Archive for the Snappers Category

Cameras and caffeine

Posted in Also removing lens caps (or pen caps), Mary Margaret, quick and easy, Snappers on December 9, 2007 by lenscapremoved

Photo by Julie Vachon

OK, I’m going to whip out some basic logic on you.

If I take a lot of pictures wherever I go, and the only place I have been is mostly coffee shops, then almost all of my pictures are from inside of coffee shops.

Follow that? Pretty simple.


Things I have noticed about coffee shops and pictures:

  • If you are trying to take pictures, you’re going to see a lot of the repetition of form. Pretty much everyone is looking like Mary Margaret in the frame above.
  • Coffee shop lighting isn’t always the easiest to shoot in, especially at night. This is most evident in the photo below. I am aware I have overtoned this picture, but around the third time of trying I said forget it. I don’t care if it looks bad.
  • A woman can sit and yack on the phone and throw out about a million “like, ums and whatevers” but as soon as you start to take pictures everyone gives you the eye.
  • After drinking way too much coffee and loading up on caffeine you will have a hard time only directing your attention to note cards and psychology books. At this point you have an excellent caffeine high and great mentality to make fun snappers of your friends.
  • No matter what coffee shop you are in, there will be friends there to distract you (and pick up your camera to take pictures of you).


I need a 75 on my psychology test to make a B in the class. If I can make a B in psychology, A in journalism, B in art, B in linguistics and C in philosophy I will pull the 3.0 GPA that my parents appreciate so much. I’m a little disappointed I wont be getting an A in linguistics or B in philosophy, but I have devoted way more time into passion than obligation. Even while I’m plowing through my notes, I’m itching to edit pictures, work on Kernel mixed media and Kentucky’s first competitive photography journal. I can’t wait to finish on Thursday so I can have three weeks of me. Accomplishing my goals. The ones that I don’t need a test to tell me how well I did.

Only four tests and four more days.


In the middle of medium

Posted in Hess, luttrell, Matthews, Smiley, Snappers on July 27, 2007 by lenscapremoved

This appears set up but it’s not. I was playing music tonight and looked around and realized that I had four instruments strung out on my bed. I set up a camera in my shelf and just documented what I have been doing all day. I’ve been learning a few O.C.M.S. songs on that banjo that was a gift from my grandfather and falling back in love with my old Jaguar-copy electric guitar (that I’m playing in the pic) that  is probably twice as old as I am.

I’ve always been an artist. When I was in third grade it was drawing. In seventh grade I bought my first bass guitar and then learned to play guitar. In high school I learned that I love to write. My interest in photography came my freshman year in college. Throughout my life I’ve fallen in love with art through its many medias. The most likely reason is that it’s always been the only thing I’m good at. I was never a starter in any sport, always kind of smart but never a stand-out student and previous to my junior year in high school I wasn’t exactly very good with people. The only outlet for any skill I was withholding seemed to be through my hands.

I kind of owe it to Elliott for getting me back into my music. He used to ask me to come teach him how to play guitar before I really even knew who this kid who had been to Alaska was. Honestly, he didn’t need me to teach him how to play, he’s not bad. But he did revive it in me. After going to his loft a few times we were playing together quite often. Then a writer and friend from the Kernel, Josey McCoy, came into play and I’m looking forward to jamming with these guys when I get back. Josey can rock the piano, guitar, harmonica and probably a few other instruments that I don’t know about. All of these come on the side to his amazing voice. He’s an excellent musician.

I had all of this in mind when I picked my room in my new house (not the one in the picture…that’s in Middlesboro). I have the entire upstairs and plenty of room for jamming. I guess I wont be seeing Josey until school starts but I’m hoping to get a few nights of playing in with Elliott before we’re back slaving every day of our lives for the Kernel. As much as I love to complain about being under-paid, over-worked and unappreciated (as all Kernelites are) I am in love with the place. That basement is home to me. Besides providing a few measly dollars a month it has provided me with some of the best friends I have ever had.

