Taking stock and moving ahead.

There’s something about the changing of the seasons that forces me to stand still and think. Looking back, we’ve had an amazing summer that started with screenings of “Five Years After,” a documentary follow up about the largest wild land fire in Colorado history. Yes, there was smoke in the Rio Grande Valley again this summer, fires in Durango, California and New Mexico sent their clouds to our corner of southwest Colorado, but it was nothing like 2013. We are so thankful. That’s mostly what “Five Years After” is about, gratitude, resilience and moving on. The last chance to see the movie on a big screen is this Thursday at the Kansas International Film Festival. (Look for Local Shorts#2, at www.kansasfilm.com, if you’d like to buy a ticket.) I’ll be posting some pics from my current projects next week and watch this space for information about online screening opportunities in the weeks to come. O.K. now I’m going outside and stand still and think. The sun is finally out in Kansas City after about 2 weeks of rain. Temperatures are in the 60’s, the color of the sky is deep blue and the world feels brand new. (Below: screening at The Ruth Theatre in Creede, Colorado. Photo by John Gary Brown.)



We’d just rounded the curve from Wagon Wheel gap, when we looked into the cloud of blowing snow and saw them, a brown streak moving in a pasture near Wason Ranch. It was a herd of elk–29 wild, beautiful animals, bugling, bouncing over the snow, running, then stopping in the storm for no apparent reason.

A friend of ours in Creede says that’s when you say to yourself, “This is why we want to be here.” We bought a small place here ten years ago and try to spend as much time as possible sitting on our porch, looking at the rocky pass at the end of our street, the clouds drifting over the valley and the sky show–the Milky Way painting the path of our humble ridge top observatory.

This year I’ve been thinking a lot about the summer of 2013. That was the year of our “Big Burn,” the West Fork Complex Fire. I made a documentary about that experience and am working on a follow up, “Five Years After.”

After the smoke cleared, people here began the hard work of figuring out how to carry on, how to be ready for the next time. Some people are pretty anxious this year. The snow pack so far is well below normal. There are still thousands of acres of dead trees, stretching from Wolf Creek Pass, Creede, Lake City and beyond. But this new documentary is not about fear. It’s about resilience. It’s about better warning systems, economic development that can withstand a natural disaster and the emerging forest.

I’ve been in Creede for enough winters to remember a time when the weather was so severe, some people quietly began feeding the elk that sought shelter in their pastures. The elk were starving. Deep snow covered what little they could forage to survive and yet, they did. They managed to weather the weather in part because their neighbors gave them hay and in part because they are resilient just like the people who live here.

Here’s a glimpse of what I hope to have finished by June, the fifth anniversary of the fire.




They looked like snow floating on dark water. At 65 miles an hour a cautious glance is all that’s possible unless you pull over. I saw them on a trip last week to pick up mom in rural Missouri. I cross two branches of the Truman Lake on the way to her house. There are always birds there, but this time of year, the earliest travelers are gearing up to go. This week it was pelicans and blue-tipped snow geese, huddled against the tree stumps in shallow water. They’ll soon be joined by Canada Geese, Osprey and yes, Bald Eagles.

We’re soaring with the eagles for the next month. Our short documentary, “Soaring Back: Message to the Future,” will be screened at 3 film festivals and a Lawrence Wildlife Center. Check out the poster above and see if any of these fit your schedule. We’d love to see you there!

*The Kansas International Film Festival held at the Glenwood Theatre at 95th & Mission, will be showing “Soaring Back” in a block of shorts on Saturday afternoon, November 4th starting at 2:50. Here is their link to buy tickets.



Hatching a Plan.

It all started with our grandson, Simon. We’d heard from friends in Lawrence about the great “Eagle Days” event hosted at Free State High School. Steve and I were really interested in going, but what about him? It turned out the parade of live raptors in the auditorium was jaw dropping for all of us. The power point presentation of the evolution of the Bald Eagle banding project in Lawrence has incredible still photos of the birds in all stages of life. As I kept listening to Mike Watkins, then of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, I was imagining what it would look like to see what the climber was seeing as he first peeked into the nest — a video, a human/birds eye view if you will, of this annual exercise following the preservation of a species.

Before we boarded the bus for a trip to Clinton Lake where spotters set up scopes for us to see the long view of the birds in their nests, I approached Watkins about a video. I didn’t think anything would come of it, but 4 months later I got the call, “I know this is short notice….” I quickly answered, “I’m in.”

