—  Ken and Vesta  —

Wedding and Portrait Photography

541 773-3373

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Sometimes You Just Wanna Ride.

Vesta, Devon and I spotted this train somewhere in the middle of Oregon one day, as we were taking back roads on our way to Portland. And we were taking those back roads, because sometimes you just wanna see something new, something besides highways or freeways. Places where you can stop and maybe see interesting people and places highway drivers never see.

Years ago, Vesta and I drove across country on back roads. That’s not so easy, because that big ol’ highway is always close by when you’re traveling west to east or back again. One of ‘em anyway.

It takes a lot longer getting from California to Florida if you spend a lot of your time not on the highway, but if you’re not in a hurry, it’s worth it. Sometimes we’d stop at a diner for breakfast or lunch in small towns miles from the highway and conversation would stop when we walked in.

But that was before cable TV and cable news and when strangers in town were the talk of the town. I’m not so sure it would be like that anymore. But maybe it would be. It’d be nice to do it again, meeting and photographing people along the way.

Maybe I should call National Geographic and see if they’re interested.

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Mexico, Ah, Mexico.

I packed a backpack with an extra pair of Levi’s, two Hawaiian shirts, three pair of underwear and socks and a sweatshirt and headed to Mexico.

I stopped on the way to pick up Mark, a fishing person extraordinare. I was counting on his years of fishing experience to rub off, but I didn’t really think it would be that hard. I mean what’s to fishing. You put bait on the line, throw it in the water, the fish bite and you pull them in. If you can walk and chew gum, you can fish. Or so I thought. 

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I’m a traveler, I travel light, and for years Mark’s job used to send him throughout this great land of ours, he knew how to travel, he would be traveling light. We were gonna be two carefree guys in Mexico. Lazing back, soaking up the sun, drinking tequila. I would learn how to tie a few fishing knots, we’d go out on the boat a few afternoons, catch a few fish, get a tan. It was gonna be great.

I arrived at Mark’s about noon giving myself four hours to make the thirty minute drive to the airport. I was excited. Mexico.

Pulling into his driveway I couldn’t help but notice the telephone pole that was leaning against the front porch and the two ice chests next to it.

‘Ready,’ I said, getting out of the car.

‘Almost.’ He disappeared into the house and returned with a large flight bag and a tackle box.

‘Gonna get hungry on the plane,’ I asked, nodding toward the ice chests.’

‘For the fish.’

‘I knew that,’ but I didn’t know that. And I thought we would be traveling light. It was beginning to look like he wanted to bring the fish back. What fun was that gonna be, lugging dead fish around Mexico, taking them to the airport, through customs, in my car, and who was gonna clean them, answer me that. Me, Oh God, it was gonna be me. The picture of myself, hands bloody, inside of some stinking, rotting, dead fish flashed through my mind, but I quickly sent it packing back to the back burners deep in the farthest crevasses on the smallest stove I could find in the underground cave of my worst fears. Mexico.

Once again, I was thankful that I had a four wheel drive jeep type car, because those mama ice chests wouldn’t fit in the boot on an ordinary car. Who did he think he was kidding. They don’t have that much fish at Safeway. What kind of boat were we going on anyway, a trawler, and how were we going to fish, with nets, and what about the dolphins.

We loaded the chests and his bag in the car and as I was making ready to close the door, he said, What about the rods.’ I didn’t see any rods. Hell, don’t they have rods in Mexico. Don’t they loan them to you.

‘What rods.’

‘Those,’ he said, pointing to the telephone pole.

‘You’re kidding?’

‘It’ll fit.’

The telephone pole was actually a carrying case, for fishing rods. Who would have thunk that such a thing actually existed. This thing not only looked like a telephone pole, but it was heavy as one as well, and it barely fit, but it did fit. We loaded it through the back, over the back seat, between the front seats and it rested on the dashboard. When I closed the door it actually touched both the back and front windows, but he was right, it did fit.

‘How many rods you got in that thing?’

‘A lot.’

‘One isn’t enough?’

‘You don’t know what kind of fish will be biting.’

‘What? Different fish get their own rods?’ He ignored me.