Like we’ve said time and time again, the Kernel giveth and the Kernel taketh away.

This summer was a musical fiasco. My head has experienced eargasm after eargasm. I found out that Ed played guitar in Guitar Center where Elliott bought a beautiful guitar. This was news to me. It was fun playing at Grandpa Mac’s with Elliott, Pete and Susannah. Keith has one of the best music taste that I’ve ever, um, heard? Allie’s is great but I think Keith and I are almost right in line together. He brought in a few bands that I love. And I coerced him and Elliott to see an Incubus concert with me. Elliott was listening to their new CD when I got into his car the other day.

The trip may have been to learn photography but who says you can’t bring in other hobbies and experiences? I told the guys it’s probably the best thing for me that I can’t sing. If I could I may not even be in college because I would have been perfectly happy making a few measly dollars a week playing in bars and other small shows on the weekend. I guess minus that lifestyle, I’m still still going to make as much as an average musician’s salary, maybe a little more. I’m OK with that. When you’re only good with art, and art is priceless, you can’t expect much money, or at least that’s the easiest way to cope with being broke. As long as my art is leading me to great friends and trips like the one I had this summer, I’ll keep making it, no matter the medium I have to use. I’ll just be buying a few less utensils along the way.

Kernel came a callin’

Posted in California, camping, Hess, luttrell, Matthews, Smiley, Snappers, Ventura on July 26, 2007 by lenscapremoved

Note to readers: Kernel duties came knocking at my door, or ringing at my phone if you want the truth. I doubt they would have driven 130 miles to ask me to write a column to fill space for today’s paper. Shannon Mason, the summer editor-in-chief, said I could write about whatever. I didn’t know what else to write about besides this trip. I took the ending from a blog post I had already written, but only because it had a good point that fit the lead I had used. So here is what you could find on the Kernel Web site. Or if you want to find it for yourself, click here.

            If home is where the heart is then I should be scanning through the classifieds for an old Airstream trailer to move into. 16′ of class to tow behind me, complete with a single bedroom, couch, television and microwave. 
            This summer I found out something about myself that I have always claimed but can finally attest. I love to travel. Even more specifically, I just love driving. I can’t think of too many experiences better than having a few good friends, a case of CD’s, two or three bags of animal crackers, a full tank of gas, an atlas and all summer to do what you want. I’ve lived and relived this scenario all summer.
            Three friends and I set out for California to spend the summer there shooting photographs for a stock photo company one of our professors is starting. The idea was to shoot photos that books or magazines would purchase, which translates to really generic photos. After two or three weeks we were released and told to have a good time. We spent the next three or four weeks exploring California in all of its beauty, which totals out to only be about 30 percent of the state. The other 70 percent turned out to be barren, dreadful and scorching desert.
            My friends and I had made a home out of my car, minus the Airstream. For 10,000+ miles this summer I relied on my Volvo to house my clothes, toiletries, cameras, sleeping bag and other things you bring along for road trips only to later find out you don’t need, like fireworks, two-way radios and fancy light stands.
            It took us two weeks of camping and 5,000 miles to reach our destination, Ventura, Ca. With minimal showering and a week of below or near freezing nights, it was nice to get a break. But it wasn’t long before we were off to see a few of California’s own attractions. The biggest tree in the world is just that. Yosemite is every bit as beautiful as Ansel Adams’ photos depicted. L.A. traffic inspires road rage just badly as every movie I have ever seen portrayed it as. Death Valley is so blistering and desolate that by the time you drive through it you’re delighted it’s 2,000 miles away from where you reside the other 10 months of the year.
Elliott and I left Martha’s more excited to do what we love: drive. I was nearly in tears a few steps prior to this high one.
Photo by K-Smiles

