I am not inherently a political person and have gone most of my life with this side of living it drifting along in the periphery of my mental space but even I can see that things are being shaken for little more reason than to take advantage of the chaos that follows. I look at the direction things are headed and hope we can figure out a way to come back together as a whole. This is much more than simply “us vs. them”, surely we are better than this.

But you know what, thats not why I’m here writing today. I will leave the political side of this for those who know and understand more about the politics of it. I’m here to tell my small perspective on the changes at the Grand Staircase by writing about why it means so much to me personally.

This monument is among my favorite places to visit while traveling west because I am able to feel some of the same excitement as generations past. Exploring a land with such minimal human impact is something to be cherished as it leads us to unexpected places and moments of genuine beauty and awe. The joy of driving what felt like forever down a long dirt road into the middle of scarcely occupied canyons and desert made me feel like the world is infinite. It has always made me feel as though there was still so much to explore and I felt the solitude of that place consume me, humble me, and empower my imagination like few places can.

There was one trip there with my brother that I often remember, I think it was my second time visiting. We had driven into the monument late one night, after driving in from Zion. There is an unmistakable high you get when traveling somewhere mostly unknown and this was no exception. We were following mostly paper maps and vague directions at the time as we found our way down unmarked dirt roads in the dead of night with little more than the beams of our headlights to track down an unmanned camp area where we could stay the night for free. (One of the perks of BLM land and part of the reason I so often sought it out while traveling out there, free places to camp, great for budget trips). We set up the tent in the dark several meters away from a cliff edge and called it a night. While we slept we had an unexpected couple of inches of snow fall on us and we woke to a beautiful sight, a canyon covered in the stillness and quiet of a fresh, white coat of snow coupled with the beauty of a cold orange and blue sunrise. Thinking back I can remember the brisk, thin air of winter in my lungs and the quiet beauty and excitement of that moment. Here are a couple of photos of that morning from whichever iPhone was sold in 2009, well before instagram and the like.

This little campground near the town of Escalante in the Grand Staircase is one I had remembered and visited on my own during a different winter outing which I took to get away from the world I knew and venture out on my first solo trip West. A spot that subtly set in motion a chain of events and world travels that changed my life forever. In fact, it was at this camp spot that I took this photograph:

It is an image YoungDoo and I hold dear because it was the catalyst for our meeting each other on Flickr so many years ago (11 years now!?). A photograph, among others, that caused us to discover each others work as artists and still stands today on Flickr as a sort of digital historical marker in our lives as it was the first interaction we had with each other.

I only just remembered this fact while writing this tonight and it really choked me up when I realized this place was partially responsible for everything I now hold dear to me in my life. An arbitrary fact, sure, but one that helps me respect and understand the value of having places like these to explore and share in our collective lives. The Earth is only so big and it gets smaller each and every day as we continue to grow as a global society so protected spaces like these are immensely important to us now, more than ever. They give me hope that one day my daughter Milla and future generations have spaces to explore as we did during our time here on this planet as well. It all connects.

Now that subtle melancholy I mentioned when I started writing tonight is starting to feel a little more like sadness and, well, I’ll drink to that. Heres to the great unexplored places in our past, present, and future, the ability to explore them, and the hope that we don’t fuck up things too much before future generations have their turn to explore what god has given us to appreciate and care for.

Please don’t read into this post too much, I’m not interested in getting too political here on 50ft. I wrote this to share my perspective and a couple of stories. I have respect for others point of view on the matter as well but this site has always been a place for me to vent and share my experiences with others and thats all this was, one persons point of view among many.

More information on the monument can be found here, and here.

Things 2017

It’s that time of year again. To celebrate family, friends, common bonds, and I suppose to many of us, new stuff. It’s my personal belief to look for gifts that could be useful, unique, or at least not set aside and forgotten a month later because in that case, whats the point? I you have to ask someone what they want for Christmas then you’re doing it wrong.

If you have no ideas maybe just give something tasty rather than guess and buy someone a cheap something that won’t matter a week from now. Disappointment this time of year is a selfish feeling, wasted energy and its important to remind each other that the joy of this time of year is not in the biggest box, its in the quiet time we get to have with one another, right? Right.

This won’t be the last time I post this month but let me just say, I hope you all enjoy the season and if your not able to then I hope you find joy in some small way. It’s so important for us all to remember what we have in common rather than how we are different from one another and the holiday season is a great time to exercise that.

