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  • The Bandit's Summer of '77

    As a 12-year-old overweight, socially awkward kid, I spent most of the summer of 1977 in a movie theater. My dad’s illness — spasmodic torticollis and dystonia — was at its peak four years in, and my parents continued to go from place to place looking for someone to help him.

    My parents spent a month that summer — the summer of “Star Wars” and Elvis’ death — in Los Angeles, where my dad was getting treatment. That meant that my sister and I went to Longview, where my parents were raised and where my grandparents still lived.

    Like many, I used movies as an opportunity to escape my woes, especially during those tumultuous middle school years. I saw “Star Wars” — who didn’t? — shortly after the movie was released at the end of May. But another film released that week captured, and kept, my attention, despite being shot in only 16 days on a $4.3 million budget.

    It was called “Smokey and the Bandit.”

    My dad was a big Burt Reynolds fan, as were a lot of people in those days. Reynolds was riding a streak of hits — albeit with the occasional flop — that made him the top actor at the box office for seven straight years. And he was a popular guest host on “The Tonight Show” that my dad — and mom, when she could stay awake — watched religiously.

    With shades of Three Stooges slapstick, “Smokey and the Bandit” is not art, but it hit my then-12-year-old self squarely in the demographic. Anyone could see the chemistry between Reynolds and Sally Field, my summer of 1977 crush. And it had other “classic” elements: Jackie Gleason’s “sumbitch”; Jerry Reed admonishing his basset hound, Fred, while providing the movie’s theme song (“East Bound and Down”); and the Trans-Am, which my dad was later inspired to buy in his first non-Cadillac move.

    I watched “Smokey and the Bandit” 15 times that summer, either at the Cargill Cinema in Longview or at the Tradewinds in Texas City, where it played on one of the theatre’s two screens for eons. For a long time, one of my prized possessions was an original one-sheet from the movie.

    Reynolds continued to do some interesting work after “Bandit,” which was the second highest grossing film of the year behind, well, you know. By the mid 1980s, though, the hits stopped coming. With minor exceptions — TV’s “Evening Shade,” the Oscar-nominated “Boogie Nights” — his career went on a slow fade to black.

    Today, Reynolds died of a heart attack at age 82, half a lifetime from the movie that made a 12-year-old boy laugh and laugh at a time when I really needed it. Thanks, and RIP.

  • The Bandit's Summer of '77

    As a 12-year-old overweight, socially awkward kid, I spent most of the summer of 1977 in a movie theater. My dad’s illness — spasmodic torticollis and dystonia — was at its peak four years in, and my parents continued to go from place to place looking for someone to help him.

    My parents spent a month that summer — the summer of “Star Wars” and Elvis’ death — in Los Angeles, where my dad was getting treatment. That meant that my sister and I went to Longview, where my parents were raised and where my grandparents still lived.

    Like many, I used movies as an opportunity to escape my woes, especially during those tumultuous middle school years. I saw “Star Wars” — who didn’t? — shortly after the movie was released at the end of May. But another film released that week captured, and kept, my attention, despite being shot in only 16 days on a $4.3 million budget.

    It was called “Smokey and the Bandit.”

    My dad was a big Burt Reynolds fan, as were a lot of people in those days. Reynolds was riding a streak of hits — albeit with the occasional flop — that made him the top actor at the box office for seven straight years. And he was a popular guest host on “The Tonight Show” that my dad — and mom, when she could stay awake — watched religiously.

    With shades of Three Stooges slapstick, “Smokey and the Bandit” is not art, but it hit my then-12-year-old self squarely in the demographic. Anyone could see the chemistry between Reynolds and Sally Field, my summer of 1977 crush. And it had other “classic” elements: Jackie Gleason’s “sumbitch”; Jerry Reed admonishing his basset hound, Fred, while providing the movie’s theme song (“East Bound and Down”); and the Trans-Am, which my dad was later inspired to buy in his first non-Cadillac move.

    I watched “Smokey and the Bandit” 15 times that summer, either at the Cargill Cinema in Longview or at the Tradewinds in Texas City, where it played on one of the theatre’s two screens for eons. For a long time, one of my prized possessions was an original one-sheet from the movie.

    Reynolds continued to do some interesting work after “Bandit,” which was the second highest grossing film of the year behind, well, you know. By the mid 1980s, though, the hits stopped coming. With minor exceptions — TV’s “Evening Shade,” the Oscar-nominated “Boogie Nights” — his career went on a slow fade to black.