            On the way back “home” it was only one of my friends and me. The other two traveled back separately. So Elliott and I had planned on driving the 2,300 miles in the normal three days but things changed a bit once we got to our scheduled exit. I asked my buddy if he wanted to stop in Flagstaff, he said no. Once we got to Albuquerque I asked again and he said, “Let’s just go onto Lexington.” So we did.
            In a day and a half we drove across the entire country. In 31 hours, we saw the Pacific for the last time this summer and crossed from California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana and into Kentucky.
            We didn’t’ stop for more than 15 minutes, and most stops averaged about 5 minutes. We only had two meals on the road. Most of our diet consisted of beef jerky and Doritos. The second morning’s McDonalds catered to my hunger but came along with a bit of a side effect. Symptoms included nausea and constant word vomiting which mostly pieced together as complaining. Elliott diagnosed it as the whines and I treated it with biting my tongue for as long as possible, at least until someone new called. Then a new symptom came about when I began regurgitating the situation to my new listener.
            Aside from the severe stomach ache that lasted a week after I got home, I’m glad we pushed through. On the way back that we had one of the most humbling experiences I have ever had. One that makes it easy to take residence in a car for an entire summer.  
            The sun went down somewhere near the end of Arizona. The same sun that set behind us would be rising in a few hours in front. Elliott traded off with me and drove through the night. I took back over somewhere in Texas only to watch another beautiful sun peaking over the horizon. For two hours it was a spectacular view.
            If you ever get the chance to drive across the country I beg of you to plan your trip so that you can drive through the night just once. It’s an influential feeling you wont soon forget to see the sun go down and know you’ve been pushing on the whole time it was lighting the rest of the world when it gets back around to you. I can’t think of a bigger way to realize the world doesn’t revolve around you. But when I was driving and seeing it peek back up over Texas at 5 AM, I still felt like it was rising for me.

It’s how you deal with it

Posted in California, Hess, lexington, Martha, Mary Margaret, Matthews, road trip, Smiley, Snappers on July 24, 2007 by lenscapremoved

I’m not sure that Ed, Elliott and Keith would agree with me on this but since I’ve been home I’ve felt like I was one of the celebrities that we were accused of taking photos of this summer. Every time I have been spotted for the first time it comes with points of fingers, shouts and commotion. This kind of attention doesn’t interest me at all and honestly the reactions are quite surprising, despite happening over and over. The reuniting of friends and family has been as overwhelming as I would have expected if I had gone abroad for a semester. I’m sorry to be a bummer to all of this, but I feel like if I had just gone to Middlesboro for the summer and holed up for the same amount of time that it would be less climactic.

I hate to even write this blog post because I feel like this will surely come across as ungrateful but I’m nearly certain it’s an abstract road trip and transcendental appearance of Southern California that brings attention to the four of us, not what we’ve gotten out of it. Take any four students and 10,000 miles and I believe you would have a good story. But for every story I have to tell I feel an underlying moral that I learned, some of which I told you about after only two weeks on the road. One of my good friends from home said “I’m sure you feel different” and I told him this summer has changed my life. When asked how, I can’t figure out how, or even why. And not being able to assess it immediately kind of angers me at first, but it’s just too hard to take in all of it at once.
The stats are out and it’s eight thumbs up for this trip’s impact on our lives (despite only seeing five).

I was talking to Elliott about telling stories. People ask to hear about it, and it’s hard to think of anything specific. We both agree that we are more likely to tell stories if we’re just sitting around talking. It’s simple things that remind me of stories. For the first few days I was home I couldn’t stop talking about Martha and her house. I was afraid I was talking about California so much it would be tiring to my family. I was also afraid of seeming ungrateful to be home. I’m starting to figure out it’s OK to miss Ventura, and that liking some parts of it more than home is OK because there are some things about Kentucky that I like more than California. Nowhere is perfect.

My grandfather is doing much better. I don’t want to spill too much about that. I feel like it played such a part in my summer and leaving Ventura that I may do a blog about it. But I do want those of you who have been asking to know he’s much better.

