—  Ken and Vesta  —

Wedding and Portrait Photography

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1001 Days of Faces, 1 - 25

Day 48, Diana.

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This is Diana, out in the Dawn’s Early Morning Light. She came hustling by like a woman with a mission. I probably shouldn’t’ve asked her, but I did, cuz yesterday had been a long day for all of us. And Vesta and Devon wanted me to get my photo, so we could go home and hit the sack.

Vesta and I had behind our cameras for eight hours and we didn’t get home till late and poor Devon had to sit through a long, long reception, playing on his iPad and eating more cake than any kid should be allowed to have.

That iPad playing and cake eating, that’s hard work. I know, cuz getting Devon up this morning was no easy task.

So, even though I probably shouldn’t’ve asked Diana, I did. “Can I take you picture?”

“No!” She looked at me like maybe she thought I was a bit off. Then she said, “Why would you want to?”

And I told her about my project and then she said okay and I took the shot. And after I asked her name, I asked why she was in such a hurry on such a beautiful morning.

“My mom’s spending her vacation with me. It’s the first morning and she wants coffee.”

“You don’t have any at home?”

“I don’t drink it. So I gotta go to Starbucks.” “

Couldn’t your mom go herself,” Devon said.

“Paaleeezzze.” That’s how she said “Please,” She drew it out long.

“Oh, one of those kind of moms, Vesta said.”

“Yep,” Diana said.

She turned to go and I started singing, “I’m so young and you’re so old.”

Vesta joined in, “This my darling, I’ve been told.” And we continued singing, “Oh please, wait for me, Diana.”

Day 47, Jim.

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This is Jim at 5:15 on a perfect weather day, by the Dawn’s Early Light.

I was out this morning with Devon only. Vesta slept in, because we’re shooting a wedding today and we won’t get home till late and she claimed she needed her beauty sleep. “Besides,” she said, “it’ll give you and Devon some quality time.”

“Maybe I don’t want quality time,” Devon said. “Maybe I want some beauty sleep too.”

“No beauty sleep for the wicked,” I said. “You’re coming with me.”

“Are we gonna bond?”

“We’re gonna take pictures.”

“Okay then,” he said. And we set out, just the two of us.

The first to come by were a couple very tall, basketball looking, white guys, who looked like they lived in the gym. I asked could I take their picture and discovered they were both very drunk. One said no, one said yes, I took a shot of the yes guy, then he bummed a buck from me.

The guy shook my hand and almost broke it.

Then they left and I deleted his picture.

“You’re not gonna use that?” Devon said.

“No, we don’t do drunks.”

Then Jim came by, looking happy as a lark who’d just gobbled up a big fat worm, the kind you use for fishing.

I asked could I take his picture and he said sure, didn’t even ask why. After I took the shot, I asked if he was from here.

“Fifty-two years of my life.” He smiled. “I’d a been here longer, but Uncle Sam moved me away when I was in the service.”

He asked me how long I’d been here and I told him six years. “We were only gonna stay one,” I said, “but Reno grows on you.”

“It’s not the same as when I was a kid,” he said. “But it’s still wonderful.”

“It is,” I said. And we shook hands. Then he went his way and Devon and I started home.

Day 46, Thomas.

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This is Thomas at 5:25 in the AM. He’s retired. He was out for his early morning constitutional and he lives in the same Deluxe Apartment in the Sky that Vesta and I moved out of just a few short months ago.

He lives a floor above our old place. We were on the 12th and he’s on the 14th. No 13th in the building.

When I found out where he lived, I asked, did he know Rita.

He didn’t he said, but he’d heard of her. Rita is blonde and beautiful but not too bright. She’s also the luckiest girl alive. At least she was for one night.

Let me tell you about Rita.

Shortly after we moved in, I pulled into the underground garage and there was Rita, standing next to an SUV full of boxes, just outside the door to the elevator bays, looking perplexed.

“Moving in?” I said.

She said she was, but she didn’t have a clue how she was gonna get her heavy boxes outta the car, into the elevator and then into her apartment.

“I got a hand truck I could loan you,” I said.

“Thank you, thank you, thank you,” she said back.

Turns out, I didn’t loan her the hand truck. Loaning it to her woulda meant that she took it, moved her boxes, then gave it back. That didn’t happen, cuz the hand truck was never in her possession.

Cuz I moved all those boxes. Cuz I’m a nice guy. And I’ll confess, cuz she was pretty too.

A couple days later, Matt from next door came by and told us he almost shot someone in his bedroom the night before.

“Whoa,” Vesta said, “say again.”

“You won’t believe this. I never lock the door to the balcony at night, because we’re like twelve floors about the ground. So you can imagine how shocked I was when someone opened it at midnight and snuck in.”

“You’re kidding. Right?” Vesta said.

“No,” Matt said. “I reached into my night stand and pulled out my Glock, then I turned the light on and shouted, ‘Freeze.’ and she threw her hands in the air and cried out, ‘Please don’t shoot,’ and I didn’t, but I almost did.”

“What’d she look like.” “She was blonde.”



“Rita,” I said.

“You know her?”


“She said she lived on the floor above me. She dropped her iPhone and it landed on my balcony. So she climbed over and jumped down. But she didn’t think it through so well, because she couldn’t reach her balcony to pull herself back up.”

“So she decided to sneak through your apartment and almost got shot?”

“Yeah.” “I went up this morning to talk to her, but she wouldn’t answer the door.”

“I’ll talk to her,” I said. “She’ll answer for me.”

So Devon and I went up and I knocked and no one answered, but I heard someone inside, so I knocked again, this time like a policeman with nightstick. Whoever was in there was gonna do one of two things, she was gonna call the cops or she was gonna answer the door.

She answered the door.

As it turns out, Rita had been plenty drunk and didn’t even remember climbing over that balcony and jumping down to the floor below. She didn’t remember sneaking into Matt’s apartment either. She did remember the big gun, though. That, she remembered. And she was scared. Cuz she couldn’t grasp quite why someone woulda wanted to shoot her.

When I told her, she was all apologies and said she’d never, ever do something like that again. I said maybe she should think about not drinking so much, but I don’t think she was listening.

Day 45, Joel.

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This is Joel. We’d just arrived on the bridge, when he came walking along with a spring in his step, like he was expecting a happy day. He’s from Denver, Joel is. And he’s a mining lawyer in Reno for two days on business.

I don’t know why mines need lawyers, but I guess they do.

I asked him if he’d been to Elko, which is the mining capitol of our area, and he said he had not, but that the people in the business of mining were in Reno for his meeting.

And Vesta told him it was too bad, because Elko is a great place. “They have the Ruby Mountains, which are gorgeous.”

And I added that they have great people. There is just something about the attitude of the people who live in a city that has almost no unemployment. We spent a couple days there shooting a band (with cameras, not gun) and I have to admit, I’d expected it to be kind of a dismal place, but it was far from that.

The people were friendly as all get out and we had a great time. And they got Sergio’s there, a tiny little place, but it's one of the best Mexican restaurants in America. I know, because Vesta and I have been in search of the perfect fajitas for years.

We’ve even eaten at Mama Ninfa’s in Houston and she invented ‘em. Some may say different, but we met her and we believe in her and besides, it’s her version and her dish that eventually became the fajitas we know today, so I don’t care if they’d been eating skirt steak on the Moon before Mama Ninfa, she’s the fajita inventor as far as I’m concerned.

