Photography, USA

Don’t send you broken lenses to Precision Camera

j_nix_streetwork (1 of 1)-75

My favorite lens to shoot with, the Pentax 21mm prime, suddenly stopped working. The outer lens ring was completely knocked off the lens. I suppose I banged it into too many steering wheel and walls in its lifetime, and it just finally had enough. This lens is tough. It comes with a lens hood that is made of metal, and its profile on the camera is minimal. I like to shoot close, and this lens makes that possible. I’ve put it through its paces on the streets of Denver and in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.

I’ve used it to capture tens of thousands of images and there isn’t any lens I like better. I found Precision Camera through Pentax. It seems that’s where Pentax sends their lenses off for repair, so I contacted them. I went through an online process with the company to start the repair order, and shipped the lens myself from UPS. The lens arrived in early May and I assumed work had begun. After several weeks of silence, I attempted to e-mail the company through their website. I received no response on three separate e-mails.

I then called their customer service department, and spoke with Charlene, who said that the problem was that I hadn’t authorized payment on the credit card for the $166.50 repair. I was under the impression that this was paid up front, when I entered my information online and received a confirmation. She was short, and I would bet she didn’t look at the order itself, just repeating the phrase “now that the payment is received you will get your lens in four to six business days.” Today the timeframe given was five to seven business days. I didn’t feel confident about the conversation or the information I was receiving, as the online order status had a big red stop sign on it and stated that they were waiting for backordered parts. I told the customer service representative and she stuck to her story about the payment problem and now everything is on schedule. I wasn’t surprised when I didn’t receive my lens within that time frame.

So I called again today, July 26, and spoke with Charlene again who says that the payment was approved, and the parts are on backorder until July 6th. After that date she says the lens will be returned as soon as possible. I asked her about the reason I was told on my last call that the lens would be delivered in four to six days, she said that was me that told you, and normally repairs take five to seven days barring any unforeseen circumstance. In this case I supposedly have parts on backorder that will arrive on July 6th. I asked how long ago the parts were ordered and she gave me two different dates in May, the eighth and then the 12th.

I will follow up on July 6, to determine if the part was received or not. My complaint about this experience is that the numbers keep changing, and I’ve been kept in the dark for long periods of time. I think your customer service department is suffering a deficiency in effective communication. The system you have in place isn’t working and the customers are receiving mixed information from your website and your live representatives. The information we do receive is often incorrect and is leaving your customers dissatisfied. We are vocal about this problem, and your company received poor reviews in many internet forums where fellow photographers warn against dealing with your company in any way.

I will join the ranks of your naysayers and advise any photographer I come across to steer clear of your company. The equipment we send you is expensive and waiting more than three months for a lens repair is just bad business. After being completely ignored on four separate occasions online, and getting mixed and inconsistent information on two phone calls, I am completely frustrated and unhappy with this experience.

Camera companies would do well to take their business elsewhere. I will contact Pentax about this experience, and while my one voice might not worry you, the voice of potentially tens of thousands of other photographers and customers of yours will eventually be heard and a good number of us are unhappy.

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Black & White Street Photography, Color Street Photography, USA

Flickr Top Five

These are the top 5 photographs in my photostream based on Flickr’s “Interestingness” rating.

#5. 6,231 views 82 favorites

Denver Street Photography

#4. 3,127 views  67 favorites

Denver Street Photography

#3. 18,823 views 146 favorites

Penny

#2. 14,007 views 110 favorites

Denver Street Photography

#1. 12,679 views 155 favorites

Denver Street Photography

II think it’s fitting that my most interesting photo would be one of my daughter. I’ve been with her every single day for the entirety of her life. These are flickr’s top five, but not my personal top five, not even close. I have more than 11,000 images stored on flickr, and I’d guess that about 1,000 of them are public. If views were worth five bucks each and favorites a dollar I’d be doing okay for folding money.

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Black & White Street Photography, Color Street Photography, USA

To Serve and Protect

Denver

Denver

Denver

Denver

Denver Street Photography

Denver

Denver

Denver

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Travelogue, USA

Now leaving Denver

The Vanagon is loaded to the hilt. Our already slow moving vehicle is that much slower under the weight of everything we own that survived the purge. Our last few days in Colorado were soaked with rain. And now I sit in this parking lot waiting for Maizy one last time while she finishes saying her goodbyes. It’s all over but the crying.

