On the Northwest Trail #7 Last Days


Downtown Portland, Oregon, 2014

Left, Outside the Crystal Ballroom, Portland, Oregon, 2014

Right, Mark Hosler (right) and Doug Theralt (left) from the band, Office Products, in the Green Room at the Crystal Ballroom, Portland, Oregon, 2014

Back to Portland after our week on the Olympic Peninsula. From slow to fast, quiet to noise, open landscape and forest to mountainous buildings. We like it here. 

First night back we go to the Crystal Ballroom to hear our friend Mark Hosler who lives in Madison County. Mark is a founding member of the band Negativland and he was doing a show of his unique music, which I might describe as organized noise. 


Mark Hosler pushing the buttons and turning the dials, Crystal Ballroom, Portland, Oregon, 2014

We mostly take it easy the last few days. Museums, food, some shopping, more food, laying around, yet more food and drinks. We hang out with Ben at Clyde Common, the bar/restaurant he works in. We meet his friends and co-workers who, to a person, treat us like visiting royalty. Ben clearly loves his work, bartender and mixologist, and I must say how satisfying it is to see one's child doing something he enjoys, where he has found his niche. Home.

Ben mixing at Clyde Common, Portland, Oregon, 2014


On the Northwest Trail #6 La Push


Leslie on the Beach at La Push, Washington, 2014

click image to enlarge

Cool and rainy. A perfect respite from the heat we've left in North Carolina. Leslie walking like a champ on all terrains with her new hip. Enjoying walking together again. The beach is littered with these giant, aged remnants. So many we assumed they had once grown there when that sandy, rocky beach was part of the adjoining forest, its soil rich and loamy. "No," we were told. "Those trees were uprooted deep in the forests many generations ago. Floods brought them down the mountain in rivers, which emptied into the bay, where they were eventually washed onto the shore." Monuments from a different time and place. The woman who told us, my age perhaps, remembered playing on them as a child, as her parents and grandparents did before her.


On the Northwest Trail #5 Sol Duc


Sol Duc Waterfall Trail, Olympic National Park, Washington, 2014.


Sol Duc Waterfall, Olympic National Park, Washington, 2014.


In this place, words seem next to impossible and photographs barely passable. Nothing to fully capture the absolute power of the rainforest and deep woods. The silence. The light. The scent of a rich life living all around you. And why would you want to capture it if it is only the merest of imitations? 


On the Northwest Trail #3 The Victim


Wilson's Warbler, Forks, Washington, 2014.

She found it in the grill of our car
when we stopped at the Loggers Museum in Forks.
A monument to clearcuts and habitat loss.
A Wilson’s Warbler, my buddy Wayne tells me.
Stilled in perfection.
But for one last fleeting moment.
Alive in grace and color and flight.
Doing what it is alive to do.
The next beat and it’s dead.
No match for our rented Ford Focus.

Our songbirds are in trouble.
I read it in the news.
Millions lost yearly
to development,
to man’s carelessness,
to our cute and cuddly cats.
What will our lives be without them?
Our specimen, our Wilson’s Warbler,
a victim of our need to see the world.
Bad timing, I think.
Collateral damage? I ask.
An uncounted cost of our trip.
Only acknowledged in our thoughts and images.



On the Northwest Trail #2


Architectural and Food Elements in Portland and Beyond.

Downtown Portland, Oregon, 2014. Sometimes photographs just appear, magically, while walking, you look up  and there it is, gone with the next step. I love it when this happens. Pay attention, I think.


From Child #1's Kitchen Window, Portland, Oregon, 2014. It's a culture of food and drink and we were fully engaged. 


Olympic Provisions, Portland, Oregon, 2014. Incredible homemade salamis, a wonderful lunch, and a sign I would like at the bottom of my driveway.


Neah Bay, Washington, 2014. More creative signage and even better fish. For breakfast, with eggs, toast and jelly, perhaps a tater, hard to beat in my mind.


Some Additions


On the Train, near Monterrey, Mexico 1989


It’s been slightly over two years since we launched my new website. I want to invite you to look at two new galleries of images - Scapes and Staring. All new work in the Staring gallery and a mix of older and newer work in Scapes. I hope you enjoy them.