At any rate, for several years off and on I have written up a little gift suggestion post. Things I think are unique, fun, or overlooked but to be honest, it’s getting harder to make these lists. I don’t lead the most minimal life out there but I like to find products that will last and add something true to my life, so when I think about gift giving I try to consider things that could be more than fleeting. That said, the list this year isn’t as long, I kept coming up with ideas that I had included in previous years lists already. Maybe worth noting that none of the links below are affiliate links. Well except for the first one ;)

50ft Print Club Print Club Gift Subscription
After discovering a few subscribers to the 50ft Print Club had given the membership as a gift I decided it may be nice to offer up a single year subscription as an option. You can visit the original post on the Print Club for the back story but the basic idea is that each month I pack up a 4×6 print of my choosing, a letter that talks about the print, and often a little hand written note. I put it into an envelope, add a stamp, and send them off to subscribers. It’s a nice little collectable, a surprise piece of snail mail each month, and a great way to support what I do here on the site!

I am nearly to the end of the first year of prints in the series so I will start any purchase of this officially in January but will also send along one for December as well so you have a little something to show for the gift. Because of the one time purchase nature of this the digital bonus stuff from the Standard memberships won’t be included, just the prints. Think of it as a scaled back, simpler version at a discounted rate. Speaking of the rate, this single year cost may or may not see a little rate increase after the holidays, depending on how this goes, it’s a bit of an experiment. Also, please, feel free to spread the word if you know of any 50ft fans out there that may be interested. Thanks so much! Here is a link to the Regular 50ft Print Club/subscriptions as well as the new gift subscription and Tip Jar or directly to the 50ft Print Club Gift Subscription here.

Now, onto the rest.




When the world feels as though its spinning out of time, as if the only thing holding it together is fear, it can be hard to sort out which way is up. When life makes me feel this low it’s easy to wallow in the feeling and let it take control of the core of who I am, and for a little while, thats OK. I think its important to feel anger, sadness, fear, or grief. These emotions are part of life’s balance and are key to opening new avenues of understanding, mindfulness, and tolerance.

We are the sum of what we trust and accept as the truth and in that we are all who we are for good reason. What we allow ourselves to consider as fact, or as right and wrong, or as good and evil, it’s all connected by fragments of honesty hiding in every viewpoint. It has been said many times and many ways because it’s true, we are the sum of everything and everyone we have come to know in our lives up to this moment. Our truth is our maker and that truth is both what divides us and what brings us together.

To unite is only as hard as we tell ourselves it is and to understand this is to accept that there is more than one version of any truth. To unite is to find ways to exist together within common ground and find compromises to exist outside of it without judgement. The only thing that keeps us from finding this is hate and fear which all too often in todays world is born of misreading each others personal trust and truth. Baseless assumptions.

I wish there was a way to help a divided nation of people understand each others point of view, no matter how far removed from each others truth it may be. However, something I have learned recently from my seven month old daughter, there is a moment at the end of each day when there is potential to feel exhausted to the point of becoming delirious with fight and vigor and we shut down anything and everything rational in our minds because we fear what hides behind our closed eyes.

We fear the unknown and that is exactly what we are facing. A change so opaque that none of us feel at ease enough to peacefully close our eyes at the end of each day. All we can seem to muster up is a sense of entitlement and an inflated confidence that our way is the best way, so we fight and scream against all that we feel is unjust but all this does is make the lines that divide us more and more deafening and stark.

So. Where do we go from here? Me? In the face of such a deeply divided unknown and seeing reports of violence and hate against one another, all I can do is want desperately to be the best me that I can possibly be to anyone and everyone in my path in hope that others will feel that not all is sideways in the world right now. A colorless blanket of acceptance and happiness is the best thing I think I can personally offer those around me.

This was a surprisingly difficult conclusion to come to this past week because of a pervasive realization that I could not find a sense of Joy in anything at all for a time. Not even my daughters smile was snapping me out of it. I wondered if she could sense that my smiles and laughter were not genuine as I searched within myself to capture the most basic of life’s fundamental meanings.

