Early Dog Days…

Spring has sprung and that includes all that goes with it in Montana… Typically you have warmer days mixed with some rainy, windy days and more often than not, snow. This winter seemed more challenging than most with long periods of cold, snowy weather. I found myself watching the weather closely looking for the first sign of a break and for the “Sun Gods” to express themselves.

The day finally happened and without hesitation my instant messenger lit up with my buddy telling me what had to be done. I didn’t hesitate and Dollie was quick to push me out the door.

4 a.m. rolls around fast, but nonetheless you grab gear and go. I used to drive through the dark and wonder what would happen throughout the next long hours of the day. Now I just let things unfold and take it as it comes. If I live the way I should and appreciate life, it’s all good, so in the words of a mentor – “shoot everything”.

Coming down over the pass I notice there is no wind. I whisper to myself, “this has got to be a first.” I can honestly say it was the first time I had ever experienced this place without the roaring wind. I zip into the meeting spot and I’m greeted by bloodshot eyes and that boyish smile. “Waaazzzup up sweetheart, you look purdy?!” I said. All I got back was a smile and a few choice words. Heck of way to greet your buddy after a compliment. Anyway – I loaded my gear and on down the road we went. It’s early so not a lot was said. I was pretty intent on my cup of coffee actually. After about an hour we could see our destination and the climb we had ahead. We started to get a bit stoked so within the excitement, we lit into a whole bunch of shop talk.

The climb was as we expected. I again impressed myself with keeping up easily with someone 20 years my younger. Age is only a number – right? We topped out and every time I get to these places just shy of the heavens I am in awe. I’m a photographer so I pull out the iPhone and take some video (tongue in cheek). We are here for sheep as it’s and as we hoped, it wasn’t long until we find the boys.

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I know it’s truly my passion as I still get giddy even though I have photographed thousands of them. Over the next 3 hours we challenge each other to make images. Man, I love this stuff.

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We begin to wrap things up by thanking the boys and talk about the next time we’ll see them on the mountain. Then, I’m literally stopped in my tracks. What happens next is a moment of my time on this big blue marble I’ll never forget. Through the sage comes a playfully keen red fox.

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He’s intent on his purpose to find ground squirrels. He acknowledged us, but continued his search. What did we do? We followed of course. What did he do? Well, he did the polite thing and sat down and waited on us. Once we caught up he gave us a look as if to say “OK, you guys ready to go find some squirrels?” Off we went.

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For the next 45 minutes we watched this cautious and meticulous hunter search for ground squirrels. All the while sneaking and slinking through the sage within 20 feet of us. Stopping at times to glance our way and nod as if to ask, “how am I doing?” We decided to finally just sit and watch this guy. What happened next will forever be remembered.

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He trotted back to us within 10 feet. Sat down, looked right at us and then laid down and took a brief nap… never once alarmed or worried about us. If I apply anthropomorphic ideals, then I’d say he must have mentioned that  “if you guys are gonna take a break, I will too.”

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After he was recharged sufficiently he sat up, gave a nod and began to resume his mission – so we walked with him. We were in complete awe as he stayed by our side for another 10 minutes. We reached the edge of the sagebrush flat where it met the timber. He again sat down looked at us as if to say “until next time…” Then with a few quick steps and a bound he silently disappeared over the hill into the timber. As I sit here typing this dialoge, I still cannot believe what transpired that day. I think we both felt like we were out for a walk with our dog on a Saturday afternoon. These moments are some among my top 10 of coolest times ever on the mountain.

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The Reality of Simplicity

Here’s how it went, so I wrote it down.

“Hey babe, G’morning, how’d ya sleep?” I greeted her with a hug, kiss and hot coffee like I do every morning I’m home. Her reply, “I slept really well, except I had this crazy dream… I looked across the pastures and there were devil dusters everywhere.” Devil dusters – are you familiar with them? You know the little mini tornadoes you see, mostly during the summer. They are typically unexpected, create a mini chaotic scene for a few minutes, and then move on.

Now imagine one after another…all over the place.

Her dream made me think. Like most people, I often feel like this throughout the day. Between family, work, photography and all the things I want to do, it’s like devil dusters spinning through my head. I will have brief moments of focus before something else needs my attention and stirs the pot. I take care of it and then another thing will come along. It can be downright maddening. But the next morning, in the early hours, I found enough quiet to focus my concentration on one thing I was really wanting to work on.