We got to the airport three and a half hours early and to my surprise there were other people lining up at the Aero California ticket counter with ice chests and telephone poles. Do the Mexicans know about this. Do they know Americans go down there and steel their fish. No wonder it’s a poor country.

The Mexican ticket agent was friendly, checked our travel documents, wished us good fishing, hoped we’d have good weather and told us the flight was on time. We were going to be there over New Year’s Eve. I was counting on a good time. Mexico.

Waiting for the flight we had hot dogs and beer. Maybe that’s what did it. Maybe it was the water in Mexico. Maybe it was the flu. Maybe the fishing god was pissed that I didn’t take the sport as seriously as I should. Who knows.

I felt great on the plane. Better as we landed. And downright humorous when I cleared customs. This Mexican guy, the customs agent, picked up a small wooden barrel and shook it. Then he opened a little trap door on the bottom of the miniature barrel and a green marble fell out.

‘You can go.’

‘That’s it.’

‘Yes, Señor.’

‘I don’t get it.’

‘The marble was green you can go. It is the system.’

I learned a long time ago not to argue with police or customs agents. If they like you, your life can be swell, if they don’t, it can be hell, but I was just to damn curious to leave it alone.

‘You got other colors in there?’

‘You can go.’

‘No, really, you got other colors in there?’ I had to know.


‘What other colors?’

‘There is a red marble.’

‘What happens if it comes up red?’

‘You can go, it is the system.’ He was getting irritated and I could tell I was pushing my luck.’

‘Thanks,’ I said, and I went. It didn’t take a Newton or an Einstein to figure out what happened if it came up red.

We were met at the airport by a friend of Mark’s. We loaded our stuff into an aging Ford Econolpne Van and drove into the dark Mexican night to our motel. Our no frills, man’s kind of motel, right on the beach. 

Single lane, paved road till we got to town, then it changed into dirt. The smell of cooked beef, people out after dark, friendly people, people that say hello instead of asking for money, people that smile. What a great place. Mexico.

In the bar we drank tequila and rum and cokes and maybe that’s when it happened. I got sick. Not sick to my stomach, but sick, real sick, go to the hospital kind of sick, dead dog kind of sick, want to die kind of sick, everything hurts even your hair kind of sick. I went to our bare room and flopped down on the bed closest to the bathroom and shivered and tried to sleep.

But sleep didn’t come easy. It didn’t come at all. I spent most of the night sitting and shivering, awake, wanting sleep, but as sleep came something inside me relaxed and everything wanted to come up. I’d sit up and the vomit would go back down, nothing. I’d run to the toilet, nothing. I’d wait, nothing. I’d go back to bed and lay down and start to shiver off to sleep and up it wanted to come. Visions of Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin flashed through my mind. I was going to drown in my own vomit. I knew it. I was miserable. There was no way I was going fishing.

To Mark’s credit, he was concerned about my condition, but nothing, not even my own death, was going to keep him off the water.

About 4:30 I drifted off to a sweating sleep and at five the pounding on the door shot through my heart like a wooden stake. The place was on fire, I knew it. I was sick, dying and the hotel was on fire. Why else would someone be pounding on the door at 5 AM. Well, there is another reason. It was time to go fishing.

Deja vu my mind flashed back to a day 25 years ago, the first day of bootcamp. This day like that day sucked eggs. But no way was I gonna lay in bed sick. I was in Mexico. Mexico. I came to fish. I wanted to die, but I got up, stumbled into yesterday’s clothes and walked out into a black windy Mexican morning.

I followed the trail of talking sound and found Mark and two other anglers arguing with the Mexican ponga skippers.(ponga is a word meaning small boat that will take you far out into the water where you will freeze your you now whats off).

‘Eet is too weendy.’

‘No, not too much wind.’ Mark said.

‘Too weendy.’

‘I don’t care how windy it is, I came to get away from my wife and kids and fish and I’m going fishing,’ one of the other two anglers said.’

‘Reeel weendy.’

‘We can do it,’ Mark said.

‘Hey guys maybe we ought to listen to these guys,’ I said. No shame in not fishing if nobody goes.’

‘They’ll take us,’ Mark said.

‘Fucking A,’ the other angler said.

‘Way too weendy.’

‘Yeah, guys look at the trees, it’s fucking Hurricane Carla, out there,’ I said.