As time progressed I chose to turn to music. Simple and pure, starting with somber ambient albums which helped fill in the cracks between my thoughts. I quickly discovered a glimmer of focus among the chords and slow motion melodies. I eventually let in some rhythm and as it fell in sync with the beating of my heart I started to feel the sun on my face and the cool fall breeze on my skin again. Then, little by little, I remembered the power of Joy as it fought back against the darkness.


It is a feeling that was just heavy enough to fight the fear back to where I could start to see beyond it.

Now I can’t help but wonder when the last time many of the people I pass everyday have felt true joy. Did they notice as a flock of birds drifted past a beautiful sunset? Did they enjoy the face of the moon on a clear fall night? Did they feel the warmth of their loved ones hand as it gripped around theirs in the cold? Did the beat of their favorite song send chills down their spine as they sang their favorite verses out loud?

Joy is an essential stepping stone away from the darkness. Not the plastic manufactured Joy on the front of Christmas cards and holiday sweaters, but true, life affirming, heart beat rising, Joy with a capital J. It can be sneaky at times, hard to catch and embrace, but the next time you find even a glimmer of its light I suggest you wake up, grab hold of it, and focus that energy into something good.

Yes, find joy, then give it all away.

Seek it out, recognize it, share it with those around you and lets hope for all our sake that it is contagious.

Birth And Balance

Birth And Balance

The time has come, and we’re as ready as we will ever be. Stepping into another dimension of adult life in the coming week I honestly have no idea what to expect next. I am ill-equipped for this humbling new variety of lingering anxiety blanketed with excitement and blurry expectation. It’s hard to put into words, really. Bringing a new life into the world has given pause to my projections of the future.

My world is becoming both smaller and much larger at the same time. Instinct tells me to protect what I am responsible for so my senses are tuning into much broader frequency ranges than simple self preservation. Because we can not predict the future, now more than ever I recognize the conflicting nature of being human and the need to find balance between self, family, and society by looking beyond personal philosophies to create a world that we can all live in peacefully together so we are able to protect ourselves and each other from our darkest tendencies.

For me, this year is packed full of the kind of huge decisions and responsibilities that I don’t often have to weigh in on, the rare ones that alter the course of my life in distinct ways. A child, a home, a growing responsibility at work. I am buzzing with curiosity and hope for the future… but then I read the news and see never ending stories of terror, racism, violence, intolerance, hate, fear; things that have always been among us but seem to be steadily increasing in weight as my stake in the world continues to cement itself into what is considered adulthood.

Closing my eyes I can still feel joy in the warmth of sun on my face and the smell of spring coming into bloom so I know the potential for true moments of happiness is still alive and well among us, but this rumble under the earth is starting to rattle in my bones and echo into my heart as I worry for tomorrow and the next generation we are welcoming to this world. What fears and uncertainties will they know and how will they be taught to love and help us continue to evolve and discover new kinds of happiness. Will happiness have a different meaning in the future?

Change is inevitable, it’s evolution. Some of us fight to keep things the same, some of us fight to adapt and grow as society demands it. All I know for sure is that the only way to find balance is to allow ourselves to be conscious, alert, aware and understand that our personal viewpoints may not be the only answer for the greater good of our society. There are always two sides to every story. Be sure to hear them both before passing judgement. Assumption is a dangerous precedent and the increasingly casual nature of our consumption and acceptance of information has weakened our deeper understanding of the complex world we now live in. It’s not possible for any one of us to have all of the answers. It takes trust and a balance of conflicting ideas to find realistic solutions to any given problem, not radical emotionally charged rhetoric.

When I woke today and read news of attacks in Brussels my heart sank in disbelief as I worried for those who I know in the city. I felt ill at the thought of them having to navigate that situation and stay safe among the chaos. These events compounded against my already full mind and left me feeling deflated and hopeless for a time. Yet the world is still spinning. Work is still being done, hope is still viable and joy, even in small doses, can still be discovered when we pay close attention.

As small as we may feel at times we must understand that modest acts of kindness and compassion are contagious and as confused, lost, or angry as we may get at times, there is never a good excuse to spread that anger beyond rational discussion. Rather than focus on what makes us different, we should be focusing on common philosophies that we share to bring us together. We let our differences define us and guide us to conflict because we are too stubborn to listen to each other with our common foot forward. How is anything ever going to change for the better unless we make the choice to listen to our rational selves along side our emotional selves?