With Maizy’s last day behind us we turned the key in the ignition and headed for the road. I rolled my window down and waved up to her co-workers I thought might be watching and gave them all a wave. Then, as if on cue, we hit the seven foot clearance bar of her parking lot with the box of stuff mounted on our luggage rack. BAM! I watched it swinging wildly in the rear view and just laughed as we drove off. No harm, no foul.

Driving with this load it feels like a slow bullet careening down the road. We push the speed limit down the hills and hope the momentum will carry us up the steeper grades. Once we reach our destination we will reinforce our ride, store our belongings, say our hellos and goodbyes to the family and begin our journey. It might take a couple weeks, but it will be time well spent. Driving down Interstate 70 heading east the clouds seemed so low that  you could imagine yourself reaching up to touch them.

The sky was a mix of deep purples and light blues in a gradient line along the horizon. We left construction projects and road crews in the rear view, and as they disappeared we found ourselves surrounded by the familiar fields, farms and vast open spaces of eastern Colorado.  Cell towers and a brick and mortar church stands alone in a giant field. We are among our fellow travelers now. The license plates on vehicles start getting more random. Indiana, Florida, South Dakota, all of them just passing through, heading off to unknown destinations.

We’re out in the sticks, east bound on a two lane highway, slowly marching forward. A hawk circles above in the dark sky, an occasional bird drops in front of the windshield flapping its wings madly, bouncing up and down flying along with us. A glance to the right reveals an old broken down trailer home with peeling white paint and a crooked antennae on the roof, it’s gone in an instant shrinking out of sight as we make our way further east.We’re on highway 36 now, one lane east one west. Headlights approach and disappear in a misty cloud.

Pouring rain pelts the van. Groves of trees with black trunks and yellow green leaves, the silouhette of branches, jagged and pointy, natures concertina wire. Tractor equipment and yellow signs marking intersecting side roads. The van had some trouble up one hill so we pulled over to give old Betty a rest. Then the hail came and we decided to keep moving. It was pitch dark, huge raindrops soaked the van and we were all a little nervous.

The sky was electric, lightning crackling, thunder rolling, and us sitting on those front ️wheels holding on tight and squinting through a foggy windshield. I said it was probably because we were all breathing so hard from fear. Whoever said driving through the plains is boring never drove through it in the driving rain. My adrenaline is pumping.

We just passed a muddy road to nowhere called Winview. We began to question our decision to take highway 36 when the van started acting like it was running out of gas twenty miles from the nearest service station. I told Maizy that if something breaks it might as well be now while we have the money to fix it. Mound City or bust. We almost ran out of gas on the first tank.

U.S. 36 is empty and desolate through Colorado. We stressed over whether or not we could make it, and the van struggled to get us there. After about twenty miles of sweating it out, barely able to keep moving we hit an old gas station in Alton, CO with old pumps sporting analog read outs. We feel there is a problem with the fuel delivery somehow but we learned as long as we don’t consume more than half a tank everything runs great. We decided at this point to get back to I-70 where the gas stations are plenty.

We passed through a town called Cope which looked abandoned. There was an old red phone booth, abandoned buildings and dead looking farms. There was no gas to be found. We traveled down Highway 59 for 26 miles and got back to the familiar territory of 70 east. We haven’t had any problems since the initial troubles just as long as we fill up about every 70 miles, a problem that we can hopefully fix during our time in Mound City.

The smell of manure hit us hard just past the Kansas Colorado border. There was a giant stockyard with thousands of heads of cattle. The conditions didn’t look good from my vantage point, and had me seriously contemplating becoming a vegan. I’m already lactose intolerant anyway, and after seeing and smelling that cow concentration camp the decision seems like a no-brainer.

The first 300 or so miles have been crazy. Sad goodbyes, stressful moments, ominous skies and the hypnotizing lines of the road pointing us toward our next destination.