    Today, Reynolds died of a heart attack at age 82, half a lifetime from the movie that made a 12-year-old boy laugh and laugh at a time when I really needed it. Thanks, and RIP.

  • Last Week's Daily Photos

    Last week's "Daily Photos" posted to my Facebook page. In the interest of space and time, I'm posting the entire week's worth as a single image here. To see the images large form, please visit and like my Facebook page, or send me an email.

  • Scanning The Headlines

    Scanning today's headlines is enough to make anyone's head spin, and for once, I'm not talking about the current administration or the ongoing crisis in the Catholic Church.

    Just wrap your mind around this: John McCain and Neil Simon died the same weekend, a half century after the release of The Beatles’ “Hey Jude” and the start of the disastrous Democratic National Convention in Chicago. When the latter two things took place, McCain was a POW in Vietnam and Simon had multiple plays on Broadway at the same time.

    I spent the majority of the day on a train (see "Notes from the Empty Nest" post below) and did a deep dive into those four topics. Here are some of the memorable quotes from the day.

    • “He served his country, and not always right — made a lot of mistakes, made a lot of errors — but served his country, and, I hope we could add, honorably."

    — Arizona Sen. John McCain, in a CNN interview in which he was asked how he would like to be remembered.

    • “Mr. Simon ruled Broadway when Broadway was still worth ruling. From 1965 to 1980, his plays and musicals racked up more than 9,000 performances, a record not even remotely touched by any other playwright of the era. In 1966 alone, he had four Broadway shows running simultaneously.”

    — Charles Isherwood in the New York Times story announcing Neil Simon’s death at age 91.

    • “Chicago 1968 is the political equivalent of Woodstock or Stonewall — a discrete moment that embodies the questions and forces of an entire age. It’s also a reminder that life is almost always more complicated than we tend to remember, given that the Democratic Party, often thought to tend to the radical in the postwar era, was in many ways the target of the protests.’

    — Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer Jon Meacham, on the 1968 Democratic National Convention, in a fascinating story in the Boston Globe

    • “The pain in “Hey Jude” resonated in 1968, in a world reeling from wars, riots and assassinations. And it’s why it sounds timely in the summer of  2018, as our world keeps getting colder. After 50 years, “Hey Jude” remains a source of sustenance in difficult times.”

    — Rolling Stone columnist Rob Sheffield, on The Beatles’ biggest hit.

  • Notes from the Empty Nest: U-Haul Edition

    On Thursday, I left Alexandria to help my wife’s cousin, Brian Hodges, move his family’s things from Chicago to Charlotte, where he starts a new job this week. Today, I’m riding the train home from Durham and have been — in an effort to avoid work of any significance — scanning the headlines on my phone to see what I’ve missed.

    Apparently, a lot has happened in the past four days, and not just on my planes, trains and automobiles journey. But more about the headlines In another post.

    With minor exceptions, I’ll spare you the minutiae of this circular odyssey — flying to Chicago; loading a 15-foot U-Haul and driving 720 miles to Charlotte over two days; unloading the van and driving with Brian’s dad to Durham, where I stayed last night with Nick and Conner; and the ongoing slow trek home on an Amtrak that is being passed by both snails and turtles as we jog in place.

    But here are some random details that are sticking with me from the trip:

    • I’m very fortunate that my schedule allows me to do things like this for members of our ever-growing extended family. Jill and I are the godparents of Brian’s 3-year-old son, Parker, and it means a lot to be able to help them out as they make this transition.

    • Over 36 hours, we traveled through six states in a U-Haul with non-existent shock absorbers and omnipresent wind noise. Musically speaking, it was like hearing the “Theme from Bonanza” on an endless loop.

    • I brought my camera and took few to no photos, except for one at O’Hare and a couple at a truck stop in rural Ohio, where you can get a mobile home on two acres of mostly cleared land for a measly $45,000. Strange, yes, but we were busy.

    • If you don’t understand why America is in the midst of an obesity epidemic, I challenge you to find anything resembling vegetables in the vast majority of the restaurants and stops along state highways and interstates.

    • In a desperate effort to find some greens, Brian and I stopped at a restaurant in Beckley, W.Va., where our waiter was an on-hiatus cruise ship performer. Now he works four part-time jobs for 80 hours a week and makes half the money he did on the ship. No wonder he can’t wait to return to the boat.

    • Fortunately, I no longer have the “Bonanza” theme stuck in my head. Unfortunately, it’s been replaced by Bob Dylan’s “Slow Train Coming.”

  • Music Photos and Review: Avett Brothers

    On a sweltering summer evening, with the August humidity drenching performers and audience alike, The Avett Brothers performed before a raucous, sold out crowd Saturday at the Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts.

