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Thread: A PODAS mini-adventure: our chance meeting with 'Larry the Photographer' ...

  1. #1
    Sr. Administrator Jack's Avatar
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    A PODAS mini-adventure: our chance meeting with 'Larry the Photographer' ...

    Each major photo destination in Glacier NP is a pretty decent drive from where we stay. The close destinations are about an hour away, the further ones as much as 2-1/2. On Wednesday it was raining pretty hard so shooting was sporadic and we took the opportunity to do a bit of additional exploring. We headed North on "North Fork Road" until the pavement ended, and then after about 20 more miles of washboard dirt road we see this sign:



    Seriously I'm not making this up, that sign for a photo studio is literally in the middle of nowhere, roughly 8 miles from the Canadian border on a dirt backroad somewhere in Northern Montana. Since our car was full of photographers, to say we were all just a tad bit curious would be an understatement. So we took the turn down the even narrower dirt road. We figured the guy had to be certifiable to put a sign like that up in the middle of nowhere, but Kevin thought it was brilliant and said something about us needing to have more faith in humanity. As we drive down this road we see a few cabins tucked well back from the road, several "No Trespassing" and "Keep Out" signs as well as a few "We Shoot First" signs. And at every fork or questionable intersection in the road we see one of these:



    Or sometimes just one of these.



    So we carry on and follow the bread crumbs -- or bait, depending on how you think. About this time, Chuck -- who happens to be a doctor -- says, "This is starting to remind me of the movie 'Wrong Turn'." Steve -- another doctor -- chuckles and says, "Funny you should mention that, I was just thinking of the movie 'Motel Hell'. But at least we haven't seen a tow truck yet..." We round a bend or two and there was the tow truck on the left side of the road. Seriously. And just up from it, a little log cabin at the end of the road with smoke streaming out of the chimney. It has two "Reelect Sheriff Smith" campaign signs stuck next to each other by the front porch. We'd arrived at the photo studio.

    At this moment, Steve, Chuck and yours truly are secretly hoping nobody is home and expressing a wee bit of caution. After all, this is backwoods Montana and we've just passed about 400 "We shoot trespassers" signs getting here. As I'm studying my surroundings I find myself staring at what appears to be a bigass bone pile a few feet from the car. Kevin remarks, "I see some movement behind the window, maybe this guy wants to buy a P65+!" I remind Kevin that none of us are packing. He's out of the car like a shot running up to the front porch with open arms before I can mention the bone pile. Chuck mumbles, "Oh s**t." Steve says, "At least he left the keys in the ignition, we can bolt if this turns bad."

    I point and ask the docs if that's a femur I'm seeing in the bone pile...



    Right about then the front door opens and there's a minor exchange between Raber and someone inside yet unseen. Then Kevin waves at us and yells, "Come on up!" Now it's Steve who grumbles "Oh s**t." Must be a fairly regular medical expression. I won't repeat what I mumbled.

    As we somewhat reluctantly start step out of the car, I grab the keys and reach across to open the driver door in case a hasty exodus is in order. No sooner are the car doors open then this bigass dog charges us like a bull, barking angrily the entire way. He looks kind of like Cujo, but maybe bigger. He's homed in on Steve and Steve is back in the car with the door shut at something approaching the speed of light. Our host calls his dog off, we ease out and I'm waiting for our new friend to shout, "Soup's on!" Instead he yells, "Don't worry, he won't bite." Yeah, that's what they said about Cujo.

    As we exit the car, Chuck glances at the bones and mutters, "I do believe that is a left femur."

    We make the front porch and Kevin introduces us to Larry the Photographer. We go in the cabin -- and it is a cabin, like a log cabin with no electricity or running water type cabin. Well that's not entirely true, there is electricity of sorts as we can hear an anemic generator pulsing in the background somewhere. Larry has a Harlequin romance novel open and resting on a partial carton of Camels next to his chair. The ashtray is full. A bare-bulb in an old lamp is what he's reading by. It's the only light in the cabin, maybe a 100 watt bulb and is pulsing in time with the generator between like 30 and 60 watts about every six or eight seconds. I spy a massive gun rack and a .22 semi-auto with about a 30 power scope is still oscillating in the last slot like it's just been stowed there. Steve, Chuck and I linger near the door while Kevin talks to Larry.

    Larry lights up an unfiltered Camel and sits down in his chair. The room is about 15x15 and since it's raining out, the windows aren't open. The only ventilation is the fireplace chimney which obviously isn't drawing well. It's about 11:00 AM and by the look of the ashtray he's well into his second pack.

    Kevin asks Larry if he saw us coming, and Larry replies, "Hell yes I saw you." I think to myself, "No s**t." It was pretty obvious he saw us with the aid of that 30 power scope.

    We see what looks like someone sleeping in a bed in a side-room and Kevin apologizes if we interrupted his day. Larry replies, "Nah, that's my son's bed, but he's a lazy *ss and never makes it. He's not here, he's just down the road there working on our chipper." Great, Larry junior is warming up the chipper. Steve, Chuck and I give startled glances to each other while Kevin is looking around for the gallery.