Anyway, back to Elko. The got great fajitas in Sergio’s. So if you’re ever flying by on the freeway, stop and try ‘em. It’s just a little tiny place, but the food is better than excellent. And if you’re into photography, take a trip outta town and photograph the Ruby Mountains. Like Vesta said, they are gorgeous.

Day 44, Scott.

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This is Scott, who stopped by at 5:20, on his way to work. We were a bit early and it’s good that we were, cuz if we hadn’t been, we’d a missed him.

We talked a bit about the traffic problem that didn’t happen when they closed off Virginia and I said, "From my point of view, apparently we don't need the bridge. They could just take it down and not put the new one up and turn Virginia into a walking street and the city would save a gang of money."

“But I walk on it everyday,” he said.

“Really,” I said.

“I work in the U.S. bank building and enjoy taking walks on it. And I’ll enjoy the new one too.” He also said he could see it from his office window and every morning he’d been seeing us making photographs on it. Well, not anymore, cuz now we’ve moved over to Sierra Street.

“You get to work early,” Vesta said.

“I do.”

I asked, could I take his picture and he said why and he wondered why I’d been taking photos of all these people. Then he said. “You know, one could come to the conclusion that I’ve been stalking you.”

I told him we weren’t worried about being stalked and I told him about my project of taking a photo a day, By the Dawn’s Early Light for a year. (And all of a sudden I shivered, cuz I got a flash of me out there in the winter, when it was snowing, when it was cold, when I was all alone cuz Vesta was home snuggly warm in her PJs and when it was dark too.

Then I took his picture and he left.

I told Vesta and Devon about the quick, scary flash I’d had about me alone in the dark and the cold and the snow. And she said I should just mention here that there are always parking places on the Sierra Street Bridge at 5:30 in the morning and I should also say that people, like the folks reading this, could just drive up, park, get out of their car, get their portrait made and be back in their car in about a minute.

“You could call it, Drive Thru Portraits.” She smiled, like she does when she comes up with a good idea.

“I like it,” Devon said.

“See," Vesta said. ”It won’t be too bad. You might be cold and it might be dark, but people will come by for the quick portrait.”

“But will I be out here all alone?”

“Why are you looking at me?” Devon said. “I’ll be in Oregon, asleep, because it’s way to early to get up for school.”

I turned my gaze to Vesta and she pretended to shiver.

But she’ll be out there with me on those cold, cold mornings. I know she will.

But she just kept up with her fake shivering and now Devon was doing it too.

Day 43, Vesta and Devon.

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This is Vesta and Devon, who were waiting on the Sierra Street bridge at 5:15 this morning to surprise me. And they did.

Yesterday, we drove three hundred miles to Medford to pick Devon up. He’s spending the summer with us again. Last year his vacation got cut short, cuz of this horrible, horrible thing called summer school.

An evil invention if ever I’d ever heard of one. And it’s an invention I’m quite familiar with, cuz when I was young Devon’s age, if I’d a brought home all C’s, my parents woulda had a party and it was like that all the way through high school. It was summer school for me and it was taking courses over again too. I was not the best student in good old Lakewood High, that’s for sure.

I remember I had this chemistry instructor named Dr. Houghton. I think that was his name anyway. I got a D the first time around. The second go round he gave me a D again. And he said, the second time, I’d actually failed, but he was afraid if he failed me on my second session with him, it might reflect on his teaching career.

So, I wasn’t in much of a position to get on Devon cuz of his shitty grades. But he decided he didn’t want next year’s summer, which is this one now, cut short, so he told us he was going to try and get all A’s. And he almost did. He got four A’s and three B’s. A feat I was never able to accomplish.

We’re proud of him and guess what, NO summer school for Devon.

Okay, now back to this morning’s picture by the Dawn’s Early Light. Usually Vesta and I go out together. However sometimes, like when she was recovering from her mouth surgery, she stays home.

We got in late last night and yesterday was a long, long day, so she said she wanted to sleep in and Devon was sleeping like he was dreaming about floating around in a never ending Minecraft world. So, I went out by myself.

And after I left. They got up, got dressed in a flash, got in the care and DROVE. And so you can imagine my surprise when I saw them there.

And here is their picture.

PS. As you can see, Vesta's smile is getting brighter and Devon is getting taller. Taller than Vesta now, it looks like.

Day 42, Elgin.

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This is Elgin. He came out at 5:15 this morning with Zhangsujie and Guoxin (whose name I apparently misspelled yesterday). The girls came out again, to take our picture. That’s never happened before.

They had Vesta and me pose and they took our photos with their iPhones, counting, “One, Two, Three,” before they clicked the shutter, just like I did yesterday. It was so cute. Better than cute.

Then we took their picture with Elgin. Then Elgin took our picture with the girls.

It was nice.

It’s always nice when you meet new people. And I’m finding that everyday out here is a brand new experience. There’s a lotta people in this town, even though it is the “The Biggest Little City in the World.” A lotta faces in this city, each with their own story.

And if you give people a chance, no matter where they’re from, no matter their background—no matter if they’re wealthy or homeless, travelers or students, bus drivers or truck drivers, doctors or lawyers, writers or thieves—no matter who they are, you might just find that you like them.

That’s the bottom line here, for the most part, people are likable. Even Democrats and Republicans.

Sure, there are a few bad apples, like those escaped killers who are on the loose. And maybe serial killers and terrorists and rapists and kidnappers and heroin sellers and those people who make reality television.

But when you add us all up, the people on this planet—those bad apples mentioned above are a really a very small minority.

Day 41, Zhangsujie and Guyxin.

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This is Zhangsujie and Guyxin, who Vesta and I met on the Sierra Bridge at exactly 5:30 in the morning. They were out in the Dawn’s Early Light, because this was their first morning in America.

That’s right, they are brand new to our golden shores, or “Golden Mountain,” as many Chinese used to and some still do, call America. They have a three month work visa and they’ll be spending it in Reno, working for Harrah’s as maids.

They said cleaners, but I’m thinking they meant housemaids. You know, the people who clean hotel rooms and get them ready for the next guests.

From our short conversation, which admittedly suffered a bit because of the language barrier, I’m gathering they’re students, looking to improve their English while they’re here.

I asked Zhangsujie if she liked bad boys and she laughed as she pulled her sweater closed, covering up the words on her tee shirt. Guyxin laughed too.

I have a very good friend who studied Chinese in China and it’s done him a world of good, so this is a two way street. Isn’t it amazing, just a couple decades ago, the Chinese were our enemies and now we swap kids, so we can learn each other’s languages.

Maybe, with a little luck, world peace is within our grasp. We can only hope.

Day 40, Ciena and Kira.

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Here are Ciena and Kira, who were out for an early morning walk. Very early, cuz I took this picture at 5:15.

Vesta and I got to the Sierra Street Bridge at 5:00 this morning, about a half hour earlier than usual, because I wanted to take a couple shots of the Virginia Street Bridge across the way in it’s new state of destruction.

And right after I took the first shot, this interesting looking old guy came sauntering by.

“Can I take you’re picture?” I asked.

“Certainly not!” He was emphatic, but he stopped. Usually, if they say no, they keep right on a walkin’. “Why would you want to?”

I told him about our  project.

“Ah! Fifteen Hundred and One Days of Faces.”

“I hadn’t planned on calling it that, but thank you. I’m gonna steal it.”

“Be my guest.” Then he pointed at my lip. “What’s that?”