    The group, which has toured steadily behind its 2016 album True Sadness and was the subject of an acclaimed HBO documentary, “May It Last,” earlier this year, performed 22 career-spanning songs in just under two hours. With isolated exceptions, the show led by brothers Scott and Seth Avett did not disappoint, never flagging in energy, harmony, or superb musicianship.

    Serving as bookends were the stark ballad “Shame,” from the group’s 2007 breakthrough Emotionalism, and the gorgeous and sublime “No Hard Feelings” from True Sadness. The recording of the latter is a highlight of the HBO documentary, and a perfect closer.

    I’ve been an Avett Brothers fan since Emotionalism, but circumstances have prevented my wife and I from seeing them in concert. It’s almost a given with four live albums, that they thrive in front of a crowd. The concert sold out in a matter of hours, and walking into Wolf Trap, we saw a woman holding a sign touting this as her 50th show. The merch line was twice as long as any of the bathroom lines, another sign of the group’s devoted fan base.

    Not surprisingly, True Sadness songs — including the title cut — dominated the setlist as the seven-member group performed five of the album’s 12 tracks. Highlights included the funky and fun “Ain’t No Man,” in which Seth ran from all the way from the stage to the top of the lawn, and “I Wish I Was,” described as a song “about wanting something but not wanting to ruin something by wanting it so much.”

    Other highlights: “Orion’s Belt,” an energetic rocker that has not been recorded but played in concert since 2017; The Carpenter’s “Live and Die” and “Down with the Shine,” which featured five band members on vocals; and encore number “Morning Song” from 2013’s Magpie and the Dandelion. Shoutouts also to Bob Crawford, the core member and upright bass player who soloed on “Old Joe Clark,” and fiddle player Tania Elizabeth, who took over on the instrumental “Le Reel Du Pendu/Les Bars De La Prison.”

    Cellist Joe Kwon, drummer Mike Marsh and the brothers’ sister, Bonnie Avett Rini, on keyboards rounded out the seven-member group. All are phenomenal musicians. Opener Nicole Atkins, who performed led her four-piece group in an energetic set, joined the headliners on stage for “Pretend Love” (from 2006’s Four Thieves Gone”) and “Ain’t No Man.”

    It’s easy to be hooked by the brothers’ story — by all means, watch the HBO documentary — energy and enthusiasm. It’s also easy, in these jaded times, to see why snarky critics would dismiss the Avetts’ simple, yet ultimately intricate and complex songs about family, friends and relationships. I was grateful that for two hours on a sweaty Saturday night, I could forget the toxic swirl that often surrounds us in Washington, D.C., and revel in the power of life stories set to music. No hard feelings, indeed.

    For more photos, go to my Facebook album here or check them out on the Americana Highways website here.

    These photos are of Nicole Atkins, the opening act who performed selections from her retro country/soul/jazz funk album, “Goodnight Rhonda Lee.” You can see more photos of her here.

    FYI to those who haven’t shot a show in this type of venue: Photographers with a pass usually are only allowed to work during the first three songs, which means you have to get everything done within 10 to 15 minutes per set. Wolf Trap does not have a formal pit area close to the stage, so you’re restricted to the sides and behind the soundboard. It’s a fun challenge.

  • Last Week's Daily Photos

    Last week's "Daily Photos" posted to my Facebook page. In the interest of space and time, I'm posting the entire week's worth as a single image here. To see the images large form, please visit and like my Facebook page, or send me an email.

  • Happy Birthday, Mom!

    A very happy birthday to the lady on the far left, the person we affectionately call Mom, Grandmom, and Grandmommy. Still smart and full of, um, sass, we love you!

  • Places: Washington National Cathedral

    As a photographer who loves architecture, I’ve long been fascinated by the imagery you can find in churches, so it is somewhat surprising that — until last weekend — I had only been once to the Washington National Cathedral.

    Gary Rubin, a photographer friend, and I shot photos of the cathedral on a weekend excursion in 2016, but most of the photos were outside and in the Bishop’s Garden. Time and circumstances prevented us from truly exploring the inside — the cathedral is the second largest church in the U.S. — and I vowed to return at some point.

    Last Sunday, another longtime friend (Cecile Holmes) was in town for a journalism educators conference. Cecile and I have known each other for more than 30 years since our days at the Houston Chronicle, where she was the religion editor and I briefly worked on the features copy desk.