This coming July also marks the two year anniversary of my blog. I must admit I’ve surprised even myself in my ability to stick with this form of expression and I continue to love this particular makeup of pictures and words. For those of you who haven't subscribed to the blog, I hope you will consider doing so.

Seldom Scene - Devony Shelton


Devony Shelton, Cutshalltown, Madison County, NC 1984

In my last post I spoke about my time with Home Health Nurse, Susan Moore, and this photograph was made during the same assignment. We were visiting with Devony Shelton and her husband who was terminally ill. She had been caring for him for many months and Susan provided support and a willing ear for Mrs. Shelton's concerns.

Sometimes on assignments such as this one, a photographer will make images he knows will never be published, mostly because they don't fit with the story. I sensed this was the case with this picture, but knew it was one I needed to make. 

She said she had cut her hair only one time in her life and I asked if I could photograph it. The request pleased her and we walked together to the porch of her single-wide where the angular lines of the trailer provided a contrasting backdrop to the flowing elegance of her hair and posture.

The photograph wasn't used in the story and to my knowledge this is the first time it's been published.  


Our Dirt


Dirt in our Garden with Potato Plant Shadows, PawPaw, 2014

I love our dirt.
I love most everything about it.
The things you might expect – its smell and texture.
Its touch and the way it sifts through my fingers,
     staining them as the soil itself, a reminder.

I’ve had to learn to love our dirt.
It’s not intuitive with me, like it is Leslie.
As a child, cleanliness was valued, dirt avoided.
Hands and nails checked for telltale signs,
     washing more of a religion than an actual need.

It took moving here, to the mountains,
to rid the aversion from my life.
Gardening and working tobacco changed that.
Animals, and firewood, and just plain digging.
Now, dirt is everyday, and usual.

I love it under my nails.
How it turns the tips dark.
If you suck on those tips, you taste it.
Grit on your teeth, going down in a smooth swallow.
A cocktail of sorts.

Our dirt is clean.
No chemicals for twenty-five years.
Manure, compost, cover crops, leaves in the fall.
It’s rich. You dig in to a feast of life –
     worms a plenty, worms galore.

Garlic in our Garden, PawPaw, 2014.

We grow a small garden now,
we used to grow much more.
To eat food grown in soil you’ve nurtured is
     one of life’s true gifts.
I think, “Fresh spinach in the early spring.”

I read about children today,
not knowing where their food comes from,
like me when I was young, but more so.
It’s sad to be without dirt, to lack intimacy with it,
to not know the primacy of its role.

And the bacteria and germs, the stuff that lives in dirt -     now they’re saying all that stuff is good for you.
It  builds resistance to disease.
Dirt makes us stronger, they say.
I hear my mother, “I don’t believe a word of it.”




Seldom Scene - Everett Barnett


Everett Barnett, Marshall, North Carolina 1984

I didn't know Mr. Barnett well at all. But when I lived in my studio space in downtown Marshall in the early 1980s, I would often see him and we would speak. I do know he was a loved and respected part of a community that is not noted for its racial or ethnic diversity. He lived downtown, just off of Hill Street. He served our country during World War II as a member of the 34th Naval Construction Battalion, the famous Seabees, whose motto was Construimus, Batuimus - We Build, We Fight. The Battalion participated in much of the fighting in the Pacific Theatre during the war and the shell casing he is holding is from the invasion of Okinawa in 1945. That battle was one of the most hard fought and bitter fights of the War as Japan was desperately defending its homeland. It was instrumental in bringing the war to an end. I wish I knew more of Everett Barnett and would love for readers to share stories of him.


Thank You


PawPaw, 2012.

Yesterday, April 30, marked the end of the most successful month in my website's brief history with over 2,400 unique visits and 4,200 page views. When I first started blogging on this site about 20 months ago, I intended to give it a year and at that time evaluate if it was worth continuing. I wondered if I would be able to sustain the volume of words and pictures and if anyone would choose to read them. That first year is now closing in on year 2 and the words seem to keep flowing. It's been fun for me and I continue to love the process. I've come to believe this is the perfect medium for me. Of course, it wouldn't be possible without you readers and I want to offer my sincere thanks to all of you for your support, comments, and timely corrections. 