“It’s a cold sore.” I’m sure I winced, cuz it’s not my best feature.

“Looks like herpes to me.”

“I prefer cold sore.”

“Same thing. Caused by nerves,” he said. “

Nerves and a Spanish girl in Martinique named Maria,” Vesta said.

“He kissed her?” the guy said.

“No,” she said. “He’d been drinking and wasn’t thinking.”

“So he didn’t kiss her?” the guy said.

“No, he bummed a cigarette from her and she lit it for him.”

“Really?” the guy said.

“And she had a great big old herpes sore on her lip.”

“Well, you’re some kinda stupid,” the guy said to me.

“That’s what the doctor in Forte de France said.” Vesta poked me. “I said it too, actually.”

“They got medicine now.” The guy said. “Marijuana works too.”

“Jeez,” I said, “can we change the subject?” I don’t like the fact that sometimes I get one of these things before a wedding. The bride never sees it, cuz it starts like the day before, I guess because I get pretty anxious. We shoot the wedding and everything, lip wise, as far as the eye can see anyway, is fine, but once it’s started, it’s gotta run it’s course, so a couple days later, I get this big, mama, ugly looking thing on my lip.

I don’t know why I get nervous. I guess cuz I worry to beat the band are the pictures gonna come out, cuz it’s the bride’s big day and all and you don’t get a do over if you screw up, so I can’t screw up.

And I have to admit, when I see the pictures afterwards, I am always amazed. And when I see my reflection in the mirror after I’ve seen the photos, I always wonder why I worried so much.

And I promise myself that next time, I will stay cool, calm and collected. After all, it’s the bride who is supposed to be a bundle of nerves, not her photographer.

“Look, the guy said, ”here’s a couple people.”

And I asked Ciena and Kira, could I take their picture and when I’d finished taking a couple shots, I’d noticed, to my great relief, that the old wise ass was gone.

Day 39, Israel.

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This is Israel, who is seventy years old. He has small feet and walks with a cane, cuz frostbite took his toes away on a bad day a long time ago. He stole a car when he was young, spent three years behind bars and now he’s right with both the God of Keno and the God of Abraham.

He’s won forty-seven hundred bucks so far this year, always playing the same numbers. In fact, he’d just won a little bit this morning. That’s what he was doing out, he was walking home from the casino, I don’t know which one.

Usually, after I take someone’s photo out in the Dawn’s Early Morning Light, I’ll ask them a question or two, to get them talking. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

This morning it did.

“What do you think about this weather?” I said.

“It’s okay?” He smiled. “But we’re not burning up, like President Obama or ex Vice President Al Gore would have you believe.”

“Say again.”

“Global warming. They wanna blame it all on us. Like man is responsible. He’s not! God sets the thermostat for the world.” He sighed. “I don’t know how people like that ever get elected.” He sighed again, harder. “They’re not right with God.” And another sigh. “There’s something wrong with us, electing people like that.”

“So, I take it you’re for the other side.”

“Them?” he laughed. Obama and Gore, they’re not right with God, but at least they don’t pretend they are. These GOP wannabes, everyone of ‘em is on God’s shit list. And he went through them all with not a good word for any of the bunch and why none of ‘em stands a chance of ever meeting God in Heaven when their days here are done.

He especially didn’t like Huckabee.

“All of the GOP candidates, all they want is a photo op with God. They wrap themselves up with God and preach to us like we’re ignorant. Well, we’re not ignorant.”

We were about fifteen minutes into our conversation now and I wanted to get it off politics before Hillary’s name came up, cuz I was afraid if that happened, we’d never get home.

But I didn’t have to worry, cuz he changed the conversation all by himself.

“Here I am preaching about politicians. I shouldn’t do that. It’s not what I was anointed for.”

“Anointed?” Vesta said.

“Yes, I was anointed by God to preach his word.”

“Really?” she said.

“I’ve preached in a lot of churches,” he said. “But usually the so called ”religious” preachers there, who are just out of preaching school, ask me to leave their congregation and not come back, because they say I’m annoying.”

“Why would the say that?” Vesta said.

“I don’t know.” He thought for a second. “I always sit right up front. And sometimes, if the preacher isn’t getting it right, I’ll stand up and correct him and sometimes I’ll start preaching myself. And sometimes I’ll dance while I’m preaching. Because you need to dance here, if you wanna get to Heaven, where they dance all the time. If you don’t dance here, you’re not getting there.”

Then he told us of this one time, when he stood up in the front row of a church, cut off the young minister, and preached for half an hour off the top of his head, cuz none of what he preaches is rehearsed, and when he was finished the congregation stood up and cheered and clapped for a long, long time. “They wouldn’t a done that if they didn’t appreciate and agree with my preaching,” he said.

One thing we learned, talking to Israel, is that it is possible for a human being to learn every word in the Bible by Heart and to be able to recall just the right phrase for any occasion. The preachers on TV, they got their sermons scripted for them, all written in advance. Not Israel. He knows his Bible, word for word, chapter and verse. He knows it as well as any man alive. I would hate to be the minister, pastor or priest who misquoted it in his presence. That’s for sure.

“We gotta go,” I said. We’d been out on the bridge with him for about a half hour now and stupid me, I was wearing a tee shirt and sandals, cuz it didn’t seem all that cold when we left, but it was plenty cold above the river now.

“Which way you going?”

“That way.” I pointed.

“I’m going that way too. I’ll walk with you to Virginia.” And he did.

On the way, he told us, by his reading of the Bible, we only had about twenty-five years left, then it was curtains for the good old Earth. And, of course, he peppered his talk with biblical proofs. “

Twenty-five years, that’s all the time we have left,” he said again.

“Yikes,” Vesta said.

“Yes indeed,” Israel said, then we went our way and he went his.

Day Thirty-Eight, Joe.

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Here is an early morning portrait of Joe. He was already out on the Sierra Street Bridge, when Vesta and I got there, staring forlornly at the bridge on Virginia Street and the machinery on it, which will be tearing it down any day now.

“It’s a shame,” I said.

“Isn’t it though,” he said. Some politician getting a kickback. Gotta be.” And he went on to regale us with his opinion about how corrupt politicians, of all stripes, are in America. And he peppered his dialogue with example after example after example.

After listening to him talk, one would thing those third world dictators still got a lot to learn from us.

The military was his favorite target though. The money they throw away on junk that doesn’t work. “Nobody vets the contractors,” he complained. “All the jobs go to some politician’s wife’s or kid’s or brother’s company. They get rich and our servicemen get crap.”

And, of course, he gave us example after example of military corruption and incompetence too. He was very well informed, Joe was.

My favorite example was when he told us how our soldiers got the nickname “Doughboys.” It seems, according to Joe anyway, I haven’t checked, that the company that made the buttons for our soldiers uniforms during the Spanish America War, made ‘em outta clay and they didn’t cure them enough, or whatever it is you do to clay to keep it hard.

So when our boys hit the beaches in Cuba, the buttons on their shirts all melted and it looked like dough running down their chests.

And about the bridge, “They coulda made Virginia a walking street, like Victorian Square in Sparks,” he said.

“They have a lot of them in Europe,” Vesta said.

“The traffic since they closed the bridge,” I said, “really hasn’t been all that bad.”

“Exactly,” Joe said. “Think of the tourists walking the streets. It would be like the festivals we have downtown all year long.”

“So why didn’t they do that?” Vesta said.