    Cecile, now a professor at the University of South Carolina, had arranged a tour for the journalism educators group with Kevin Eckstrom, one of her colleagues who now works as the cathedral’s chief communications officer. She invited me to come along, and I jumped at the chance to learn more about this fascinating structure and take some photos.

    You can see the results here, including several photos taken during a quick 5-minute visit to the seventh-floor overlook at the back of the chapel. With limited time and lighting coming from all sides, the photos from up top — scattered throughout the album — were a challenge to get, but I’m pleased with the result.

    For those of you interested in history, here are some facts we learned during the 90-minute tour:

    • Formal name: The Cathedral Church of St. Peter and St. Paul in the City and Diocese of Washington.

    • Affiliation: Episcopal

    • The longest ongoing construction project in Washington, D.C.’s history, work on the building started in 1907 and ended in 1990.

    • Designated by Congress as the “National House of Prayer,” the cathedral is funded entirely from private sources. Fundraising has been ongoing for operations and maintenance, as well as repairs following the 2011 earthquake that damaged parts of the facility.

    • State funerals have been held at the cathedral for three American presidents — Eisenhower, Reagan, and Ford. Woodrow Wilson, the only U.S. president buried in Washington, D.C., is entombed in the cathedral. (Also buried in the cathedral: the ashes of Helen Keller and her tutor, Anne Sullivan.)

    • The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., delivered his last Sunday sermon on March 31, 1968 from the cathedral’s “Canterbury Pulpit.” He was assassinated the following week in Memphis.

    • Based on various Gothic architectural styles from the Middle Ages, the cathedral has more than 200 stained glass windows. One, which honors the landing on the Moon, includes a fragment of lunar rock in the center.

    • Befitting a national memorial, the cathedral has a mix of religious and secular decorations. It includes statues of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, tributes to America’s war veteran, and state seals that are embedded in the floor of the narthex.

    Thanks to Cecile, Kevin and the group for allowing me to join them on the tour. I highly recommend taking some time to see the cathedral if you have the chance. For more photos, go to my Facebook album here.

  • Last Week's Daily Photos

    Last week's "Daily Photos" posted to my Facebook page. In the interest of space and time, I'm posting the entire week's worth as a single image here. To see the images large form, please visit and like my Facebook page, or send me an email.

  • Random Thoughts: Monday Edition

    A few random thoughts as I try to organize my brain so I can work on several freelance assignments due this week:

    • My right hand is useful for the following: Shaking hands and dialing telephones. Society has required me to teach it to work a wireless mouse and a pair of scissors, although I still can't cut a straight line. That said, I'm happy to celebrate Left-Handers Day, throwing in a special shout out to my mom and first-born son, two of my favorite southpaws in life.

    • The Washington Nationals have been maddeningly inconsistent all year, losing games they should win and winning ones they shouldn’t. It’s one reason they’re mired in third place in the National League East now. 

    Nothing illustrates this more than last night’s 4-3 loss to the Chicago Cubs on a ninth inning, walkoff grand slam that followed two Cubs players being hit by pitches. At this point, my allegiance to my other team — the Astros — has never been stronger, even though Houston is struggling to repeat its World Series miracle right now. Either way, we’ll still root for the Nats in what could be Bryce Harper’s last season with the team.

    • Very sad to read this morning that Aretha Franklin, one of the true greats, is "gravely ill."

    • To me, this is one of the most beautiful pieces of songwriting ever. A wonderful tonic for the soul.

    • Another music note: If the Dixie Chicks are recording (as has been rumored), I wish they would cover "Young and Angry Again" by Lori McKenna. It’s a great song they could do a lot with off of her new album, The Tree.

    • Tweet of the Week from Mark Harris, writing about the Academy Awards’ creation of a new “Most Popular” category: It truly is something that in the year “Black Panther,” a movie made just about entirely by and with black people, grosses $700 million, the Academy's reaction is, "We need to invent something separate ... but equal."

  • Fly, MT Camp Photos Posted

    The first of the three multiple week camps Metropolitan School of the Arts holds each year is Fly, a two-week dance intensive that ended with a performance at Northern Virginia Community College's Annandale campus. Here are some highlights from the dress rehearsal; see more here.

    On Friday, students who participated in MSA’s two-week musical theatre camp performed two shows in the studio's black box theatre. The students performed selections from current and former Broadway shows, including "Pippin," "Mean Girls," "Once on This Island," and "My Fair Lady," with a 10th anniversary shout out to "High School Musical." Below are some highlights, with more in my Facebook album here.

    Photos from every show I've shot for MSA are now available on the studio's SmugMug website. You can see my archive dating to 2013 here.