Balance is life’s simplest philosophy, one I can easily suggest you slip into your daily rotation. As shaky as the ground under my feet feels after todays news, I still somehow see hope that together we can manage to find such a balance, one that may help pull so many opposing forces together and bring us to a future we can believe in, one that encourages happiness rather than fear.



“What are you listening to?”, he asked her as she awkwardly glanced up from a laptop covered in stickers.

There was a time when people like this would bother her, eager, curious men looking to bait her curiosity through something she seemed passionate about.

She noticed his old jacket, cuffs torn from wear, faded blue, forgotten yet loved all the same. Two small pins stuck on its right breast pocket; symbols she did not recognize, or maybe she did, she couldn’t be sure. In this shaken state anxiety clouded her memory to the point of annoyance and distraction. Fuzzy, tangled brown hair, thin silver framed glasses resting on his nose, he had a look on his face that frustrated her. Something between confusion and acceptance.

She realized he had left a few moments later, her gaze met his for a moment and he recognized her need to be left alone. Did she know him?

Her croissant was cold now but she hardly noticed as she took occasional bites. Flakey crumbs had split off and left a greasy mess on her keyboard as she wiped them away. Focus broken she rest her face in the palms of her hands not realizing others nearby started to take notice of her.

Focus. Eyes closed for a time, red was all she could see until a deep breath filled her with calm enough to open them again and discovered he was sitting across from her now. Their eyes met and she froze, confused until she remembered her name, her skin, her breath, and her legs nervously shaking under the table. A smile found its way to her face and she stood up, packed up her things then left the small coffee shop without saying a word.

He sat at the table for a time wondering where he went wrong, was it the breakfast he offered her? Was cereal not enough of a welcoming gesture after a night spent with a stranger? Earlier that morning they lay together in bed, legs twisted together as sunlight cast a warm glow on their bodies. Up until that blank look in her eyes moments ago he thought they had made a real connection. Did he know her?

Their names were etched into the now empty table, understated and at peace. The air was still, the noise of other guests swelled then vanished into the pure white of time. A phone rang but no one cared to answer.

In unison, voices around the world echoed out into a deftly constructed void. Prayers, focused and pure, circled the atmosphere. Through all this noise time is bound to make a few mistakes. From this angle, even God had trouble understanding how this managed to happen.

She found her way to a bus stop but realized she had forgotten her favorite scarf on the back of her chair and imagined it tying itself into knots, hiding from anyone who may have noticed it there. Time grew bright and vengeful around her but she chose to forget it, let today be what it is.

At this same moment, two blocks over, she also stood in an empty lot, scarf tied loosely around her neck, warm and comforted she looked down at her feet, faint smile across her lips, and gripped his hand a little tighter.

He sat alone on a bench in a park he did not immediately recognize and looked down at her scarf twisted in knots on his lap. The hollow beat of a drum pounded somewhere behind a rusted garage door and his head started to nod along. An expression hard to place came over his face as he started to hover a few inches above the bench. No one noticed but God. The rhythm set in motion nearby left him euphoric but disoriented.

The air felt thick on his skin as he floated there, drifting among waves of foamy white. He felt his hands start to speak for him as the rest of his body disappeared and his head was filled with images of the ocean stuck looping at fractured speeds.

Focus. Eyes closed he could only see red, thick and opaque. He knew he had to open them but was afraid. He felt five soft fingers slip into his hand and squeeze tight. Terrified, he opened his eyes and she was there in front of him surrounded in pure white. Her eyes were filled with tears that began to drip down into an uncontrollable smile as the white began to dim into the color and shape of a city.

The bus pulled into an empty stop as the sun set over a field where they stood hand in hand, confused, terrified, but ready for whatever was to come next.

(Written earlier today out of the blue while sitting down to work on a separate post meant to be the first one of the new year here on 50ft. The other post, not yet finished was about perspective and its importance in our lives but somehow, this story was waiting in my mind instead. I tied up loose ends and did my best to polish it up so I could share it. Hope some of you enjoyed it!)

(Desktop of the image posted along with it now available below. It is a film scan and was upscaled to fit the high resolutions of modern screens FYI.)

To whom it may concern,



• Enjoy the images! It’s a labor of love, thanks for your support!
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If you help me out with these I will be able to keep doing what I love to do. Thanks again, really, for your support and understanding. -J


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Thank you for your understanding and support!

John Carey (curator, owner)