‘We’re going fishing,’ Other Angler was insistent, too insistent. We went fishing.

That first day out on the water was horribly cold, stinking horribly cold. We motored out to the coldest spot on God’s green earth and fished for bait. Then we motored to an even colder place where the wind roared, the sea rocked, and the boat rolled, and we fished in the cold winter morning like Mexicans have been doing for generations.

We caught fish.

Six hours later we went back to the motel and I fell asleep with my clothes on. I slept for 16 hours, not getting up until the wakeup pounding on the door. Time to go fishing again. At least I didn’t have to dress.

Through a fever haze I remembered that Mark brought be soup in the night, and Other Angler gave me antibiotics. I was on the way to recovery and day 2 on the water wasn’t as bad as day 1. The rough winds were gone, replaced by a glassy calm sea.

We caught bait, then we caught fish.

Back at the motel I showered and had soup and took a nap. That night I went out to a seafood restaurant with the guys and had soup. The next morning I was better.

The third day was warm. It was Mexico. The water was calm. The sky was blue. It was Mexico. The Mexico where everybody wants to go to die. The ponga guys were happy. We caught mucho fish. We burned our faces in the sun. Life doesn’t get better than this.

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Here is Haylee, who works for Blend Catering. Vesta and I met her at Ally and Bill’s wedding at Tannenbaum, which means Christmas Tree in German and I suppose this wedding venue is called that because apparently it used to be called the Christmas Tree Inn.

Anyway, Blend was catering the wedding and I wanted to do a Blend Yelp review, so I photographed the food and some of the servers and since I got Haylee’s name, she’s in both the review and this project.

Oh, and by the way, after we had the salad, we didn’t want to eat anymore (but we did), because it was absolutely the best doggone salad we’d ever had.

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Here is Rachel, who is a very capable bartender. She works at Tannenbaum, which is an event center on Mt. Rose Highway, a little more than halfway from where it begins and Lake Tahoe. Vesta and I met her as she was tending bar at Ally and Bill’s wedding.

We see more than our fair share of faces in a day and we photograph a lot of them. We just can’t help ourselves. Most of the ones I’m going to post here, I pretty much know in advance that I’m gonna do it. But I did not know with Rachel. I intended to post her with my Yelp review of Tannenbaum (yes I yelp), but when I posted it this morning, I fell in love with her smile, so I’m posting her in this seemingly never ending project too.

Also, I took two photos of her that I like and I don’t know which one I like best, so I flipped a Kennedy half dollar. But then after heads picked the winner, I decided to post the other one below.

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Here is, well me, with a guy whose name I shouda got, but didn’t. I saw Vesta taking his picture at Christina and Justin’s wedding and I photobombed it. And then when I saw it on her LCD later on, I knew I was gonna use it, because he’s got such an interesting face.

Plus, this is the first time in a photo of me that I noticed my face is actually slimming a bit. So, to me in this photograph at least, it looks like the new slimmer me has a slimmer face.

And apparently my slimmer face hasn’t figured out that I gained a lotta weight over the time Vesta was visiting her mother in Texas. She was gone eleven days and I put on a pound for each one of ‘em. That’s right, I gained ELEVEN POUNDS.

Now I’ve gotta lose it, plus five more to get down to where I’ve been trying to get since August 1st. And I’m not talking about the August 1st that happened nineteen days ago. I’m talking about the one that happened a year before that.

Well, Vesta’s got me on a new diet and believe you me, you don’t wanna drop by our house at mealtime.

And, I suppose I gotta lost that weight before my face figures out I gained it, cuz I really don’t want my fat boy face to come back along with my fat boy tummy.

Wish me luck.

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Kenny and Jack were best friends.

They were seventeen when this photograph was taken in 1937. They were students at Mechanic Arts High School in St. Paul, Minnesota. They were swimmers and dreamt of competing in the 1940 Olympic Games in Tokyo. Jack is wearing his letterman’s sweater in the picture.

But the games never happened, so they didn’t get to go to Tokyo. Instead in early 1942 they went to war. Jack spent his war with the Marine Corps in the South Pacific. Kenny spent his with the Army in North Africa, Italy and France, where he was killed in action on October 26, 1944, four months after the Normandy Invasion and seven months before VE Day. He was twenty-four years old.