I really need a tripod. This picture only shows you that I in-fact did see fireworks. I probably couldn’t have done much more though since my neighborhood isn’t exactly the most beautiful street in Lexington. More like one of the biggest eye sores in town.

I was finally able to see Mary Margaret last Friday. She met me at my house in Lexington, which sits behind the Red Mile racetrack, and I told her had she gotten there just a bit sooner, fireworks would have gone off right as I kissed her for the first time since I left (there must have been some kind of festival there this weekend, as they shot-off fireworks twice that weekend). My weekend with her went really well. The only thing I really want to tell about it is that the same guy that threw a going-away party that I met her at was throwing another one (officially) before he went back home to London. So Mary Margaret and I were at the same house we were the night we “met”. Ed was there with Alice and Keith was there with Chris Miles…no they’re not partners but Chris was more than excited to see Keith. It was kind of sad that Elliott wasn’t there but he was tying loose ends. I hope all went well for him.

I’ve been back I’ve noticed that I’ve missed out on the bonding that happened between my friends back here in Lexington. I don’t even mind it. My trip was nothing but perfect and one of the best summers I’ll ever be able to enjoy. Two summers ago I went to Spain, Italy, France and Hawaii all in a few months. This summer still beats those two trips. When I left, I was going with three guys who were more like coworkers than anything. Now I feel like we’re carrying something together. This is as best as I can even think to put together how I feel about this. I feel like this year is going to be different for a lot of reasons. I’m interested to see how previous friendships change and three of my new ones keep developing.

I guess you’re noticing this blog post isn’t going anywhere. I’m feeling it too. I thought by now I would have my final post about California up, or at least my recap of the trip. But I’m still not ready. I have one sentence typed of it, and it’s more of a fragment than anything.

Help, I’ve driven to Utah and can’t get out

Posted in camping, road trip, Smiley, Snappers on July 18, 2007 by Keith Smiley

(Whiny) post by Keith 

My plan all along was to take it slow on the way back from California, to make some detours to national parks in Utah and heading to Salt Lake City to visit a friend before swinging through Denver. But the pace has been a little slower than I’d planned: Since Monday afternoon, I’ve driven less than 70 miles.

For the last two nights, I’ve been stranded in Panguitch, Utah (pop. 1623), waiting for car repairs. The Color Country Motel has been home:

See the painting on the wall? It’s a jigsaw puzzle. Seriously.


Saturday night was my last at Martha’s; I packed the car Sunday morning and drove through California and Nevada and into southwest Utah. The air conditioner in my car was barely cooling in the 110-degree desert, so I mostly just used the vent.

I stopped for the night in Zion National Park, paid for my camp site and grabbed my tent from the car. And that’s when I realized the poles and stakes were still strapped to the side of Ed’s backpack — in Lexington. I took my tent out of his pack when we returned from Yosemite, but never thought to get the poles from the outside. It had just finished raining and was threatening to start again, so frustrated, I turned around and drove the short distance back to town to find a motel.

It’s not a good picture, but it shows you that a Utah sunset beats a California sunset, no contest.

The next morning, I picked up a cheap tent at Target so I could spend Monday night in Bryce Canyon National Park. I went through Zion, stopping once to shoot a few touristy pictures in bad light, and headed toward Bryce, but never made it.

The check engine light came on a couple minutes before I stopped at a scenic pullout to shoot more touristy pictures, this time of Red Canyon (which I can attest is quite red). When I started the car again, I was without power steering, along with a few other niceties like an alternator. And my cell phone had no signal.

My car sits half dead at a scenic pullout. I obviously wasn’t thinking straight, as I didn’t shoot any pictures when I bright yellow and blue tow truck pulled up in Red Canyon to haul the car away.