By the next day I had soaked my clothes in a tick repellant, found the best boots for the terrain and got up very early to head to Clinton Lake — the start of an amazing adventure.

I spent two years working on this video, in between other projects. I was well into the editing when Donald Trump was inaugurated and in my mind the world was about to change, particularly policies protecting public lands, national parks and wildlife. Suddenly, this simple little informational video became something more. It became important to me to remind people of where we came from, the importance of collaboration and what’s at stake. That’s why I entered it in a few film festivals and am grateful people are inviting us to show it.

This movie is not a sermon, but nothing would please me more if people who see “Soaring Back: Message to the Future,” spend some time thinking about legacy, cooperation and supporting efforts that will make a difference for future generations.



Chasing Gold


We are getting ready to return to the West. We’re headed to desert, then mountains this time. We know it’s been a very LONG winter for people living year round in our little corner of Southwest Colorado. I expect we’ll see snow on the ground in places.

Last fall we made a late trip to see the aspens change. I don’t know why this never got posted, but here we go–late, but a lasting impression.

The “Silver Thread” is 120 miles of two lane that weaves together some of the most beautiful scenery in Southwest Colorado. Once a footpath for Ute Indians, today it travels through four counties and three small towns. At its heart, is the former silver town of Creede where we are lucky enough to spend some time in the summer. This fall we took a late September trip chasing gold along “The Thread” and points north and west. We photographed a couple of sunrises that were nothing short of holy. Here’s some of what we saw.


Fire and Nice.

NICE. We are enjoying an incredible spring in the Kansas City area. Warm days and plenty of rain brought early blossoms and high pollen counts. We’ll take it. Trees are fully leafed out, lilac, peonies and violets are blooming in backyards across the metro. And there are wildlife babies.

Once or twice a week, my dog Angel and I head for a city park for early morning walks. This week we discovered the goslings have hatched and the small lakes in our urban landscape have become day care pools for little fuzz balls learning to swim and forage. I’ve always noticed them, but never paid much attention to their parents. If you haven’t already watched the video above, now would be a good time to take a look at what I have described as the “Gosling Dance.”

Mini Movies


I have a business card that describes me as “Obsessed with Video.” It’s true. Over the years I’ve made a series of Mini Movies on an app on my iPhone. They were meant to be keepsakes for me and our family. No fancy editing, just something that caught my eye or in some cases spoke to my heart. I’ve been doing some spring housekeeping, trying to make sure some things are backed up and others tossed. I’ve found a few that I think you might enjoy. In some cases they are touchstones from important times in my life. I’m going to keep curating this work and see if there are more worth sharing. If you enjoy it, please let me know. Thanks.

Unlikely Princess.

princess-bevThe ammo belt should’ve been their first clue. Then again, history would suggest that royalty is always ready to defend itself.

It’s the first Halloween I can remember. I must’ve been around four because I still had long hair. Kindergarten would begin the years of short hair and tight perms. Mom wasn’t about to mess with a tender-headed kid and a long pony tail by then. I don’t know whose idea it was to make me a princess. I expect I would’ve begged to be a cowboy or an indian. I still have the tiny toy revolver in the rawhide holster we got one Christmas along with the “Roy Rogers” ranch set. There’s a child-sized rodeo belt buckle and a set of Native American nesting dolls in my office. Somewhere I have set of kids spurs.

Grinter Farms Sunflowers

What an amazing thing the folks at Grinter Farms in Lawrence, Kansas have done for all of us. Every year they plant 40 acres of sunflowers for people to photograph, wander and enjoy. We got up before the sun this year to take in their beauty.

Seeing the light.

Sunflowers 2

It’s funny how losing focus makes some things easier to see.

For two years an eye specialist has been monitoring my vision to see if a small problem was growing worse. Thankfully, it’s not, but for my final visit, the doctor still needed to dilate and look inside to evaluate all those amazing parts that turn light into images. If you’ve had this done, you know that walking out into the bright sunshine is a little difficult. You drive home with the visor down. You look for shady streets to walk the dog.

This morning with my depth of field very small, it made things in the center stand out. Fuzzy around the edges, the middle was beautiful. It made me think about perspective. It made me think about our friend Paul Stone.