  • Last Week's Daily Photos

    Last week's "Daily Photos" posted to my Facebook page. In the interest of space and time, I'm posting the entire week's worth as a single image here. To see the images large form, please visit and like my Facebook page, or send me an email.

  • 'Wonka' Photos Finished

    This is the last post with information related to the “Wonka” photos that have been posted over the past two weeks. The 1,000-plus pictures from the show have been broken down into seven sets/albums. Each has been posted to Metropolitan School of the Arts' SmugMug website.

    To see highlights from each show on Facebook, clink on the links below and you will go to the corresponding album.

    Ensemble/Principal Cast: Shows 1 & 4

    Ensemble/Principal Cast: Shows 2 & 3

    Class Dances, Show 1

    Class Dances, Show 2

    Class Dances, Show 3

    Class Dances, Show 4

    Class Dances, All Classes

    The process of working on a show as large as "Wonka," which involved hundreds of children and four performances in the same week, can be daunting. I've written a blog entry that explains the process behind shooting and showcasing each performance. Find it here.

  • A Historic Laugher for the Nats

    Last July, Jill and I were at the game when the Washington Nationals hit eight home runs — including four consecutive and five overall in the third inning — in a 15-2 rout of the Milwaukee Brewers.

    This year has been an exercise in frustration for Nats fans, as the team has struggled throughout the season. But last night, against the even more hapless New York Mets, the tide turned briefly in a 25-4 rout that we attended.

    How bad was it? Here are some real-time observations I posted during the contest:

    • The Nationals have 17 hits and 16 runs and the 4th inning isn't over yet. For a moment, they're playing up to their potential. But, with apologies to my New York friends, the Mets coming to town is a salve to anyone's season.

    • It's 19-0 in the bottom of the 5th. Rain may prove to be God's version of the mercy rule.

    • The guy wearing a Yankees jacket just left after pitcher Tanner Roark got his second hit. Even he couldn't take it anymore.

    In the eighth inning, the Mets put infielder Jose Reyes on the mound. He threw 48 pitches, more than the Mets’ starter, and gave up six runs to make it 25-1. Shawn Kelley, one of the Nats’ disappointing relievers, gave up three runs in the top of the ninth inning. He was demoted to the minor leagues after throwing his glove to the ground in frustration after giving up a home run.

    Yes, it’s one game. And yes, the Nationals have dug themselves into a hole that they can — but probably won’t — climb out of this year. Still, as someone who intensely dislikes the Mets dating back to their 1986 NLCS win over the Astros, I reveled in the coverage of the game this morning.

    A few more facts:

    • It was the worst loss by a National Leage team since July 1929, when the Cardinals beat the Phillies 28-6. It also was the worst loss in the Mets’ history.

    • Because they (mercifully) didn’t bat in the ninth, the Nationals ended the game with more hits (26) and runs (25) than outs (24).

    • The 21-run margin was the largest in Nationals/Expos history, and Elias Sports Research noted that Washington was just the 10th team since 1900 to score 25 or more runs in a home game.

    Fortunately, there is humor to be found in baseball. At one point, Mets announcers Keith Hernandez, Ron Darling and Gary Cohen stopped calling the game and read verbatim from the team’s media guide while the theme from “Masterpiece Theatre” played in the background. And even the Mets social media person got in on the joke:

  • Last Week's Daily Photos

    Last week's "Daily Photos" posted to my Facebook page. In the interest of space and time, I'm posting the entire week's worth as a single image here. To see the images large form, please visit and like my Facebook page, or send me an email.

  • School Photos: Caroline County, Md.

    What I like most about photography is that it gives me a chance to look at familiar things from another perspective. And everyone is familiar with the elements that you see in a school — the playground, the logos, signs, and murals.

    Combine that with an opportunity to collaborate with people I respect and admire, and you have a great time working together on a project, such as the one I did last month in Caroline County, a rural farming area on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

    Just after students were released for the summer, I was hired by Sandi Barry to take photos of the exteriors of the district’s 10 schools. Sandi, who became the district’s public relations coordinator in January, is a longtime colleague and friend from the days when I worked with the National School Boards Association.

    Sandi and I collaborated on various projects during her tenure at the Maryland Association of Board of Education, and it was obvious from the start that we share a number of things in common. One is an interest in photography, and we have talked on occasion about looking for ways to work together since I went out on my own.

    The task at hand was to photograph the school exteriors for use on the district’s website and in framed prints that will be displayed in the board room. The only rule was that no students or staff could be shown.

