When customer support drops you

I’m sad that I’m going to post that I’ve had my first really negative experience with a company of which I’ve been a customer for eleven years: Really Right Stuff in California. I know this doesn’t affect too many folks, but if you work with tripods and use quick releases then it might.
Spoke to their customer service folks today about an order that I placed where I was given a bait and switch: we can’t fill your order but we can sell you something for twice as much as you were going to pay. In fairness, they would have shipped it for free (a whole $10 savings on a $400 product. I don’t really care about running out of stock, but the upsell (and a crappy deal at that) and the accusation that I ordered before they could take the listing off their web site really got to me. I spoke to their customer support manager, Mark, and was told that we will not be seeing eye to eye on this, and he didn’t care that I might choose not to be their customer going forward despite eleven years of history.
So if you’re thinking about any Arca-Swiss type equipment, I’d suggest that there are alternatives, such as Kirk Enterprises, Wimberley, Fourth Generation Designs, Jobu Design, and the list goes on…
Happy Thanksgiving!

For a minute there I lost myself, phew…for a minute there

Summer at Lake Crabtree
Summer at Lake Crabtree, Cary, North Carolina, February 2012, Canon 5D Mark II and 70-200mm f/4L IS lens @ 121mm; exposed 1/200 sec. @ f/8, ISO 100, Canon Speedlite 580EX II triggered wirelessly

Radiohead references aside, I’ve gone through a number of life changes, both professionally and with respect to lifestyle since I last updated this blog.  I posted last from the coast of Washington as I was in the middle of some significant soul-searching.  I was at a crossroads both professionally and personally.  Over the next few weeks I’ll be posting images from the last six months–what I have to show for them, that is.  There have been moments that I considered packing up all of my gear and selling it off, closing the shutters on a dream.  Summer, my partner who has seen me through this transition in my life, has expressed at numerous points a concern that she has somehow negatively influenced by passion for photography.  I’m taking stock of life as I recognize that I’m emerging from a state of prolonged shell-shock at the fallout from the end of long and complicated relationship.  She certainly has not stifled my desire to make images of the world.  If anything, she inspires me.

Summer and a cup of tea
Summer and a cup of tea, Savannah, Georgia

I have a backlog of images I would like to share with the world, but first I wanted to share this amazing woman.  I want to be a better person, a better partner, a better photographer, a better communicator, a better citizen of the Earth because I know that my own life is better for having her as such a central part of it.  She shares with me a deep respect for this planet.  A visceral connection to the landscape and the flora and fauna that color it in.

Summer on Sanibel Island
Summer on Sanibel Island, Florida

Early in our relationship we spoke of partners creating space for the other to grow.  I don’t think either of us had any idea just how much space that would mean as my life changed dramatically.  I have a new appreciation for intentional family (to say nothing of my biological family, whom I love dearly).  In many ways, I feel like my vision has been fogged for a months now but it’s beginning to burn off.  Confidence is slowly being restored to my heart, my head, and pumping in my veins.

Summer in Tower Grove Park, St. Louis
Summer in Tower Grove Park, St. Louis

This remarkable woman is the reason that, come August, I can append two letters to my name.  In March she traveled with me to Columbia to defend my M.A. project at the University of Missouri School of Journalism.  That project, “A River in Reverse: Asian carp and The Great Lakes” was the result of hours of blood, sweat, and tears over the last two years, but especially the month of February and into March of 2012.  She helped me to reframe some of my darker experiences in graduate school.  She helps me to realize just how amazing life can be.  How fortunate I am to be on this path together.  How blessed I am with the talents I have.

Summer walking on the beach on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
Summer walking on the beach on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

I don’t have a crystal ball.  I don’t know with certainty what my future holds.  What I do know is that as I take stock of my life, I cannot help but to feel fortunate and loved at this moment in time.  We’re planning to hand-fast so that we might share the joy we feel about the the peregrinations that we will share over the course of our life together.


Goodbye, Dolly

Dolly on the wingback chair
Dolly on the wing-back chair, November 2007, Racine, Wis. | Canon 1D Mk. IIN and 300mm f/4L lens | Exposed 1/80 sec. @ f/4, ISO 1000

It was so easy to say “hello” at the Humane Society all those years ago.  Sleeping in a cage adorned with a sign that read “I need a home for Christmas” was the cat who would come into our home and into our hearts in time to discover the joy of shredded wrapping paper under the tree.  This little but loving nine pound ball of fur named Dolly has been in my life since I was in the fifth grade.  Mom always said that Miss Dolly was going to sleep her life away, and indeed she spent at least 18 hours a day in one of her many nests throughout the house.  She lived a good life as an indoor cat.

Sure, she clearly wished she could go outside sometimes so that she might suck the breath out of the local wildlife, as evidenced by her cackling at the window and powerful flicks of her tail against the tabletop.  For a stretch she perfected the art of indoor hunting.  My parents were especially happy when Dolly’s interest in mousing indoors waned, as waking to a cat gleefully taunting its prey at the foot of the bed was a little too much for them.  She was trouble, but the best kind.  Most nights she’d patrol the yard from atop a wing-back chair in the living room while we turned in to bed.

Dolly lived a long life, and we’re better for having her in ours.  And while it’s one of the hardest things to do, today we all had to say goodbye.  Living in North Carolina, I couldn’t be there.  But none of us will ever forget that tabby cat.  Dolly, you’re loved.