“Because this thing is costing millions,” Joe said, “which leaves plenty of money for some politician’s pocket.”

“That’s kinda sad,” Vesta said.

“It is,” I said.

Joe just sighed.


Lonnie E. Holder: The term "doughboy" as applied to US Army foot soldiers is pre-Civil War, which means that his story, while amusing, is untrue. It should be noted that the term was used in association with British soldiers before it came to be applied to US Army foot soldiers, with the term having been used for a century or more before WWI. Incidentally, to the best of my limited ability to find, it appears that the buttons of the era were brass versus clay.

Baer Charlton: During the 100 yrs war, field rations for the English were a hard biscut called hard-tack. It was made from more than a few hearty grains--- think more like that $14 loaf of bread in the bunny-hugger section of a market. If they were lucky.... they might also get an occational stew-- if the cooks were fast enough getting to a horse that was shot. The Navy faired much better in that they also got gruel, and salted pork... but the ground pounders were --- dough boys.

Baer Charlton Probably what was staining the front of their khakis was the drool from the kind of chewing tobacco they were issuing.... which contained a fair portion of coca leaves to jack them up, reduce the feeling of getting shot and keeping them happy.

Baer Charlton: Ken, Ken, Ken.... look at his hat.... he's a tanker..... they always have the best stories.... who cares which is true... it's the story and the telling of it.... that is all that counts. The story didn't affect your wallet or his... it had no effect to your lunch or your health.... His heart beat and he breathed through a smile as he told the story... your life was golded to just listen.... That is all that matters..... in this day of googble and snopes and fact check.... we have lost our way when it comes to stories...... that is why I watch every morning for your post-- the photo--- and the story. Be well my friend, and keep telling stories.

Pam Tomlinson: Hear hear to Baer Charlton!

Day Thirty-Seven, Trainwreck and Ashley.

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Here are Trainwreck and Ashley, out and about in Reno in the early morning. Just like me and Vesta. You gotta love the look Trainwreck is giving the camera. I know, I do.

We had an different kind of morning today, Vesta and I did. We got to the Sierra Street Bridge early, so we decided to take a walk and come back. Just a bit up Sierra, we came across a pretty girl wearing Levi’s and a pink sweat shirt, leaning with her back against a building, head down. A picture of despair.

She heard us coming, looked over, then stepped out into the street, to both give us the sidewalk and to get away from us and our cameras.

We rounded the corner onto First and came across Trainwreck and Ashley. After taking their picture, we headed back to bridge and we ran into Cody, whose picture I took on Day Thirty. Again, she was on her way to the gym. We talked to her for about a minute, then we started back to the bridge and again we saw the girl in pink.

This time she didn’t run away from us. Vesta said, hello, when we passed her and she said, hello back in the saddest voice you ever wanted to hear.

We didn’t know she was following us as we crossed the bridge. Having already gotten my photo of the day and since nobody else was there, I decided to head home and Vesta was going to start her morning run. She usually gets home about forty-five minutes or so after me.

We were about to part ways, when Vesta said, “Ken, I think she’s gonna jump.”

I turned to look and sure enough, she was sitting on the bridge, looking like she was gonna do it. We started for her at a quick walk.

“Hey, how are you doing?” I said.

“I’m not gonna commit suicide, if that’s what you think.” She didn’t even look up.

I moved in close to her, followed her gaze into the river. “You couldn’t even if you wanted to. You could hurt yourself, though. And that would be bad.”

“I’m not gonna jump.”

“Do you need some kind of help?” Vesta said.

“I just wanna be alone.”

“Okay, we’ll leave you be,” Vesta said, but she was lying, cuz she was already dialing 911 as we started away.

Less than two minutes later, the cops were there. They asked her to get off the edge and she did. They talked to her for a couple minutes. She wasn’t high, just very sad. Then she started north up Sierra and the cops left. Vesta started her run and I started home.

I thought about her on the edge of that bridge in the Early Morning Light as I walked away. It would have made for a stunning photo. But that’s not what I’m about. It’s not despair or desperation I wanna photograph.

And I don’t wanna make photographs of people behind their backs. Unless, of course, it’s at a wedding reception or a club or some other place where everybody is happy happy and having a wonderful time. Like those photos I like to take of people who are dancing like nobody is watching.

I see the homeless, sleeping in their corners and doorways and I leave them undisturbed. I don’t shoot the less fortunate as they're nodding off on a park bench or going through the trash. And I won’t take a photo of a pretty girl in pink who is wearing her misery for all the world to see.

When I take these early morning photos, I like to interact with the folks on the other side of the lens and I like them to interact with me. I like to connect, even if it’s only for an instant.

Life, with or without a camera, it’s something to think about. One minute you’re with someone like Trainwreck and Ashley, who are so obviously happy and the next you’re with the saddest person you’d ever want to meet, the girl in pink.

Day Thirty-Six, Pappy George.

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This is George, or Pappy if your prefer and a lotta people do. He’s been fishing the Truckee River where it flows past the Sierra Street Bridge just about everyday, for FORTY YEARS.

And I thought my commitment to be out here everyday for a year was something notable. Wow, forty years, that is really something extraordinary.

Pappy says, he’s too short to be important and if something is going on in Reno or Nevada or anywhere for that matter, that doesn’t affect him directly, he doesn’t care about it, doesn’t wanna know about it.

But the river, where it flows through downtown, that’s his world and he cares about it. He’s got a rope ladder, he ties onto the bridge twice a week, and he climbs down into the river and picks up the trash that, in his words, “Thoughtless ingrates have tossed onto the banks. Some people are just too lazy to walk an extra few feet out of their way to dispose of their garbage in a proper trash can.”

Vesta looked down at the trash, a couple plastic Pepsi bottles, a pizza box, some other junk. “That’s just wrong,” she said.

“I wish I knew where some of them lived.” Pappy pulled a pack of Marlboros from his shirt pocket. “I’d dump the trash on their front yard.”

A younger guy, obviously high on something, stumbled by, muttering to himself.

“Jeez, I speak fluent mumble and I didn’t understand a word he said.” He pulled a cigarette out of the pack.

And he held that cigarette in his hand, moving it around his fingers, as he told us stories of the river and the fish he’d caught in it and how it’s never been this low in the forty years he’s been fishing it. And he told us about his grandkids and his love of the river and how he’s a great cook and I just bet he is.

We’re gonna have to get to know him better. Good enough so that one day he invites us over to his place and we can sample some of the fish he’s pulled from the river.

After about fifteen or twenty minutes another fisherman showed up named Jerry, so we said goodbye. “See you tomorrow,” Vesta said. “Looking forward to it.” He never did light that cigarette.

Day Thirty-Five, Ashley, Will and SyBehr.

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Here are, from left to right, Ashley, Will and SyBehr. On the mornings when nobody is waiting for me, I wait for a stranger to come along and I ask can I take their photo and they almost always say yes.

But then I’m almost always non threatening. Either Vesta is with me or I’ve got a tripod set up or oftentimes both and people are curious.

But yesterday was a long day. We started out taking our early morning photos at 5:30. At 9:00 Vesta did a pregnancy shoot and then we did a wedding. So when dawn came this morning, Vesta wanted to know could I go by myself. So I did.

However, I didn’t shower, didn’t shave and I wore an old sweatshirt and Levi’s I’ve had longer than a lot of you who are reading this have been alive.

