My Eagle Spread

Baddeck, Nova Scotia is a wonderful and unique place. Two amazing things happened to me in Baddeck. First, I met and got to spend nearly 30 minutes talking to Gil Grosvenor, former head of National Geographic (and descendant of Alexander Graham Bell). We talked about Nat Geo, horses, maps, but mostly we talked about people. And about how empowering people and believing in people can lead to wonderful things. He told me a wonderful story about Jane Goodall that I'll share in the future.

The second amazing thing was out in Bras d'Or Lake on Cape Breton Island. We were on a small sailboat cruising around when a couple of Bald Eagles put on a show for us. Enjoy. (click on any image to view in a lightbox)

Bald eagles can have up to a 7ft wing span and weigh up to 15lbs. 

Eagles choose a life mate after they are about 5 years old, and then can live to be 20 years old.

Bald eagles are found throughout North America, mostly near bodies of water.

Eagles can use thermal currents to climb to 10,000ft in the sky. When they dive to make a kill they can reach speeds of 100mph.

Eagles prefer to eat fish, but have been known to eat other waterfowl (mostly ducks), muskrats, and even turtles.

The oldest bald eagle in captivity survived to be 48 years old.

In 2007, Bald Eagles were taken off the endangered species list. However conservation efforts cannot stop. As people move to shoreland areas, cutting down trees can severely impact their habitat.

Eagle imagery was often used in the Roman Republic which led to the founding fathers of the United States of America adopting the Bald Eagle as our national symbol June 20, 1782.

And here is me and Gil after one of the most impactful conversations I've ever had.

South America Prologue: My Friend Christian


Christian holds his thermos while drinking mate, a daily ritual.

The beginning. In the coming days and weeks I'll start posting stories and photos from my 45 day trip around South America that would take me from the waterfalls of Iguazu, to the southernmost tip of Cape Horn, to the Atacama Desert in Chile, and finally to the Inca trail and Machu Picchu. It was an amazing trip. Truly life changing. And I'm happy to finally share it.

 

But there is one person I want to talk about before I can get into the trip. Mi amigo Christian. Christian accompanied me throughout the trip (with the exception of Panama), and it's important to know who he is before I can talk about what we experienced together.

Christian and I met in 2007. We were both working as maintenance men for a high rise in Chicago. That means we used to vacuum floors, wash windows, and fix peoples broken sinks. Not glamorous, but it was steady work.

Christian emptying the trash.

When Christian started working at the building we immediately became friends. We'd cover for each other when one of us would screw something up. We'd get hot chocolate for each other on cold days. And generally we got along famously. Christian is Argentinian and maybe a year before that I had been to Buenos Aires. So I was always pressing him for information on his home and what it was like to grow up there. 

He'd tell me stories of Diego Maradona but that he prefers rugby to football. Or that when he was a kid everyone called him flip flop, because of the shoes he was running around in. We'd talk about his family, and how hard it was to be living in the US and only talking to them over the phone. 

When Christian first started at the building he was married, but I soon learned he was going through a divorce. Thanksgiving was coming up, and I couldn't imagine Christian having to be alone for a holiday, even an American one. So my family took him in and we'd spent the next several Thanksgivings, Christmas', birthdays, and any other gatherings, together.

 

Christian would move on from the job at the building, I would too. He did several other jobs in Chicago. More maintenance and some work for the Anti-Cruelty Society working with animals. He loves animals. But we maintained our friendship. One of his favorite things was to come visit our farm and cut grass with the tractor. Christian has always loved big machines.

Christian mowing the grass at our farm with the tractor. Christian loves big machines.

One more of Christian on the tractor.

In 2012, Christian made the decision to return to Argentina. After nearly 10 years away from his family, it was time to return. I was sad. The night before he left we shared some deep dish pizza, went to the lake and took a picture of his favorite skyline. I dropped him off at the airport in the morning.

Christian with his favorite skyline in the background, just before leaving for Argentina.

Goofing around.

I didn't know under what circumstances I'd see him again. I was working a 9-5 desk job at the time. Feeling low. And one day I decided to quit. And I decided to take a trip, because those always made me feel better. And what better place to go than Argentina to visit my big brother Christian. So we started planning and a short trip turned into a 45 day adventure with one of my best friends.

Christian, I love you.

Stay tuned for the photos and stories from our South American adventure.

Christian tells us what he really thinks.

Authenticity

A few weeks ago I got an email from a friend. She is a performer (dance, burlesque, theater) named Jean Wildest and she asked if I would help document her transition from female to male. Of course I said yes.

We took some time brainstorming ideas and decided that right around Christmas we'd shoot her first step, getting her hair cut. We'd do before and after shots and play around with a couple different looks, both feminine and masculine. 

On the day, she came in with a couple different outfits and we decided to just shoot as much as we could before she had to leave for her appointment. So we shot for about an hour and then she took off. I spent the next 2 hours looking through what we had done. Honestly, I was pretty satisfied with what we got. If thats all we had shot for the day, I think we'd both been patting ourselves on the back. Jean has always been fun, spirited, and willing to try things. So she's a dream to shoot with.

Two hours later she came back and reinforced everything I believe about the human spirit. Look, I'm sure we can all be reductive and say "it's just a haircut." But take a moment and understand that this is somebody taking a step closer to who they are. A step towards being authentic. A step towards being the person they see themselves as. And it shows in every photograph we took.

We shot for 2 more hours and Jean was so happy the whole time. She felt like herself. You can see it come through regardless of if we were taking a goofy headshot, or a serious dramatically lit glamour shot. 

The essence of this boils down to something I strongly believe. We are at our best when we are our most authentic selves. Today, you may not know who that person is truly. But every decision you make can move you closer or take you farther away. When you get taken farther away, you can feel it. Take a moment. Recalibrate. We're not always perfect people. But we can be true.

 

*All pronouns used match Jean's wishes at this time. Click any of the images to view in a lightbox.

Before and after. Same great person.