The weekend before, I had a fun photo session with my wife and son. I wanted the practice, honestly, and along with wildlife, I’ve always been passionate about black and white photography. If done correctly, I feel there is no other genre to find clarity, expression, reality…and honesty. It’s raw and real. I feel you can’t hide in it. The session itself was fun with only a few moments of frustration now and again. Overall I was productive, but looking through the camera it was hard to see through the haze and find the clarity I was seeking.


Then I began to edit. It went something like this: “Good, good, hmmm I like that. Yuck, hmmmm, naw, nope… maybe, ehh. Oh man. Oh my God”. My internal voice was silenced by reality. Yeah, sure he’s my kid, but I see it now. I truly see it. What is “it”? You’re asking. Well, I bet you’re all familiar with different versions of it – “Life’s short” or “live life to its fullest,” “nothing is guaranteed but death and taxes” and “you may not wake up tomorrow so live today.” And what is above our own kitchen sink… “Remember yesterday, dream of tomorrow, but live today.”


There’s all sorts of ways to spin it or say it. To me, the message ends up being the same. It is essentially what Dollie (my wife) and I have made a concentrated effort on over the past couple years – not to make life so complicated, appreciate what you have, love those around you and live in the moment. It is a lifestyle that requires conscious work because it is so easy to get caught up in the small stuff. But never had it been so clear to me as when I started looking through these images.


What began to filter the haze, truly bringing clarity to this lifestyle is the honesty in these photographs. Our philosophy of live, love, appreciate, be kind, share and give to others, be in the moment and most importantly, honesty. These simple images of my son Colter brought reality to that honesty.


All the complicated of life, money, “problems” and so forth and so on became obsolete. Colter is an exceptional kid. Ok, ok, I know all our children are, right parents? Colter is intelligent, talented and sensitive. Most of all he is kind and only wants people to be happy, just truly happy. So much so that he has a bit of anxiety at times when people are not. When Colter notices you may not be happy, he will do whatever he can to help you fix your woes. Man, I love that about him and I love that I can really see “it” in these images.


These photographs speak volumes. Here’s my clarity – the reality of the simplicity of life. Through these images of Colter, my son, things that were so incredibly complicated, unraveled.

These days photographs can be kept with you and pulled out whenever you need a simple reminder. Is there an image I can create for you?

…and I pressed the shutter release.

Prescribed Diverge

Procrastinated again…and again. Always wanting to make plans, but then it happens – life. “OK you bet babe”, I say with comic enthusiasm to my wife. “What Caroline?” I ask my 6 year old daughter what she said to me about her doll for the fourth time. “Colter, one minute then I can help you…” I retort to my 10 year old son wanting assistance with some device. “Hey did you return that call?” My wife says to me. “What call?” I answer back remembering I forgot as I asked. A few seconds later my wife says, “Is the trailer ready for the trip to California”? She continued, “We need to move the old hay to the new hay yard …and that section of electric fence isn’t working the way it should, we have to check it before we go.” She paused for a minute, staring at my expression empathetically as if she just remembered and says, “When are you leaving? Didn’t you have plans to go shoot Elk photos?” Continue reading “Prescribed Diverge”

Crisp Awakening…

Only a few things surge my adrenalin or make me giddy. I can probably count them on both my hands, maybe even only one hand. However, with respect to brevity…

Here are few things that make me giddy….

The fall morning air when it is crisp and new. The sun rises with soft golden authority, spilling into caramel covered meadows with wapiti…


Sneaking through the rich green and dark chocolate timber. Only to speak out loud and have your questions answered silently…


Trekking through the hills, not on trails or paths for I am not a hiker, I am an adventurer. Only to gaze into a park and find a monarch covered in gold.


Stepping off common paths to hydrate with cool, clear water and refresh your body. Only to find that all animals have the same needs and we are all somehow connected.


Closing your eyes and you smell the sweet, musky scents… like cool dew on spring grasses.


Even, even if for one moment… you are left with one of your senses. Hearing the sounds of September is enough.


Only if, too much is never enough.


This is my favorite time of year. It is the time that all your senses can be awakened and revived. Turn off the TV, lace ’em up and get out. I know I will with the family in tow if I have my way… I’m always looking to better my craft.

Grandpa and “Dad”…

Fate, Destiny… paths cross for reasons. Some paths are more like roads.

Much of these are my wife’s words. Written as a testament of Val’s affect on her life and her horse life. I modified it for me and the purpose of this blog… but it’s truer than true applied honestly to my life as well.