    Kevin starts asking Larry about his photography while looking at three framed 8x10 Wallmart prints sitting on the mantle. The pictures are interspersed between a dozen or so bleached skulls of various critters. Well at least nothing looked humanoid to me, but then I didn't want to stare too long. Larry replies to Kevin, "Those aren't the ones I sell, those are personal." "The gallery is out there in that brown building," he says as he points. Steve, Chuck and I use that as our cue to exit to some fresher air. As we cross the porch toward the gallery, I notice about 300 spent cartridge casings of various caliber scattered about the front porch. Obviously Larry does a lot of shooting from there. The "gallery" is about 30 yards away from the pile of shell casings. I used to shoot a lot and know that 30 yards is easy, and about now I'm wondering if the "gallery" holds dual meanings for Larry...

    Steve is running around outside with his iPhone taking quick snaps of things like the bone pile. He grabs one, geo-taggs it and is desperately trying to upload it using the hair's breath of edge network that exists if he stands on the bumper of our car and stretches his arm straight up. He later admits he at least wanted somebody to know our last known whereabouts if we went missing. That one above is his, he took it as small as possible so it might have a chance to upload.

    The gallery is decorated with more skulls, again most appear to be animals of sorts. Not the most inviting photo gallery I've been to. Inside there are a total of 6 framed (framed only, not matted) 8x10 Wallmart prints of various subjects; two are bears, two are forest fires, one is of a person that sort of looks like a young Jack Nicholson holding an axe, and the last one is a mountain lion with his mouth half open. Oh, and a few used photo books are scattered about too. I think I saw one of Mangelsen's in the pile.

    Anyway, Kevin asks what type of images he sells the most of. Larry says, "You never know what will sell. One year it's mountain lions, the next year it's bears. Every now and then a fire pitcher sells."

    Kevin asks about the fire pics, and this starts our education on Montana fires. Apparently, all forest fires in Montana these days are business. "They're corporate fires" Larry tells us. "They don't even try to put them out no more, just let them burn. Can't figure out why. But it's okay with me cause they pay me $27 an hour to get in my pick-up and drive around and talk to people about it. Hell, I do that for free anyway. They pay me for up to 20 hours a day, and that goes a long way to supplement my social security." I'm thinking it's probably not too hard on the photo gallery's bottom line either.

    Kevin finally asks if Larry has any landscapes for sale. Larry replies, "Hell no, that s**t won't sell!" Raber gets a puzzled look and inquires simply, "Really?" Larry says, "Heck, the cameras are all so good nowadays anybody can take a good landscape pitcher. It's the critters that sell." Kevin doesn't say anything more about that. I'm guessing he's decided Larry isn't a viable P65+ customer.

    As we're leaving, Kevin asks me to take a picture of he and Larry by his studio. I say sure, grab Kevin's iPhone and line it up for a tight portrait of the two of them standing together in front of Larry's studio. As I'm pointing the iPhone, Kevin says, "No, no! Line us up on the side here so you get that skull and all this other s**t on the wall in the picture too!" Steve cringes at the unintentional slur on Larry's decor and starts working his way briskly back to the car. I look over and see Chuck is already there and think these are smart men.



    I thank Larry for his hospitality as I hand Raber his iPhone. As we head to the car, Larry walks with us and says, "Actually I'm glad you guys showed up. I don't usually open until the 4th of July, and the weather is so s**tty today I was just sitin inside enjoyin my smokes and readin. I wasn't even sure I was gonna go outside!"

    Kevin replies, "They say this rain's supposed to clear up tomorrow." Without hesitation Larry responds, "Hell, they've been saying that for a month!"

    Larry has turned out to be a "one-in-a-million" treasure for sure, a great experience none of us will ever forget.

    We hop in the car and head back out the way we came. We get a hundred yards down the road and start an on-and-off joking and laughing spree about this side adventure that lasted the entire trip.

    About half-way back out to the main dirt road, Chuck points out a sign on a remote cabin that reads "Dalmer." We had missed that one on the way in. We never did see Larry junior.



    So if you ever find yourself at the Northwest corner of Glacier National Park and want an education in photo marketing, politics or fire-fighting, be sure to look for that sign and be sure to go meet Larry. You won't regret it. Tell him Kevin sent you.

    Here it is (I think) on Google Maps. If you look close on the satellite view, you can see a white spot just off the side of the road just before the cabin -- that's the tow truck: http://maps.google.com/maps?f=d&sour...38109&t=h&z=15
    ~~~

    PS: I apologize for these all being iPhone pics. Truth is none of us were motivated to pull out the P65+'s and start shooting here.

    ~~~

    One last shot of our fearless leader from PhaseOne, Kevin Raber:

    Jack
    home: www.getdpi.com

    "Perfection is not attainable. But if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence."

  2. #2
    KWR Phase One
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    Re: A PODAS mini-adventure: our chance meeting with 'Larry the Photographer' ...