A Visit with David


David Holt on the set of Amazing Grace, America in Song, at Dellie Norton's home, Sodom, Madison County, 1975

I’ve known David Holt a long time. I reminded him the other day I was at his first known concert – a very intimate affair in the basement of the old Pack Library in downtown Asheville. There were maybe ten of us in the audience and his wife, Ginny Callaway, accompanied him on guitar. David asked me how bad it was and I told him that given my complete lack of knowledge of old-time music I thought it was great.

As most of us know, David has improved his musical skills quite a bit over the years as evidenced by his multiple Grammy awards and worldwide following. He can be seen on public television and continues to play concerts for significantly larger audiences than that first early attempt. Most importantly in my mind, has been David’s work over the years to perpetuate the genre of folk music and his unflagging support for young musicians.

David Holt in his art studio in the River Arts District, Asheville, NC 2014

What many people don’t know is David is also an accomplished photographer. For most of his music career, he has photographed people he considers his mentors – from Doc Watson to Dellie Norton to Ralph Stanley. Some of his images are presently on view at the Madison County Arts Council in Marshall and they are well worth a visit. He’s hoping to publish these photographs, and many more, in book form some time in future.

Last week I stopped to visit David at his studio space in the River Arts District in downtown Asheville. There, David showed me some of his latest work – paintings that incorporate the photographs along with words about the musicians. These are a new direction for him and I could tell immediately how much fun he was having. "David gone wild," I commented. It was a great visit with an old friend.


Spring Has Sprung


In Our Yard, PawPaw, Madison County, NC.

Spring has always been a busy time of year, but this year seems busier than normal. In addition to the usual farm chores of gardening, birthing lambs, mowing and mucking stalls, we are also involved in a major home renovation in lieu of Leslie's Mom moving in with us over the summer. There are also a number of photography projects during the time period that I hope some or all of you will choose to attend.

On May 1 at 5:30 pm, I will participate in a panel discussion at the Asheville Art Museum as part of their regular "Up for Discussion" series. Titled "Darkroom or Digital: A Panel Discussion," five photographers - myself, Ralph Burns, Steve Mann, Erin Brethauer, and Dana Moore - will look at changes in the photographic process and how each of us has chosen to cope with those changes. It should be a lively discussion. This is held in conjunction with my dear friend Ralph Burns' exhibit at the Museum, which should not be missed. 


On May 8, I will be having a one-person exhibit at Flow Gallery in downtown Marshall. Flow is an artist owned and operated gallery that exhibits a wide range of exceptional art and craft from our Madison County community. My show is titled, "Madison County Past and Present: Photographs by Rob Amberg," and will include some of my oldest work from the county, as well as, some of my most recent work. I will give a brief artist's talk on the 8th beginning at 5:30. 


From June 8 to June 14, I will be leading a workshop on Photography and Personal Narrative at Doe Branch Ink, a nationally known writers' retreat in Madison County. The facility is in a stunning location in Madison County and offers writers, and in this case photographers, an opportunity to reflect, concentrate and hone their skills. 


And not so much an event as an opportunity to see a supersize print of one of my images, please visit the newly opened King Daddy's Chicken and Waffles at 444 Haywood Road in West Asheville. Julie and John, owners of the popular Early Girl Eatery, in downtown Asheville have chosen to grace their main wall with one of my chicken pix. The print will be 84" wide, so big I'm sending it to Vermont to be printed. We're hoping to have it hung in late May. And by the way, the food is tremendous and if you like beer with your waffles, they can accommodate you with that also.



Seldom Scene - Easter Party 1982


Collecting Eggs at the Skemp's Easter Party, Wool Branch, Madison County, NC 1982

Yesterday, John and Vicky Skemp hosted their annual Easter Party at their home on Wool Branch. For those of us geezers, it was a reminder of the passage of time. The children in this photograph, our children, are now in their thirties, many with children of their own. As always, the party was a time of renewal also, a chance to see old friends, and make new ones.