About 15 years ago, my soon to be wife and I were managing a small guest ranch and desperately needed some good, solid kid horses. We saw a listing for four such horses in the classified section of the paper and my wife decided to give a call. A friendly, jovial voice came through the line and invited us to come see them. Ultimately, we ended up purchasing the horses. We will never forget them – Blue, George, Little Dan and Rosie. They were the most reliable, dependable horses in our group and served us for many years to come with the most important of passengers. The rest is history, but little did we know, our lives would never be the same.


Steadily, we got to know Val more over the next few years. When we bought the horses, we learned that not only was he a horse and people trainer, but he was also a well known cowboy singer, entertainer and poet. Seeing as we managed a guest ranch, it was a perfect opportunity to have him out regularly to entertain guests. I will never forget watching him perform for the first time. We were mesmerized and absolutely intrigued with this man that had just come into our lives. He is one of those people you can listen to for hours, be it singing or talking and never get bored. The singing takes you back to a simpler, better time. The stories are unbelievable; the experiences unparalleled, the ups and downs, happiness and tragedy – all of it captivated us. It was during this time that our relationship with him evolved into a genuine friendship. Over the years we watched him perform perhaps a hundred times, but it never got old.


As time went on, we grew to learn that Val Geissler is one of those very special, very unique individuals that make you want to be better person yourself. He is a real, last, true cowboy in every sense. And I’m not just talking about being a cowboy literally, that’s easy to see he is, but also in the figurative and heroic sense. Living by, and being true to a code. Many people these days do not even know what that means. He holds himself to a higher standard. There are no excuses, only accountability. He is a self-made man who decided early on he would not conform to anything or anyone. He knew what he wanted – to be a cowboy and a horseman. It was that simple for him. A man who can truly say he never compromised on what he wanted out of life, no matter what life threw at him. His outlook can be summed up quite simply – do what you love, love what you do. Anything that doesn’t fit into that is just excuses, which means you didn’t want it bad enough to begin with. It is that philosophy which began to shape our own life decisions.


Don’t let the first impressions fool you – yes, he is not always those most tactful of characters, but you can surely bet he’ll say the things you’re thinking, but won’t dare say aloud. That is what gives him such unrivaled charm. Whether it is in the realm of horsemanship, business, relationships or just plain life situations, he is this perfect combination of brutal honesty and powerful insight, earned from a lifetime of experience, all wrapped up in a loud, kind, cowboy hat.


To see him interact with horses is to witness a rarity. To watch him ride and school is aw-inspiring.


To learn from him has been our revelation, with horses and in life. Most importantly though, my wife has been fortunate enough to have a willing mentor, a real idol, someone to which she holds in the highest esteem, someone she depends on still to answer her questions and teach her a better way. Now that I think about it, I can say the same, unequivocally. He has become a second father to both of us. He sang at our wedding, and has been a “Grandpa” to our two children since they were born. This from my wife. It sums up a moment of each day…”He might or might not know it, but we hear him encouraging us, guiding us and telling us every single day – if you want it, then get after it, and get it done.” 

We pack in to Hawk’s Rest annually. Val and his wife Cindy man the Forest Service Cabin there during the summer and fall months. Deep in our souls we need the experience, we need the time that only a place like that can offer. It’s our reality check… but there is an enormous part of us that needs that time with Val…


When you take the time, alone with your thoughts, to wonder. Will you wonder “where has it all gone, and how’d we get to this point? Can we ever go back to the way it was?” I do, often. Visiting with and listening to Val tell the stories makes you wish you could turn back time, back to the way it was… So as I sit and listen…

I press the shutter release.


As an encore I’ll give ya a listen to Val as he did and impromptu song sitting in front of the Forest Service Cabin. The setting is this; You’ve put in another 15 miles on this your second day of riding, you are 33 miles from any civilization. You didn’t sleep well the night before ’cause you weren’t sure where you were headed. You knew where you wanted to go, but you realized you’re short on time and long on miles to go…crossed wide valleys of open meadows, made a few wrong turns, and went up some drainages when you should have went down. Low and behold you see a tree line and a place to camp. You look south and you see a cabin with a large meadow for a front yard. Your ponies are tired so ya let them rest and eat. Down the hill come an older fella, with a BIG smile and a comfortable welcoming demeanor so ya let em talk…you talk back a bit, conversation happens and you feel comfortable enough to stay a spell. Then someone mentions a guitar… the rest, is history…

The words to this song are powerful. The concepts, situations, and reasoning… are parallel to my life.