So, though I didn’t look like some of the street people I sometimes photograph, I didn’t look like Mr. I Won’t Eat Your Young Photographer person either.

The first woman I asked shook her head no, quickened her pace and moved away. I think she thought I was gonna ask for money or maybe she thought I was gonna capture her spirit in my camera. Anyway, she was gone. And that was when I realized, maybe I coulda made myself look a little more presentable, you know, so normal people wouldn’t rush away.

A couple more people came by, who looked like they might be hustling to work, and I didn’t ask. Gary and Lou came by and we talked, but I’ve already taken their pictures. Then these three came by and they said yes.

And, as it turns out, I’ve taken pictures of SyBehr before and she had them on her phone. How cool is that? Way cool, I think. In closing, I’d like to say, tomorrow I WILL shower and shave and put on clean and presentable clothes before I go out to the Sierra Street Bridge, so you don’t have to be afraid of me.

So if you want you’re portrait made by the Dawn’s Early Light, for absolutely free, come on out at 5:30. Vesta and I would love to meet you. And if you have a child with you. Don’t worry, I won’t eat it. Really, I won’t.


Annette Randell: What... you don't like children for breakfast? Picky, picky…

Pam Tomlinson: Roger isn't awfully keen on children...well in his words....'Oh, I do quite like children really, I just couldn't eat a whole one!'

Will Moxley: Hey Ken it was a pleasure meeting buddy n I'm always down 4 a pic.

Ken Douglas: It was a pleasure meeting you too, Will. And thanks for letting me shoot you. With a camera, that is.

Will Moxley: Lol this guy, the pleasure was mine sir and next time hopefully next weekend I can run into you again we gotta get a picture together.

Ken Douglas: We'll be there at 5:30, Will. Hope to see you out there.

Baer Charlton: You need to have a t-shirt that says: Trust Me With Your Soul, I'm a Professional Photographer.

Day Thirty-Four, Blue.

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This is Blue out in the Dawn’s Early Light. Vesta spied him on Center Street as we were heading out to the Sierra Street Bridge.

“Ask him,” she said. “He looks interesting.”

“Can I take your picture?” I said.


“Okay.” We started to walk away.

“Wait a minute!” he said. “That’s it, you’re just gonna leave?”

“Well, yeah.”

“So you’re not a cop?”

“Young man, look at me. Now look at her.” I pointed to Vesta with my thumb. “Do we look like cops to you?”

“I guess not.” He spent a couple seconds in thought. “My name’s Blue.” He stuck out his hand and I shook it. “You can take my picture.” He struck a pose and I took the shot.

“Thanks,” I said.

“My pleasure.” He stuck out his hand again and I shook it again and we parted company.

We got to the Sierra Street Bridge and were there for about a minute, when an unmarked pulled up and parked a couple spots south of us.

“What do you think they want?” Vesta said as we watched the two plain clothes cops drink their coffee.

“I think it’s a stakeout.”

“How do you know?”

“That’s how they do it on television.”

“You mean, they park somewhere and drink coffee and act like they’re invisible, when everybody who sees them really knows what they’re doing?"

“Yeah.” “Who do you think they’re staking out?”

“Probably us.”

“Really? Why?” “I think they heard about you hooking here and they think I’m your pimp.”

“Oh stop.”


Barbara Matteoni: Do you think .. they think ... The camera is your cover!! Hahaha.

Ken Douglas: So, Barbara, Vesta just said, "Hahahahahahahahahahaha.

Maria Clark: That's pretty funny! Just wondering what the significance of his pose is all about!

Baer Charlton: The belief is, if you head is back—facial recognition doesn't work. As for the two fists.... who knows. People who are uncomfortable with having their picture taken, either freeze up.... or do something silly that later looks just plain stupid. Trust me on this... I have more than a PhD in this asspect. Ken, the cops think Vesta hooked up with Blue.... maybe if they hang out enough.... one day you can saunter down and we wake up to a great picture of two of Reno's finest --- coffee cups and donuts are manditory.

Lonnie E. Holder: Ken, have you ever considered that the police might have heard about you hooking, and Vesta is your pimp?

Lonnie E. Holder: Wait a minute. I just realized. You don't HAVE a television. How do you know what television cops do? For all you know, they could be playing Monopoly, Risk, checkers, or even strip poker - though maybe not while drinking hot coffee.

Patrice Pedersen: U r frickin funny!

Ronald Trimble: Pimps dress nice.

Day Thirty-Three, Justin.

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Here is Justin out on the Sierra Street Bridge at 5:30 in the morning. He works at the Noble Pie Parlor, which is in the Cortez Hotel on 2nd Street in Downtown Reno. Pie, as in pizza, you pizza pie. They got good pizzas there and if you get a chance, you should try them out.

We’d been out on the bridge and in the general area for about an hour before we met Justin, just sorta taken pictures and enjoying downtown, while it was still dark out. There is just something magical about being out before the sun rises and watching it come up.

But we’re not the only ones out and about. I was on one side of the bridge, looking west and Vesta was on the other, looking east at the Virginia Street Bridge—which they’re gonna start taking down on Tuesday—when a black Escalade pulled to a stop and this guy says to Vesta, “Hey, Baby, do you need a ride?”

“No thank you,” she said back to him.

“You sure? It can be awful dangerous out there.”

“But I bet not as dangerous as me getting in that car with you.”

And he took off without another word.

“What do you think of that?” Vesta said to me.

“He thought you were hooking?”

That was about three hours ago and Vesta is still laughing.


Baer Charlton: Hooking? Did she have a fishing pole? Does she know that the last brown trout left Reno in the flood of 89...? LOL.

Patrice Pedersen: Vesta you r a hottie and could make a good living hooking if you wanted…

Ken Douglas: Well, Patrice, she'd stop laughing about a half hour ago, but now she's started back up.

Maria Clark: Get off my corner Vesta!!

Dennis Lawson: "Hana hou" to you, Vesta. I love it.....p.s. "hana hou" means "encore."

Day Thirty-Two, Dorothy.

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This is Dorothy, taken at 5:00 in the morning. Vesta and I often see her peddling her rickshaw up and down Virginia, showing early rising tourists the town. One time, we saw her pulling three big men in the back and we thought she wasn’t gonna make it, but she soldiered on. She’s gotta be in great shape.

Vesta and I rode in a rickshaw once, only an old man was pulling it. We’d taken a bus from Kuala Lumpur to a place called Pahang, cuz we’d heard the beaches were spectacular and we like to swim in the ocean.

We left early, cuz it was supposed to be a six hour trip, but it took nine and we didn’t there till late evening, so we found a hotel. In the morning, we headed for the beach, but the shark flags were up, so we didn’t go in.

“What do you want to do?” I said.

“Let’s go shopping?” Vesta really likes those three words.

Back at the hotel, I asked the desk guy where we should go.

“The market, it’s very famous. It’s like a bazaar. They have everything. It’s famous,” he said again.

“Can we walk?” Vesta wanted to know.

“It’s very easy.” And he gave us directions.

The only problem is, we can get lost walking to the store, IN AMERICA, when it’s only a couple blocks away.

Now, put us in a place where a whole bunch of the people can’t speak our language and everything looks so exciting and interesting and is it any wonder we got sidetracked again and again and again and before long, we were completely confused and real lost.

Then Vesta saw this old man and his rickshaw. “I’ve always wanted to ride in one of those.” And she waved her hand, shouting back at me, as she crossed the street. “Come on, it’ll be fun!”