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Black & White Street Photography, USA

Sitting on a Bench

Sitting on the bench in Walmart. Listening to people talking, coughing, shuffling by. Michael Jackson is belting out “Oh baby give me one more chance,” and I’m posted up on the end of lane 13. People in colorful outfits, pink and yellow shorts with matching socks and hat, a white jogging suit. Clusters of humans pushing carts. Basking in the glow of a thousand fluorescent lights, and getting the feeling Walmart is reading this over my shoulder as I type. There are an overwhelming amount of cameras. I just realized that you never see the smiley face anymore, it’s like a Walmart sun logo or something, a circular pattern; six yellow lines arranged like the sun. Keys jingle from someone’s belt hook as they pass, managers letting cashiers off their shift. The guy that just walked by said he lost a friend because he refuses to play Black Ops 3. The main cashier rings up bananas in the robot line.

The beeping sound of profit, each beep seems to have a slightly different tone, a concert of dollars, a symphony of profit. The rolling wheels in carts, squeaking by in their own rhythm, the rustling of plastic bags being filled with goods. It feels like I’ve been sitting here forever. I’m sure the girls will come out of the bathroom soon. How long have I been here anyway? Ominous sounding wheels approach, getting louder and louder, and then they were gone, and I’m still not sure what it was. Defective cart maybe. I try to close my ears to the onslaught, but it’s hard to tune out. Phones ringing, conversations going on, the salon just closed, and some perfume just invaded my nostrils as a heavily scented woman walked by, it wasn’t horrible, but it did take me aback for a moment. “Always something there to remind me” floats down from the ceiling and the doors whoosh open as I run to catch up with the girls.

The night is odd. It’s beautiful, a crescent moon hangs above us in a dark purple sky, the fringe of light on the horizon is orange with shades of pink. Low flying helicopters are circling directly overhead. It feels like I’m that guy in Good Fellas suddenly noticing the helicopter following him everywhere. They shake the ground as they fly by, exhibiting strength. They’ve flown over at least five times in the past five minutes.

My water boils, tea waits. I need to relax. My daughter is fighting sleep even though she’s exhausted which is exhausting in and of itself.

We lay down to sleep. The helicopters continue their relentless circle, directly above our heads. I can see them through the back window as I lay here. Blinking lights, a dark shadowy helicopter shape. No where to hide.

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Everyday America, Life, USA

Gazing 


A woman in a blue blazer with her jet-black hair fashioned in a bob, walks through the parking lot to join her friends at the tavern for happy hour. The power steering from a Toyota RAV4 whines. The crowd gurgles off in the distance from the unseen outdoor patio. A man walks out of his car, head buried in phone, clueless to his surroundings. 

A couple of guys walk by, the man on the left is big, muscular with thick thighs and bulging biceps. His company is the opposite. Skinny legs and arms that pale in comparison. A bald man and his brunette companion put take out dinners on the roof of their sedan, a Super High Output Ford Taurus, white. The smell of steak on the grill permeates the air, the sound of traffic forever in the background, never resting. 

Motorcycles scream, big trucks let out their guttural sounds from tricked out mufflers, and I write. Only it isn’t writing as much as it is tapping on a piece of glass. A black bird flies through the frame of the vanagon windshield just as a surly face behind the wheel of a gold Toyota truck comes barreling around the corner. He’s lucky no kids are wandering around as he would smash whatever unlucky soul stepped out in front of him, the kind of guy who runs over squirrels and bunnies on purpose, your basic asshole. 

A man with fancy sunglasses perched on his head rifles through the dumpster looking for boxes. He is wearing a grey golf shirt. The asphalt lot is surrounded by chain restaurants and other strip mall fare. Lil’ Ricci’s Pizza, Cuba Cuba Sandwiches, Floyd’s Barber Shop, Espresso Americano, Bam Bu, Tropical Smoothie Cafe, Scotttrade, Half Hour Power and Lyons Den Liquors.

This is the Denver Tech Center, the belly of the corporate beast and these people are the employees who work for it. 

A couple sit in a car behind me laughing into their phones. A girl in baby blue shorts strides through the lot, her pony tail bouncing behind her, scantily clad in a tank top.

I wonder if she’s freezing because it’s cool and windy and I’m sitting here in a hoodie. Watching the world go by, waiting impatiently to get on the road. Waiting for the eighth of May, the day when this family leaves the Mile High City. 

