There is a story behind most every image in this book and I can easily recall my thoughts and feelings as I created each scene. One example is the photograph I took after being invited on an outing by one of three brothers who had grown up hunting together. We spent an overcast, November day on farm in Central Kentucky, which in most ways was not extraordinary. But one of the brothers had been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and the damage had already become apparent. I felt privileged to be part of that trip, which turned out to be the last time all three were able to go together. While there isn’t room or need to tell them all, there are two stories that I want to share in some detail. They represent two different seasons.
Sunrise at Owsley Fork Reservoir, Madison County
Long after the original “Kentucky Wide” had been released and sold out I was still shooting panoramics. Creating art has always been very therapeutic for me, even as a child. This image was created when my former wife, Sally, was undergoing chemotherapy for complications due to Stage IV colon cancer. One night we watched “The Painted Veil,” a beautiful, haunting film and the scenery from the Lijiang River in China was breathtaking. I was motivated to get up early enough to shoot a sunrise outside of Berea at the Owsley Fork Reservoir, even though I had never been there. On the way, I was listening to a message on the radio about how God was faithful. Sometimes that does sound perfectly reasonable, but through the filters of suffering and terminal illness it is not a topic to be taken lightly. Before cancer I had always been quietly critical of those who cry out in anguish, “Why did God do this to me?” or more like my personal theology, “Why did God allow this to happen?” Even though I had struggled not to judge God, emotionally I could not stop myself. As I stood there watching the sun rise over the hill and cut through the fog, somehow, I knew in my spirit that God was faithful and that He was good. An incredible peace washed over me during those moments, as it did for both of us many, many times until Sally went to be with the Lord and afterward. That particular image will always allow me to identify with the 1873 hymn that says, “It is well with my soul.”
Flat Lick Falls, Jackson County
Over 15 years ago, a church friend invited me to her grandfather’s property to photograph a waterfall. Upon our arrival, I was overwhelmed by the beauty and I captured several excellent images. In preparation for this book, I tried to find more information – not only how to find it again but how to actually gain access to the private property. After calling government agencies in Jackson County, I learned that the city had purchased the property and planned to create a public park. After getting permission to visit, armed with very sketchy directions (turn down a road, head up a hill, look for a dairy farm, etc), I headed down there early one morning. I passed through the little town of Gray Hawk without seeing the road I was supposed to turn on so I pulled in to a little hardware store. I asked the four men perched at the counter if any of them knew where the certain road was, and if they had been to the Falls. Even though they were all familiar with the place none could tell me exactly how to get there. One guy named Carl was buying some PVC pipe and said he would take me there since that it would give him a good reason for not working on his project at home. Turned out that the directions wouldn’t have worked since a new coal access road had been cut near the property. I gratefully followed him a few miles, ending up on a muddy, lightly graveled road. In the middle of nowhere. Did I mention it was raining? He got out of his car and put on a jacket. I had expected him to point the way, but he offered to be my guide! I gave him an umbrella and we headed out in field toward some trees. As we walked and talked I explained to him about being there 15 years ago with a lady and her baby. “That lady” was actually his cousin and this property had been in their family for generations. Neither of us could get over the coincidence (or divine appointment?). As we got closer, the roar got louder; he said that because of recent rain and near flash flood conditions, no one had probably seen the waterfall so powerful and active. Boy, was he ever right. I had a particular image and perspective in mind but was unable to shoot it due to the high water and inability to maneuver around. Fortunately, there was a small clearing of trees so I was able to get this one shot.
During my extensive travels both in the USA and Europe, I’ve always encountered nice people. However, there is just something different and very refreshing about the folks you run into in Kentucky.
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