This old man probably weighed ninety pounds, but it was ninety pounds of muscle and sinew and heart too. And he spoke surprisingly good English. When I told him where we wanted to go, he said, “No Problem. Get in.” And we did. Vesta first.

Then me and it wasn’t so easy.

I swear, that rickshaw must have been build about two hundred years ago, back when people were a lot smaller. Either that, or it was a Hobbit rickshaw. Cuz, when I got in my knees were jammed up to my chest, with my camera in between and the space for my feet wasn’t big enough for my size twelves.

Speaking of feet, imagine cramming yours into shoes four sizes too small. That’s how my whole body felt, from my neck to my toes. It was a horrible, excruciating, awful, bad experience. And the rickshaw didn’t have any shocks, so the pain from my neck to me feet was like I was being beaten with a hundred hammers.

Vesta, on the other hand, seemed to be enjoying the experience. “Take a picture. Take a picture. Take a Picture.” She was like a crazed mynah bird. Couldn’t she see there was no way on God’s Green Earth that I could get at the camera?

By the time we got to the market, I was as tenderized as any meat you’d ever want to eat.

However, it was a great market. I bought a Malaysian cowboy hat which I’ve never worn after that day, but that I still have and Vesta bought a couple blouses and a white tee shirt with the Malaysian flag on it, which looks a lot like the American flag, only they got an extra stripe and instead of fifty starts, they have the crescent moon and one star. It was a cool tee shirt.

“You wanna get a rickshaw back to the hotel?” Vesta said when were done shopping.

“Look.” I pointed to a taxi stand with taxis in it. “I think we’ll go in a car.”


Maria Clark: LMAO!!!! Wish I were there.

Teri Roman Espinoza: Hahahaha great story.

Barbara Matteoni: Hahahaha. Are you exaggerating a little .. maybe 98 hammers?!?! Absolutely love the stories and how you bring them into each picture!!! Gardner Goldsmith: Great shot, and fascinating info, as well!

Kateryna Khinkulova: Ken, I simply adore your photos and your stories. They are very "American fiction": Hemingway meets Carver meets Salinger meets John Williams. Meets you, ultimately smile emoticon thank you.

Ronald Trimble: Pretty gal. Seems to have something on her mind.

Baer Charlton: I would get up early just to take her rickshaw in the sunrise and here her take on what is now Reno. She has those sad longful eyes... her stories must be good. BTW... was just at Panhang.... I took one look at the tiny things and walked. I wouldn't have fit even if Diane was on my lap or shoulders.

Dianne E Headlee: Poor girl needs a blouse.

Michael Tucker: I disagree. She must be hot.

Michael Tucker: Kateryna, you hit it on the head. All the stories should be published "en masse". A slice of Americana indeed!

Stephanie Aston-Jones: One of my favorites so far. The corner behind her reminds me of an Edward Hopper painting, and the pink dress against the yellow rickshaw is brilliant.

Day Thirty-One, Betty.

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This lady with the pretty smile is Betty. She goes to work early in the morning and Vesta and I caught her as her ride dropped her off. She works in the accounting department at Cal Neva. And I’m guessing that means she’s around a lotta money.

Money, that’s everybody’s best friend. We may say it isn’t. We may say rich people got problems too. And they do, that’s for sure. But how they’re gonna pay their rent every month isn’t one of ‘em. And how they’re gonna put food on their kid’s plates, also isn’t something they worry about.

Money, money, money, if you don’t got it, you want it. Well, maybe not all of us, but most of us. And I gotta confess right here and right now, I’ve said on more than one occasion, that I’m happy with what I’ve got.

But I guess that might be a little white lie, cuz I check out the new cars every year. And I check out the travel brochures every other month or so. And I check out the new cameras, which seems like every month. And I check out a whole lotta other stuff I can’t afford that I’d probably buy if I had a whole lot of discretionary cash lying around.

Lord almighty! Wouldn’t that be nice, you know, discretionary cash?

Still, I got Vesta and she’s got me and we enjoy the heck outta window shopping in the mall and looking at all the stuff in the stores we don’t need, but secretly want. Then we go out and have fun. You can do that for free, you know, have fun. You just gotta know how and it’s not that hard.

Really, it isn’t.

Day Thirty, Cody

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This is Cody, who came by on her way to the gym. She was in a hurry, so all I know about her is her name. It’s a great name though.

It was Buffalo Bill’s last name. He was an interesting guy, Buffalo Bill was. He rode for the Pony Express, when he was only fourteen. Crap, when I was that age, all I wanted to do was play baseball at the park.

He fought in the Civil War, on the winning side, and then he went on to kill something like four thousand buffalo, if you believe the legend. That’s a lotta buffalo and killing ‘em like that was probably not a good thing. But what do I know, I wasn’t there. Anyway, that’s how he got his nickname.

And then he went on to form kind of a circus with his Wild West Show, which I would have dearly loved to have seen. Can you imagine, seeing Annie Oakley shoot for real?

And now his name’s gonna live on for a long, long time, cuz some people in New York named a football team after him.

And you know what? I’m betting if Buffalo Bill were alive today, he’d come out to get his photo taken by me and Vesta by the Dawn’s Early Light. He would. I know he would.

In closing this missive, I’d be remiss if I didn’t add that we’re not out be the Virginia Street Bridge anymore, cuz those no good, dirty, rotten, commie, rats put a fence around it to keep us off during construction.

So now, at 5:30 in the morning, every morning for a long time to come, you can find us on the Sierra Street Bridge, which is where I took this picture of Cody. We’ll be easy to spot, cuz we’ll have cameras and tripods and also, we’ll be the two people who look like us.

Day Twenty-Nine, Christy and Sammy.

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This is Christy and her doggy pal Sammy. They were out for a walk today, enjoying the early morning. Kind of a treat for Sammy, cuz she’s having female surgery today. What kind of female surgery, I didn’t ask.

Christy is an interesting person and Vesta and I had a pretty long conversation with her on the Sierra Street bridge, cuz now the Bridge on Virginia Street, which is the Pont Neuf of Reno, is now blocked off and we can’t get on it.

I like that, calling the Bridge the Pont Neuf of Reno. I didn’t come up with it though. I stole it from another writer. I hope you don’t mind, Baer. It was too good not to steal.

Anyway, back to Christy. She told us her last name was Frère and putting that together with her first name fit her perfectly, cuz her last name meant brother. "So, you know,” she said, “my name means Brother in Christ.”

“Well,” I said, “technically you’re last name would have to be Sœur, for it to be the perfect name for you, cuz you’re a woman.”

And instead of responding, she gave me the Sister Mary Goretti look. And that’s a look, if once received, you never want to receive again. And back when I was a kid in her class, she’d wilted me with it on more than one occasion.

I remember one time she was telling us about Heaven and how wonderful it was and how every person who is good on Earth gets to go there after they die and live forever and forever in that beautiful spot.

I stuck my hand in the air. “Yes, Kenny?” she said.

“Do dogs get to go to Heaven?” I wanted to know. “Cuz I got a collie named Robbie and he’s good.”

“No, I’m sorry,” she said in her kind voice, which was really, really kind and motherly when she wanted it to be.

She went on to say that when you’re in Heaven, you could have whatever you wanted. If you liked ice cream you could eat it all day and never get sick.

Up in the air, I raised my hand. “What is it this time, Kenny?”