Comfortable Jeans…

Jeans… ya know when you put on that old worn out pair that feels oh so comfy? Yeah, not the kind of jeans I’m going to about here…

I’m gonna show you my thoughts on “genes” here. Specifically my daughter’s horse gene. These photos are of my daughter who without question inherited my wife’s horse gene. You know that gene, well horse people know or understand. That secret special gene that gives you that ability to communicate effectively with equus…. 😉 The resilient words that are never verbalized yet communicated so clearly.

On occasion during the summer and fall months, “Cracker Jacks” (as I affectionately call her sometimes) will ride along with me to go check on the herd that has been turned out on summer pasture. Many of these horses are un-broke. No matter though – my four year old daughter has a way with them, as you can easily see in the images. See I’m of the firm belief that some people do have that special genetic trait or ability to communicate with equine. After watching my daughter spend time on her pony and around the other horses there is little doubt of her abilities.

As I walk along the Madison Plateau where the herd spends the majority of the summer and fall, many of the young horses will keep their distance, often trotting away. However, when “Cracker Jacks” is with me, the horses are different – curious and very often inquisitive. Yeah, I understand that she’s smaller and a child. Therefore, many of the horses are intrigued. I also know that many of them are untouchable or unapproachable. My daughter however, has no problem walking up to and touching, petting and moving around these “wild” ponies (supervised and with me of course people). They are relaxed, at ease and often seem comforted by her, amazing.

I find myself just observing and watching her move amongst them. I’m in awe of her powerful gentleness. No uncertainty or hesitation by either her or the horses. She reveals emotion you can feel like thunder that echo’s from the mountains. She is just like her mom…just  like  her  mom…then I remind myself. “Hey, if you wanna be a photographer, you gotta use your camera.” And I press the shutter release…

Hello All…

The name, “Saddlesores and Blisters”, simply I’ve had many of both to get the images I have.

It started with a right hook…Things have changed a lot over the past 20 years or so. 3:30 a.m. sounds a whole lot better when you get to choose the pleasant alarms sounds via an iPhone. Still a bit tough to leave the warm comfort of an old mattress and heavy thick covers that knows your body so well. Nevertheless, my excitement begins to wake as well… chug coffee, grab gear and let the pickup rumble to life. Off to the trailheads and into the wilderness…

This is how many of my days finding my muse, letting my heart lead me begin. It’s usually a woman’s fault, you could also apply this to the kidlets. My case is no different. The subtle, blinding power that was my wife’s right hook of mental and emotional urging, led to this. The awakening reality that, in the wilderness is where I need to be. This, photography is what I need to be doing. This leap, all of this…(especially a blog) would never be happening if it were not for her and the kids. So here I am looking at the macbook scratching my forehead, where hair once was wondering what I need to type in this space to introduce you to me and my purpose of this blog.

OK, me… The first 30 or so years… no need to rehash all that. It was life and well it was just that, life. The way society and the powers that be says was supposed to be. Then I met my wife and myself and my entire world literally changed. It is truly astounding what happens within you when you finally meet someone who loves you for you, lets you be you and helps with the expression of just that. In a nutshell, “Horses and Mountains” As well as all they offer. This is my wheelhouse, my muse, myself.

OK, onto this blog. My intention of the blog? Well, it’s for my photography and the sharing of it. The name, “Saddlesores and Blisters”, simply I’ve had many of both to get the images I have. So here it is, the reasoning. I can go take or create photo’s. So can millions of other people. What all those others cannot do, is tell you my story, the truth of my images. I was reminded by my wife (numerous times) and by a person who’s work inspires me, that I need to shoot for me, what’s in my heart. I do and will do just that. However, it occurred to me that my photo’s become even more interesting to all of you, if you have the back story to them, behind the scenes if you will. I am not one to choose the easiest way, smartest way, correct way or even the most obvious way to accomplish things… my early life years are a true testament to that! Everyone says if you want to get things out there “you have to do a blog, ’cause everyones doing it…” This goes against every fiber of my being as I am not a conformist and refuse to give in or relinquish in any respect… just ask my wife…love you babe 😉  All that being said, there is still a need and want for me to share the amazingly beautiful things I am lucky to have witnessed and privileged to have the opportunity too. Therefore, a blog is one way for me to get these images shared with you.

I have hopes that I build a good following. If it so moves ya, please “like”, “share”, “reblog” and forward this. I truly hope I can solicit comments, conversation and feedback about the images of my future blog posts.

This initial photo was taken in the Thorofare of Wyoming. My wife and I try to do an annual pack trip into Hawks Rest. There will be blog posts covering many of these photos from there so I won’t go into too much detail on this one. However, you and “Long Shot” (my pony) are looking S.E. “down the Thorofare”

I’ll be in the hills,