Two cars that were caravaning pulled off as I started looking for someone with cell phone reception. I’m pretty sure they only stopped so the driver of the first car could talk to the driver of the second for a few moments, but I managed to interrupt them and find out that one of them had a phone with one bar of reception.

So for 30 minutes, the occupants of the car stood around and alternated between chatting among themselves and staring at me while I tried to get AAA to send a tow truck. The people in the first car made the short hike up to the top of Red Canyon and returned. “It’s nice, you should go see it,” they told the people in the second car, including the lady who’s phone I was using. So they hiked up the hill and back down, while I stood in the driver’s door of their truck, scared to move because I might lose the signal. The phone was running out of battery, but if I leaned into the truck to use the charger, the reception would drop. I got lucky; the last words I heard from the phone before it died were, “Alright Mr. Smiley, I’ll go ahead and send that tow…”

The clouds really were amazing Tuesday night, though they started to rain on me right after I took this picture. I suppose I should have seen that coming.

It turns out my air conditioner wasn’t working right, and when it finally died, it dragged the rest of the car down with it. The clutch on it seized up and snapped the serpentine belt, so the car was drivable but not very far.

Panguitch, about 10 miles from where I broke down, was the nearest repair shop, and by nearest I mean my other option was to tow it two hours to Cedar City. The shop was closing down as I got to it on Monday, Tuesday was spent waiting for parts, and on Wednesday they spent five hours putting the compressor, which is conveniently buried under the rest of the engine. And in the end, the air conditioner still doesn’t work; no one in Panguitch has the equipment to charge an AC.

So now I’m spending the night less than 70 miles away in Richfield, hoping to get to an AC shop as soon as it opens in the morning so I can get on the road toward home.


It’s unfortunate that I had to see Panguitch under these circumstances, because it really is a nice small town. Tourism seems to be all it has going for it anymore — it has something like 14 motels that do decent business, considering the town’s proximity to so many national and state parks — but it has a great view in every direction, and the people at the auto shop and the motel were extremely helpful.

But the delays and expense of the car repairs have left me frustrated with the whole trip back and have made it difficult to enjoy the scenery. I’m not going to bother with any of my stops now; I would rather just go home. Seeing Bryce canyon and Arches National Park will just have to wait; those rock formations have been hanging around for a few thousand years, so surely they can wait one more.

California Catchup

Posted in California, camping, Hess, luttrell, Matthews, Ojai, road trip, Santa Barbara, Sequoia, Snappers, Ventura, Yosemite on July 12, 2007 by Keith Smiley

By Keith Smiley
The guy that Brad tricked into writing

As far as road trips go, driving a few thousand miles across the country is just an appetizer. We could have spent our entire trip in Ventura County, splitting time between the beach and the hills of Ojai, and been happy with the experience. But we kept logging miles instead, taking side trips to places like Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, Yosemite and Death Valley.

A park ranger at Glacier Point in Yosemite talks about the sunset at Half Dome as the sun sets on Half Dome in the background. Funny how that works.

But anyone who’s reading the blog already knows about our excursions because Brad works so hard on keeping the blog up to date. Before the trip to California started, Brad said he would try and update the blog “3-4 times a week.” But for at least the last month, there’s been a minimum of one post each day, and they rarely come from me.

All the blog’s regular readers and everyone who’s been following the progress of this trip online should thank Brad for his dedication to keeping the blog current. I’m sure he enjoys writing and sharing his photos; otherwise he wouldn’t have started this in the first place. But I’m sure there have been plenty of days when he’d rather be out doing things instead of writing about the things we’ve done.

So I hope everyone appreciates the effort Brad puts into his work, both on the blog and elsewhere. I certainly do; it’s a lot easier to point everyone that asks — all three of them — to the blog instead of trying to recount everything that’s happened on the trip.

Everyone likes feedback, so I’d encourage more people to post comments on Brad’s  posts; something like, “Hey, thanks for all the thought and effort you put into the blog. I use it to kill time at work but enjoy it so much that I read it at home, too.”