“When I get to Heaven the only thing I’m gonna want is Robbie my Collie. If I can have whatever I want, that’s what I’m gonna want.”

And the class shut up as she gave me the look. I swear, you’d rather get smacked on the hand with a ruler, like some of the other nuns did, then get the Sister Mary Goretti look.

And that was the look Christy, whose last name meant brother and not sister, gave me.

Day Twenty-Eight, Lou.

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This is Lou, out in the Early Morning Light. As I mentioned yesterday, Vesta and I usually see him taking the morning air on foot with his pal Gary. And also as I said yesterday, they always have a few kind and upbeat words with us.

Today, Lou was wearing sandals with the brightest, whitest socks on Earth.

“Jeez, Lou,” I said, “Those things are blinding.”

“Better than showing off my ugly feet.”

“You should invest in a pair of black ones.”


“Cuz you can see those things a mile away.” He looked down at his feet. “Well then, maybe they’ll keep me from getting hit by a car.”

Day Twenty-Seven, Gary.

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This is Gary. Vesta and I see and talk to him just about every morning at about 5:15. He’s usually out walking with his pal, Lou. They are always upbeat, those two, and we can always depend on them for a pair of smiles.

I think if you start the day early and you see the sun come up, that’s reason enough to smile, but if you carry on the day with an early morning, smile kind of attitude, then you got a lot better chance of having a great and wonderful journey thru your day.

There’s just something about a sunrise and a smile.

Day Twenty-Six, Augie.

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This is Augie from Pomona, who is staying in Northtown while he’s in Reno. He was in a super good mood this morning, so I’m guessing he did well in whatever casino he played in. Or at the very least, he didn’t lose much and he enjoyed the free drinks.

It’s always nice when you meet somebody who is in an up mood, cuz it kinda puts you in one too and it did me and Vesta.

Which is why we were walking home with an early morning spring in our steps as we passed the Sienna Casino, listening to Eric Clapton, who was playing on their outdoor speakers.Then, we smelled this Chinese guy coming up behind us.

Well, we didn’t know he was Chinese at first, cuz we couldn’t see him, but like I said, we could sure smell him.

You know what underarm sweat smells like. Now amplify that times ten. No, times a hundred and then you know what this guy smelled like. Like fear. Like he lost a great big, heavy ton of money.

He brushed passed us mumbling in Chinese, that’s how we knew he was Chinese, with his shaved head down. He was a sad, sad man, dressed in a suit that costs more than most people make in a month. He got in his rental and Vesta said, “Good morning,” to him, when he turned to look at us.

But he didn’t answer back. He just got in his car and sat, with his hands on the wheel, staring out the window.

“Think he’s gonna shoot himself?” Vesta whispered after we passed.

“He couldn’t’a lost that much,” I said, but I turned to look as he started his car. We watched as he drove out of the lot and made a right on Center.

Vesta sorta waved, I guess in case he was looking in his rearview, but he didn’t wave back.

Day Twenty-Five, Amanda and Xanthe.

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Here are Amanda and Xanthe, out by the Virginia Street Bridge, being photographed by the Dawn’s Early Light.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot to mention Lily and Charlie, they’re in the photo too. So that makes this a four people photo (dogs are people too, you know). Sometimes, with dogs and little people, really little people—it’s hard to get them to look at the camera. My trick is to ask the big people in the photo to keep looking at me, while I make stupid noises and clucking sounds, to get the children and/or pets to look at me as I click, click, click away.

And, of course, I promise ice cream to the kids. Which usually works. However, one time I had parents, who told me that don’t give their kids sugar and I shouldn’t a promised their girls the ice cream, cuz now they had to buy it for them.

“But I got a great photo,” I told them as they tried to make me wilt under their stern, we’re the parents looks. “Like you wanna make me go stand in a corner or something,” I said and they laughed like it was no big deal now.

In fact, that’s what the mom said, “It’s no big deal.”

“So, you are gonna but the kids ice cream, right?”

“Yes, we will,” she said.

I sure hope they did, but I’m thinking maybe they didn’t. And, you know what, every kid should have ice cream at least once in their life.

Day Twenty-Four, Heidi and Brent.

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Here are Heidi and Brent, who came out to the Virginia Street Bridge this morning at 5:30. I know that’s awful early, but the light is great and getting up with the sun is a wonderful way to start your day. And getting your picture taken at sunrise, how cool is that?

It is still possible to get your photos taken on the bridge or with the bridge in the background. The’ve got the barriers—you know, those concrete things you see on freeways to block off lanes—on the sidewalk, so they’ll be blocking both side of the bridge any day now.

But the bridge wrecking crew doesn’t start work till 7:00 (I know, cuz I asked the guy in charge), so at 5:30 in the AM there won’t be anybody out there to keep us from stepping over them. Of course, we won’t be able to do that once the bridge comes down, because we’d fall into the water and since it’s only about six inches deep, we’d probably break some bones.

Day Twenty-Three, Mario.

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This is Mario, out on the soon to be demolished Virginia Street Bridge at 5:30 this morning. He’s from San Francisco, but he lives in Reno now.

Me: Vesta and I wanted to live there, but it costs as much to park your car for a month as we’re paying for rent here.

Mario: Heck, it costs as much for a taco in San Francisco as I pay for rent and you gotta take out a loan to buy a burrito.

And that pretty much sums up the cost of living situation in the City by the Bay.

Day Twenty-Two, Rebecca.

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This is Rebecca. She was working out on the Bridge this morning. No, she’s not one of the crew who’s going to dismantle or destroy the it. She works for KOLO TV Channel 8. I know this, cuz she got out of a truck that said so.

If you’re reading this, Rebecca, please don’t blame me for not knowing who you were. Vesta and I don’t have a TV, so we don’t know who any of the TV people in Reno are.

When you get up as early as we do, you get to meet a lot of early risers, people who get to see Ol’ Sol as he makes his debut. And, for the most part, they are all very interesting, very friendly and very willing to have their picture taken by the Dawn’s Early Light.


Emory Peterson: She is seriously stunning, seems like a nice person on TV as well, a rare combination.

Maria Clark: Your subjects are getting prettier!

Barbara Matteoni: I looked for you and Vesta when she was doing her report as she walked along the bridge! 

Ken Douglas: We stayed out of the cameraman's view on purpose, Barbara. Though Vesta is very pretty, the last thing they needed, was my ugly face in their shot.

Barbara Matteoni: Oh no.. no.. I think that would have been neat. You two have so many Great pictures of the Bridge and she could have interviewed you.

Stephanie Aston-Jones: It's amazing who y'all find hanging around at that time of day. This woman must be a cyborg. She's too perfect. Wait! Maybe it's simply your amazing skills with a camera. That's it.

Ken Douglas: Why, thank you very much, Stephanie.

Ronald Trimble: She's worth the TV investment.

Day Twenty-One, Playboy.

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This is Playboy and here he’s pictured, almost on the playa, in downtown Reno. I say almost, cuz there’s this fence, which he was on the other side of, you know, the river side. They put that fence there so people won’t fall in.

He was out there this morning, watching the sun come up as he charged his iPhone. The light posts by the river got sockets in ‘em, so you can do that, charge your phone, while you enjoy the sunrise.

It’s important, I think, to enjoy a sunrise every now and then, cuz the sun only comes up so many times in your lifetime and it’s always different and it’s always an experience you’ll never live again and it’s always invigorating. It’s just a great way to start a day.