    As we discussed the project, Sandi said she also wanted me to look for things that “catch your eye” to see what I could find. The challenge was to creatively illustrate the things and places we pass by daily and rarely take time to look at or study. A photographer’s dream job, in my opinion.

    This selection represents just some of the photos; about one-third of what I took is in my Facebook album here. In addition to the school photos featured in the album, I also included a few landscapes, two photos of a church that has been converted into a meeting space, and photos taken of the Chesapeake Culinary Center, a restored building that opened in 1901 as the Caroline County High School.

    I’m curious to see what you think of the result, and grateful to Sandi for the opportunity to collaborate again.

  • The Passing of the Last 'Child'

    Our last "child" left the nest today. Like any parents, our eyes welled with tears while knowing this was different. With this departure, there will be no reunions, no holiday dinners, no weddings, no grandchildren.

    That's what occurs when the child is your family pet, in this case our 17-year-old cat, Victoria (aka Vicky, Miss Vic, or Mob Boss, a nickname coined by Kate.)

    Vicky and her sister — the appropriately named Tempest — were shelter kitttens who came into our lives shortly after we moved to Virginia. The kids were 9, 4, 3 and 3. Jill and I always had pets, and it made sense given how much running around we do for us to have cats rather than dogs.

    Tempest was the alpha, well, something. Headstrong and stubborn, it was no surprise when she left one day and never came back. Victoria, on the other hand, was docile and sweet; originally named Tootsie, we changed it, because she was never one to demand much attention.

    Every day around the same time, Vicky would come through, run figure 8s through our legs, purr loudly, allow us to pet her (holding her was at her option) and then be done until around the same time the next day. That was enough.

    She never ate wet food and enjoyed the occasional kitty treats, but her favorite food for some reason was sliced processed ham. (Passive-aggressive approach to the food chain, perhaps?)

    Vicky largely tolerated other pets — dogs and cats — who stayed with us for short periods. She mostly ignored them, but occasionally tensions would flare, and Vicky's response — usually quiet but always pointed — left you with the feeling that she was the family member in charge.

    When Cairo came into the picture is when Kate gave Victoria the official Mob Boss designation. Cairo, sweet, loud and needy, was more than happy to be Miss Vick's lackey as the consigliere perched on top of the living room chair and reaped the benefits.

    What I came to appreciate most about Vicky was her resilience and her presence. She was always there, never demanding to be the center of attention. She simply endured. When Cairo passed away in February, I called the kids to let them know and each was shocked it wasn't Victoria. I wasn't; until the past month or so, I would have bet she'd outlive us all.

    After our move to Alexandria from Lorton earlier this year, Victoria adapted to our new home, finding her spots, always purring. But age — she was over 100 in human terms — was taking its toll.

    Self-grooming was an after-thought; the litter box was as well. She developed an abscess that the vet said was likely cancerous, and it became obvious the end was near.

    Last night, Jill and I made the decision. We let the kids know, and Emma and Ben called via FaceTime to say goodbye; Kate came to the vet's office to do so in person. We talked to Nicholas as well.

    Victoria's passing is as huge a shift for them as it is for us. Like any family pet who survives to see kids leave home, she represented a link to the day-to-day of childhood.

    For us, it's a reminder that our nest is truly empty. Any steps we make going forward are part of the next generation, one that I'm looking forward to while mourning the past in the present.

  • Music Week: Cowboy Junkies

    I saw the Cowboy Junkies last night at The Birchmere, my third show in five nights (after Lori McKenna and Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit) in a personal summer concert series. It was the first time I’ve seen the Canadian-based group in more than two decades and they did not disappoint, playing material from their terrific new album “All That Recknoning” as well as highlights from their 30-plus year career.

    In case you’re not familiar with the band, they became known for “The Trinity Sessions,” a 1988 lo-fi mix of covers (“Sweet Jane,” “Blue Moon: Song for Elvis”) and originals (“Misguided Angel”) that was recorded using one microphone in a Toronto church. Over the past three decades, they’ve developed a steady following of fans who love their ethereal, often haunting sound.

    What makes the Cowboy Junkies fascinating is that they are a mix of family and longtime friends. Margo Timmins, the lead singer, is the sibling of guitarist and principal songwriter Michael, and their brother Peter plays drums. Bass player Alan Anton co-founded the band with Michael Timmins, and multi-instrumentalist Jeff Bird has played with the group since “The Trinity Sessions.”

    It was a great show, with tricky lighting that made it a fun challenge to shoot. To see more photos, go to my Facebook album or to the Americana Highways link here.