War, what is it good for?

Maybe then we had no choice.

Sadly, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

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Good Dog.

Here is Thor. He lives in the Southern California desert and whenever Vesta drive down to visit him, we take him on long walks. He’s fun to be around, appreciates our attention and he’s afraid of absolutely nothing.

If we were ever going to have another pet, we’d want him or a dog just like him. But we cannot have another pet, because for reasons I don’t understand, I get very emotional when they pass on and I grieve for way to long.

When my cat died, I thought it was the end of the world. I cried when I buried him. It was all too much. So, no pets for us. Not until we’re older and we can be assured they’ll outlive us.

But back to Thor. He really is a lovable sort, even though he looks like he’s ready to take my throat out in this photograph.

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A Stalker?

Looks like there is a photographer, who is not me, stalking the prettiest girl in California.

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Playa Photographer.

I took this photograph of Vesta on the Playa four years ago in Black Rock City. For those of you who don’t know, BLC is the third largest city in Nevada and it only exists for one week out of the year, during Burning Man.

Burning Man is a photographer’s dream. So many things to photograph. So many people too. And events as well. Weddings even. We’ve photographed three out there, two we’ve posted photos of, the third we haven’t, because the groom didn’t have much on below the waist.

Yeah, clothing is optional out there, but most do wear clothes. We certainly do.

If you haven’t been, you should consider it, because it’s more fun than Key West, Disneyland and Paris all rolled into one.

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Here are Vonnie and Meredith, two of our favorite people, Vesta’s and mine, with their friend Karen at the homeless youth count in Reno.

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The Bomb Squad.

Even in the Biggest Little City in the World, it’s come to this. And I’d like to put a big stress on the word little. We’re not New York or L.A. Not Paris or London either.

We’re Reno.

But even here, during our Woman’s March, where everyone was wearing smiles as they peaceably walked down Virginia with their signs and flags, just outta sight, waiting to protect us are the police and the Bomb Squad.

It is just beyond sad that we need them. But on this day, in this time, I guess we do.
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Maybe Coming to a Town Near You.

Here again is Anthone of Peacoat Gang on stage at Jub Jub’s. Peacoat Gang are currently touring America, living on the road in a tour bus, so keep on the lookout for them, cuz just maybe they’re gonna show up in your town or a town near you. If they do, check ‘em out.

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Vesta at Work.

We hadn’t ever done any club work, till we walked into Tronix one night and fell in love. 
we’ve photographed the crowd there more times that I can count and each and every night we worked in the Greatest Pub on Earth was beyond special.

And there aren’t enough words to list what we learned photographing people there, both about life and photography.

But this photograph reminds me of one very important thing we learned at Tronix and that is, if you have a smile on your face, a camera in your hand and you persist, there’s almost nowhere you can’t go and almost nothing you can’t photograph.

Sure, we haven’t tried to get on stage in a Stones concert and we haven’t tried to get into the White House during an international crisis with nothing but a camera and a smile, but most of the time we can get away with an awful lot.

For example when we photographed Peacoat Gang the other night at Jub Jubs. Vesta didn’t ask permission to go on stage. Instead, she held her camera high in hand as she stretched her other hand out to the security guy and said, “Can you help me up?”

And he did.

At an accident scene, a smile and a camera has the cops bending over backwards. Barriers are no problem, we either step over or go under. We can always get in close. Well, almost always. If Mr. Jagger or Mr. Trump were performing, we’d most like be in the middle of the crowd. But then if one of them was performing, we’d be dancing like crazy with the rest of the folks and if the other one was performing, we probably wouldn’t be there.

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Obi Wan, Well, Not Really.

Here is Eric and he’s the Chef at the Stick Sports Lounge on Sierra Street near the Sierra Street Bridge in Downtown Reno. I photographed him last February and he was our thousand and first photograph in our Thousand and One Days of Faces project.

I thought back then, he looked like a character from a Star Wars film. In black and white, I think he does even more so.

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Once Upon a Time, When I Was Small.

Jack, Lee, Kenny, Johnny and Tommy.

That’s me, Kenny, the one in front. I’ve changed.

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