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Photography, USA

Mesmerized by Human Flight

watching air traffic

mesmerized by human flight

happy on the ground

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The Family Circle, Travelogue, USA, VW

Seven Days

300_miles_38

We have seven days. Seven days left of our run-of-the-mill existence. The first night we sleep in the van will be strange for me. To think of everywhere I have been and all of the places I have slept, a Vanagon isn’t the worst of them, nor is it the best.

I’ve slept on hard racks with thin mattresses, both in jail and in the military. I’ve slept in a-frames in the desert, on the ground, and on cots. I passed out in a bush once. I’ve slept on both of my sister’s couches, crashed in dingy hotels next to drunk strangers, and in the back of an amphibious assault vehicle, in the U.S.A. as well as Africa. On March 31, my family and I will begin our tour of the 48 contiguous states. Alaska and Hawaii will have to wait. We’re going to do it in an ‘82 VW Camper.

If it sounds crazy to you, it feels just as crazy to me. But I like that feeling. Final preperations are in full swing. The van is receiving all of our attention. The apartment is being frequented by Craig’s Listers looking for sweet deals. A guy named Frank gave us ten dollars more than we asked for our bed, just because we didn’t have change. Then a lady named Jen came over and bought our dresser. She talked us down $50. No one felt threatened, although we did have to meet Frank at a nearby Starbucks with the bed on account of all the nervousness surrounding Craig’s List these days. There have been some homicides in the news, it’s understandable.

All of the beds are torn down, we are sleeping on our mattresses pushed together in the back bedroom. And honestly, it isn’t that big of a change, Penny has always slept with us. Pretty much since birth. She won’t miss her bed because she rarely slept in it. She was happy to help us take it apart.

I’m down to my ration of clothes for the trip. The rest of them have been donated to the goodwill. If you wanted to know more about me as a person, you might be able to glean quite a lot from shopping at the Goodwill in Denver on Monaco and Hampden. Most of my old possesions now reside there on the dingy shelves and dusty floors among all the other props from other people’s universes. Bill Cosby books on family values, Tom Clancy novels, and stretched-out sweat-stained golf shirts that are always the brightest, gaudiest color you can think of, bright orange with horizontal stripes, corporate logos on the sleeves. Anything I didn’t sell or give away to people I know went to the Goodwill.  Someone else is actually going to get to walk a mile in my shoes, literally.

We are running out of time, so these final big pieces of furniture need to go. Timing is critical here. I imagine in a couple of days I might be writing from the front seat of the van as the couch and the table and chairs will be gone. We’ve prepared. We have everything we think we need, which is probably too much. But we are starting with the benefit of the knowledge of those that have gone before us. For inspiration we didn’t need to look farther than GoWesty’s list of blogger’s living the van life. I  count ten blogs, each of them documenting the amazing journey’s and lives of people out there doing it right now. The family at Bodeswell has been on the road for more than 5 years in a 1971 bay window bus. Seeing other’s doing it, these enterprising spirits, these people with the courage and the smarts to survive life on the road. It’s empowering. I feel like we can do it because there are others out there proving it’s possible.

Ever since Maizy told me she was pregnant with Penny almost 5 years ago, my life has been nothing but constant change. I refer to March 31 as the “jumping off point” but really I think I jumped off five years ago. That’s when I quit drinking alcohol and stopped smoking cigarettes. I quit my job to raise my daughter. I enrolled in college and fell in love with photography. I got this crazy idea that I wanted to be a journalist, and Maizy supported that. And now Maizy is ready to jump off too, and that’s really what’s happening here.

We are leaving this apartment, Maizy is leaving her job. We are leaving this city behind. We are doing all this to be together. We will tour the U.S. as a family, and search for the place we all agree is home. We don’t know where that is yet. There is more to this trip than I am letting on, but this is the broad view.

For me it’s a search for home as much as it is a search for human connection and a challenge to overcome my social weakness. I hope to beat it out of my system by forcing myself on society. I will step out of my shell and be more present in the real world. Maizy gets to be with Penny every day, and the road is her kindergarten. She’ll be five years old in less than a month, just old enough to go along with this willingly.

It’s a family bond strengthening, self-sufficiency training, photography dream pursuing, road-schooling, rubber-tramping tour of the United States, at a medium pace to cure our wanderlust. We’ll see where it leads.

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Black & White Street Photography, USA

Random College Girl

the cue-ball helmet

sweater with eagle’s talons

random college girl

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