    Jack . . Got it pretty right, however I thought Larry was a pretty nice guy. The rest of the crew in the car had a way too vivid imagination though. All we did was visit a photo studio in the woods at the end of a culda-sac, with abandoned cars, wood chippers, and a tow truck. And a pile of bones. Larry’s studio was something that many would strive for. He is a master of marketing as his well placed signs drew us in and kept us on track. PODAS is about taking good pictures and having an adventure not to mention learning a few things. So I would say mission accomplished. We all walked off with some magnificent images ( see Jack’s on this forum). We all got to meet some local inhabitants and learn a bit about the simple life. And, we all had a lot of laughs. MISSION ACCOMPLISHED . . .

    Larry is a wise man. His view of the world is refreshing and unique to say the least. Whatever cable TV channel can grab him for a series entitled - “Larry’s World” would make millions.

    I only wish Larry was a bit more interested in going digital. For him his Canon EOS-1 was sufficient. We were lucky to have had this chance to speak with Larry as after July 4th he is extremely busy. I’ll keep Larry on my lead list and maybe in a few years he’ll be ready for a Phase One camera system.

  3. #3
    KWR Phase One
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    Re: A PODAS mini-adventure: our chance meeting with 'Larry the Photographer' ...

    “Chuck mumbles, "Oh s**t." Steve says, "At least he left the keys in the ignition, we can bolt if this turns bad." “

    Come on guys, where is the old Navy SEAL motto of leave no man behind?

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    Re: A PODAS mini-adventure: our chance meeting with 'Larry the Photographer' ...

    Jack, I think that is wonderful and portrays what we saw and what we felt. I did enjoy Larry very much...... reminds me of my Oklahome roots. There is no fluff or sugar-coating, he just says how it is in a very simple understandable way. We need more people like him.... you know exactly what he has said and no hidden meanings or agenda.
    Put him on 60 minutes!

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    Re: A PODAS mini-adventure: our chance meeting with 'Larry the Photographer' ...

    Hi Jack and Kevin,

    As I said, this is something I'll remember until I can't! It's been years since I laughed so hard.

    I was a bit nervous about approaching this guy. The house was pretty dark from the lack of power and I couldn't see inside. I did see the bone pile outside, so I assumed he was armed and not used to visitors. There were shell casings on the ground of multiple calibers.

    Inside, it looked as if he expected to sell some photography books and there were a couple of book piles covered with dust and cigarette smoke. It's hard to imagine he sells a book a year.

    I about died when Kevin wanted a picture with Larry and said "make sure you get the skull and all this other sh*t!" Larry didn't seem insulted, though.

    Larry only shoots film, but he says he could use digital; he just doesn't. I have to wonder how often and where he gets his film developed. I doubt he has the generator capacity to charge a laptop.

    We didn't have a chance to meet his son, but I bet hat would have been another story...

    What a great trip and a good opportunity to thank you both for a wonderful time. I look forward to doing it again soon,

    steve

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    Sr. Administrator Jack's Avatar
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    Re: A PODAS mini-adventure: our chance meeting with 'Larry the Photographer' ...

    Quote Originally Posted by KWR Phase One View Post
    Come on guys, where is the old Navy SEAL motto of leave no man behind?
    Kevin, that one's about getting the bodies out. We'd have gone back for you...

    ,
    Jack
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    "Perfection is not attainable. But if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence."

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    Super Duper
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    Re: A PODAS mini-adventure: our chance meeting with 'Larry the Photographer' ...

    So will Larry be signed up for the next workshop?
    Don Libby
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    Senior Member kdphotography's Avatar
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    Re: A PODAS mini-adventure: our chance meeting with 'Larry the Photographer' ...

    Well, if not for PODAS, certainly Larry is welcome for Pigs in a Blanket...

    The story reminds me of Larry and his brother Darrel, and his other brother Darrel....

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    Super Duper
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    Re: A PODAS mini-adventure: our chance meeting with 'Larry the Photographer' ...

    By that pile of bones ... someone was left behind ...

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    Re: A PODAS mini-adventure: our chance meeting with 'Larry the Photographer' ...

    It might be interesting to hear what Larry has to say to the locals about your visit. Probably as much of an adventure for him as it was for you.

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    Re: A PODAS mini-adventure: our chance meeting with 'Larry the Photographer' ...

    Guys like Larry don't tend to frighten me much at all, its the "urban types" one might encounter that get my undivided attention.

  12. #12
    Sr. Administrator Jack's Avatar
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    Re: A PODAS mini-adventure: our chance meeting with 'Larry the Photographer' ...

    I finally grabbed my images off my iPhone. Here are a few more of the area...





    Jack
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    "Perfection is not attainable. But if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence."

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    Re: A PODAS mini-adventure: our chance meeting with 'Larry the Photographer' ...

    Riotously funny, but supremely well-narrated account. My week opened with Kevin Raber introducing, along with Michael Reichmann, the LL Capture One tutorials, and it ends with KR on Larry's cabin wall.

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