  • Music Week: Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit

    Summer Concert Series Week #2: Jill and I saw Jason Isbell for the fifth time in a year last night at Wolf Trap. Another terrific show, highlighted by an encore of Crosby Stills Nash & Young's "Ohio." We also saw Sarah Huckabee Sanders walking in to the show; two songs later, Isbell played "White Man's World."

    Coincidence? I think not.

    If you're keeping score, we've now seen Isbell & The 400 Unit at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Maryland and Durham Performing Arts Center in North Carolina. Both shows featured Amanda Shires, Isbell's wife, on fiddle and background vocals. We saw Isbell and Shires play acoustic at the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville as part of the 2017 Artist-in-Residence series and again at a benefit at The Hamilton in Washington, D.C.

    This show did not feature Shires, who is on a tour of her own to promote a new album. (We'll see her at the Birchmere next week.) The dynamic, as a result, was different. Isbell dug more deeply into his catalogue and the show had a harder edge, highlighted by the "Ohio" encore.

  • Last Week's Daily Photos

    Last week's "Daily Photos" posted to my Facebook page. In the interest of space and time, I'm posting the entire week's worth as a single image here. To see the images large form, please visit and like my Facebook page, or send me an email.

  • Music Week: Lori McKenna


    Our personal summer concert series began tonight with the first of three shows I'll see this week. First up was Lori McKenna at City Winery in Washington, D.C., and she proved again why the small stuff in life means so, so much. If you haven't heard her music — chances are you have and don't know it — by all means go have a listen.

    Next up: Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit at Wolf Trap on Tuesday, followed by the Cowboy Junkies on Thursday at The Birchmere.

  • Shooting MSA's 'Wonka'

    Anyone who knows me understands how much I enjoy shooting live theatre and dance. That said, photographing a live event — especially when it’s something you’ve never seen — can be daunting.

    Even though my skills have certainly evolved since I started shooting our kids’ dance recitals almost a decade ago, I’ve seen time and again why some compare photography to golf. No matter what, there’s always room for improvement.

    After a year away, I have greatly enjoyed shooting photos during the 2017-18 season for Metropolitan School of the Arts, which concluded last month with the annual spring production/recital. This year brought us four performances of “Wonka,” an adaptation of the famous children’s story.

    Photographing a show this large is both a marathon and a fascinating challenge. Four dress rehearsals in four nights, with class dances mixed in with the narrative, make up the three-hour show, which is then performed over a weekend.

    One goal I’ve always tried to meet is to photograph the director’s vision through my eyes (or eye, as the case may be). That means walking around and trying different shots from different parts of the auditorium, which is something you can do when shooting a dress rehearsal. At the same time, I work to be as inclusive as possible — taking photos of every dance and every group as they are on stage.

    The result is a lot of photos — about 6,000 shot for this particular show. It’s both the blessing and curse of digital photography — shooting way more than you might need because you can delete the image rather than pay for a print.

    Once the performance is over, that’s when the “job” part of this task truly begins: How do you take 1,500 photos from each of the four shows and present a selection in a way that:

    • Is not overwhelming.

    • Is fair to as many of the participants as you can capture.

    • Presents the show — and studio — in a good light.

    • Makes people want to come back for more.

    So, as I start to post photos from the show, let me explain the process.

    This year, MSA has purchased a license for a SmugMug website, where you can download watermarked photos for free and purchase prints/high-resolution downloads at a low cost. (The website is at http://metropolitanarts.smugmug.com). Parents and students can go here and download the photos for free (with our shared watermark), or purchase prints/downloads at a low cost.

    As much as parents and their children want to relive the memories of the show, sorting through masses of pictures puts a huge strain on the eyes. I’ve tried to break it down in a way that makes sense and allows you to find the photos in an organized manner.

    Sorting and cutting down the number of photos is the first phase. With double casting for many of the principal roles, I merged the ensembles from shows 1 and 4 and shows 2 and 3 to get the best possible representation of the narrative. Those are where these photos are from and they are the first albums you will see.

    I’ve tried to make sure every class dance is represented by at least one photo (usually more). Class dances from each show will appear in separate albums in the coming days, except for the ones that were featured in all performances and will be separated into a fifth album.

    Once the culling, sorting and organizing is complete, editing the photos (mostly cropping and color correction) begins. Each album is uploaded to the SmugMug site, and then I cull through the photos again so highlights can be shared on social media.

    Don’t worry: The photos on my Facebook page and MSA's are less than a third of what is on the SmugMug site. In all, more than 1,000 photos will be uploaded to SmugMug from the show.