For reference, here’s who I’m talking about:

That’d Brad in the middle; he’s the one not made of wood.

The problem with Brad writing so often is that it I don’t usually have a reason to post; he’s already covered the best parts of each day with quality writing and awesome pictures, so there’s not much room for me to put anything up. But I’ve still taken a few pictures here and there, so I’m playing catchup and posting some photos from our road trips to Simi Valley, Santa Barbara, and Yosemite.

Not many words in this one, so if you’ve had to force yourself to read this far, it’s paid off: there are only a few words left in this post and I’ll totally understand if you don’t read them.

What’s unusual about this scene? It’s not the hairpin turn, the randomly placed traffic cones or the hundred-foot drop right off the side of the road. No, it’s the guardrail that’s a luxury California doesn’t usually bother with.

This railing protects the casual hiker from a three-thousand or so foot drop. If you choose to look over the edge anywhere else, well, you’re on your own.

The scene from around where the above railing is. It’s hard to tell at this size, but there’s a spot on that trail on the right. That’s a person.

Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley

Camera, Nalgene bottle, reporter’s notepad poking out of camera bag… what else do you need?

Santa Barbara

Sequoia National Forest
That’s a pretty good sized tree sitting in that pool of light, but the sequoias on either side probably just laugh at it and call it a pipsqueak.

Yosemite National Park


Getting an EDucation

Posted in California, Kernel, Martha, Matthews, Snappers, Yosemite on July 10, 2007 by Keith Smiley

Keith posted this, or at least he’s putting his name on it as if he posted it.

Brad and Ed left early this morning, so early that normal college students were still awake from the night before. Brad came back in an empty car as Ed boarded what was probably an empty plane for the 5:30 a.m. flight from Oxnard to Los Angeles International Airport.

That was about 12 hours ago. Now I feel like I’m just waiting to leave California.

Ed checks to see if fire is hot during the cookout Saturday night.

It’s not that I can’t survive without Ed — I think I can — but his leaving mixes up the entire situation. All my memories of California involve the four of us exploring the state. Now that Ed is gone, I feel like the rest of us need to go so we don’t leave him out of any memories.

More feats of strength: Elliott braces himself as Ed punches through a thick, solid piece of… rotten bark.

I’m not going to lie: Ed’s departure has benefited me, at least in the seating department. Right now I’m sitting in “his” chair and throughly enjoying it; this seat is much more comfortable than sitting at the table. And earlier today I slid the seat back in Brad’s car, giving myself leg room for the first time.
UPDATE: Elliott is sitting in “Ed’s chair.” This begins a feud that probably won’t be resolved before we leave. If you think Elliott should go find his own seat and let me sit in Ed’s chair, post a comment. Think of it as signing a petition for a good cause, without the signature or good cause.

What I’ll miss the most, though, is Ed’s beard, which he decided not to shave until he got home. While he might have won the Patchy Beard Contest early on, it filled in nicely while we were in California:


Nah, I’m just kidding. The snappers are fake, remember? It looks more like this:

There will probably never be another Patchy Beard Contest because Ed has already taken the title for life.

We’re going to be in California for the rest of the week, and there’s nothing stopping me from staying even longer. I don’t have any commitments that require me to be back anytime soon, so I’ll probably take a less direct route back than Brad and Elliott and visit some other friends who are also living out west this summer. But I think I’ll still leave Ventura at the same time; after spending all my time around here with the same people, I think it’ll be too odd to stick around when all the others leave.


I don’t know what we’re doing tomorrow (Wednesday). We don’t really have anything planned, and I really feel like we shouldn’t do anything. It’s not just guilt either; it’s like we’re running at partial strength and just can’t enjoy things as much without one of our cohorts.

More than likely, we’ll run some errands, start planning routes, pack a few bags, that sort of thing. The kind of things you do when you know the adventure is just about done.