    I’ve attempted to be as thorough and complete as possible. It’s not a perfect system, and chances are I’ve missed some things, but I hope I’ve captured the spirit and hard work that went into this show.

    If you have any questions, feel free to send me an email at glenncook117@gmail.com, and enjoy the photos!

  • Home

    My wife is home, having flown back from a very successful ASCA conference. So proud of her, and love the fact that, after 22 years of marriage, I miss her tremendously when she's gone.

  • Freelance Articles Posted to Site

    Nine freelance articles published since April have been posted to the New/Recent Articles section of my website. This includes three pieces in which I also shot the photos. You can access them by clicking on the links below.

    Working Vacation (August 2018): Despite what naysayers believe, the idea that summer is just a two-month vacation for educators could not be farther from the truth. While some take on second jobs to make ends meet, others dive into learning more about their profession so they can come back stronger in the fall. Written for American School Board Journal.

    All About the Money (August 2018): It’s always a good thing for the public to know how tax dollars are being spent. And, given the struggles many districts have faced due to cuts that date back almost a decade, it is incumbent on school leaders to paint an accurate and ongoing picture of the financial challenges they face.  Written for American School Board Journal.

    Education Abroad (July-August 2018): Study abroad programs are going through a slow but steady evolution. Now in almost every college and university in the United States, the size and structure of these programs vary depending on student demand, faculty support, and the individual institution’s long-term goals.  Written for International Educator. 

    Generation Why (June 2018): The Valentine’s Day shooting that killed 17 at Florida’s Stoneman Douglas High School could represent a tipping point for student activism and civic engagement. No longer content to sit on the sidelines, these students — led by Parkland survivors — are marching and protesting at a rate not seen since the Vietnam War. Cover story and photographs for American School Board Journal; to see more, go to the Visual Storytelling section. 

    No More Game of Phones (June 2018): The measures schools have taken to enhance security have evolved greatly in the almost two decades since the Columbine High School shooting. However, internal communications when a situation erupts have always been a sticking point. Solutions that work well and easily often are overlooked and underrated, complicated in part by an ongoing unease about what technology can and should do in crisis situations. Written for American School Board Journal.

    Working with Alumni (March-April 2018): As U.S. colleges and universities work to boost international recruitment efforts, alumni who have graduated and returned to their native countries are sought after resources. But working with alumni can present a series of challenges if you don’t have the proper elements—organization, resources, and understanding—in place. Written for International Educator.

    Full STEAM Ahead (May 2018): In a small Tennessee community, three schools have been turned into the first K-12 STEAM cluster in the nation, systematically incorporating arts (A) into the traditional science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) curriculum. Written for Techniques, the magazine of the Association for Career and Technical Education.

    Rogue on Board (April 2018): A rogue board member who hogs the spotlight, constantly stirring things up, can derail even the best-run school districts. Time that can — and should — be devoted to more pressing matters is spent addressing issues raised by a member who has no individual power but uses the position as a bully pulpit. Written for American School Board Journal.

    Preschool Push (April 2018): More than a half century after Head Start was initiated, questions persist about how to best serve young children, as policymakers, parents, and school leaders wrestle with the question, “When should a child’s formal education begin?” A growing research base shows that high-quality pre-k programs have both short- and long-term benefits for students, but bringing those programs to scale remains challenging due to long-standing questions over funding and teacher quality. Written for American School Board Journal. 

  • New York Landscapes


    With Jill at her conference in LA, I spent three-plus days in New York with Ben and Emma. As usual, we ran around quite a bit, but the best part (in addition to the company, folks and family we saw) was having a chance to take photos in a relaxed setting with one of my dearest friends. Nothing beats an opportunity to walk around New York City with a camera and time on your hands.

    To see more photos in a larger format, go to my Facebook album here.

  • Politics & Prose: Random Thoughts Version

    • Is this the Vlad that (fill in the blank) thought he was meeting with?

    • Question for my conservative friends/acquaintances: How can you defend him now? #TreasonSummit

    • Why isn’t it OK for liberals to be politically incorrect? Every time (you know who) is made fun of, the people who accuse us of being “too sensitive” seem to go nuts.

    • And if things aren’t surreal enough, here’s a thought from just last week: So, the president announces his Supreme Court nominee. Meanwhile, Kendall Jenner announces she's no longer getting lip fillers and Sponge Bob: The Musical is closing. Sad day all around.

  • Last Week's Daily Photos

    Last week's "Daily Photos" posted to my Facebook page. In the interest of space and time, I'm posting the entire week's worth as a single image here. To see the images large form, please visit and like my Facebook page, or send me an email.