Sadly, I kinda bummed him out when I told him the bridge in the background was coming down in a few days. Like me and Vesta, he’s a big fan of the bridge.

Day Twenty, Accent.

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This is Accent. Yep, that’s his name, Accent. Vesta and I met him as he was crossing Center, twirling a pair of those sticks, like a baton twirler. He’s pretty good with ‘em.

You meet all kinds of people out in the Dawn’s Early Light. Young, old and in between people, who most don’t ever get to meet or see or talk too. It’s kinda nice, actually, meeting these people. They’ve all been super cool to me and Vesta.

And, as I said a few days ago, almost everybody we see out at 5:30 in the morning, is more than happy to have their photo taken.

However, we met this one interesting couple on the bridge this morning. They looked like happy, dressed nice, with a bounce in their step. Like they were out on a date or something.

I asked could I take their picture and they said they’d rather not.

“Thanks anyway,” I said.

“You wouldn’t wanna buy a Galaxy S5.” The girl pulled a white Galaxy from her purse. She looked like she was in her mid twenties.

“I got one.” I pulled mine outta my pocket. “Why you selling it?”

“We’re really broke,” she said.

“You don’t look broke,” I said. “Come on,” the guy said. “We gotta go.” He took her by the arm and hustled her away. And then, slow as I can be, I figured it out. They’d stolen the phone. Probably some tourist in a casino turned her back on it.

No wonder they didn’t want their picture taken.

Day Nineteen, Emory.

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Here is Emory, who is a Reno based photographer and videographer. He’s the guy, if you don’t already know, who did the great drone flyover video of the construction of the new Tesla plant here.

As you can see, there’s a lot of light out. Sunrise is coming earlier and earlier, which gives these, by the Dawn’s Early Light photos of Vesta’s and mine kind of a different look.

Don’t get me wrong, the light is very wonderful at 5:30 now, there’s just more of it, which is kinda cool. It’s just that we’ve grown used to taking photos at that time just as the dark gives way to the light, where we still have to depend on the streetlights to give us enough light to make a photo.

But that’s okay, we’ll roll with the better lit photos for the next couple months or so, then it’ll be darker again at 5:30. However, then I’ll probably whine about how we’ve lost the brighter light we will now be losing at our favorite early morning hour.

That’s how it goes, I suppose, the grass is always greener.

Day Eighteen, Tim.

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This is Tim. He came out to photograph the bridge this morning. Tim is a photographer. Well, if you’re reading this from one of the Reno Photo groups, you already know this. But if you’re reading it from my Facebook page or website, you might not.

You see all kinds of people, when you’re out wandering around before the sun comes up. Rickshaw girls, early morning joggers, delivery men, street workers, street walkers and even photographers.

As for these early morning photos Vesta and I are doing, they are evolving. At first, I imagined we’d mostly be doing portraits of people we’ve photographed before or of people who can’t afford us under ordinary circumstances, but 5:30 does come early and there are mornings when nobody can make it out.

So, we’ve taken to photographing the street people and people who are just passing though and the occasional tourist who’s been up all night and we find we like it. We are rapidly getting to be on a first name basis with the downtown folk who sleep in the rough and surprisingly enough, most of them really like having their picture taken.

Of course, we don’t charge them and if you’d like your portrait or a mini session made by the Dawn’s Early Light, we won’t charge you either.

Day Seventeen, Timothy.

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This is Timothy Paul Metcalf, otherwise known as Paul the Bluesman or just Blue. And as you can probably guess, he plays the blues. And like Vesta and me, he can sometimes by found out and about in Reno very early in the morning.

And if you can’t recognize him, cuz you forgot what he looks like, just look for the guy with the cool hat, a guitar case in one hand and the converted car horn in the other.

Day Sixteen, Kelly and Mark.

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Here are Kelly and Mark, who came out on what was supposed to be the last day of the Virginia Street Bridge’s life in Reno, but the Bridge has a been granted a six day reprieve.

I know this, because yesterday the city placed signs on all the roads leading toward the bridge, saying that the work starts on the 26th.

So, I guess that means, you still have six days to come on out and get your By the Dawn’s Early Light portrait made by or on the Virginia Street Bridge, for absolutely free. Then, I’m thinking, we’ll move our show on over to the Sierra Street Bridge.

Day Fifteen, Dominic.

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Here is Dominic at 5:30 in the morning on the Virginia Street Bridge, smiling for the camera. And hopefully, they won’t demo the bridge before we have one last chance to do a By the Dawn’s Early Light portrait by it or on it

Yeah, sadly, tomorrow, according to the city’s plan, the bridge is coming down. And for a year, maybe longer, northern traffic will be redirected to Center and southern traffic will be detoured to Sierra.

How shitty is that?

A year to build a new and ugly bridge. What, they only got a couple guys in their bridge building crew?

And I say ugly, cuz I’ve seen the artist’s rendering of the new bridge and though they try to make it look modern and maybe a little art decoish, it’s ugly.

But then, you know what they say, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

So, I suppose for some, it’s not as ugly as it is for me.

Day Fourteen, Mary.

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This is Mary, at 5:00 in the morning, on the Virginia Street Bridge. It was a little chilly and seeing Mary in this light, I was reminded of another early morning with similar light, when Vesta and I drove thru the Brandenburg Gate, coming from the East back into the West, a few days after the Berlin Wall came down.

So I took a few shots, till I got her with what I thought was an apprehensive smile, cuz I wanted her to look a little frightened, to match the lighting. And failing that, a little tension on her face, and failing that, maybe apprehension. I wanted her to look like an East German, just minutes away from her freedom.

A lotta people looked like Mary looks here, back then. They’d grown up in the East. They hated it. They were afraid of their government. They wanted to be free, but they were afraid of that too, but they knew it was better. So they were apprehensive.

That wasn’t everybody though. The young people were jubilant. Driving through the East in a Western car was really something. The kids cheered us as we drove by, like Vesta and I were conquering heroes, and all we did was rent a Mercedes and drive thru roads full of Trabants.

Still, we enjoyed the hell out of it. We stayed in hotels that were twenty-five or thirty dollars a night. That would all change very soon. And when we got to the Western side of the Wall, we stayed in a hotel that cost $407 dollars, because I can’t read or speak a lick of German and I mistook the room number for the price and vice versa.

As soon as we got into the room and saw it’s splendor, I knew I screwed up. But I was too embarrassed to fix it. So we only stayed one night, instead of the four we’d planned on.

Day Thirteen, Raull and Ahdriana

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Here are Raull and Ahdriana, who came out together at 5:30 in the morning. So, I’m posting them together. At first I thought I could post them one at a time, but then they came as a couple, so I thought it best to post them as a couple.

I did several photos of them, both individually and as a couple in this spot, which is right below the Virginia Street Bridge.

It’ll be sad to see that bridge go, but I suppose it’d be a lot sadder if it collapsed with cars on it. True, they wouldn’t have too far to fall, it’s not the Golden Gate, after all. And if the bridge went, you wouldn’t sink into the water, cuz the river’s only about six inches deep here. But then, you wouldn’t have the water to cushion your fall either.

Still, we’ll miss taking our by the Dawn’s Early Light portraits by this bridge. Vesta and I are gonna have to move our act somewhere else. The Sierra Street Bridge maybe. Or maybe right by the Reno Sign. That might be cool, the Sign, cuz it throws off some great light. Maybe we’ll do that.

However, till the bridge comes down, Vesta and I will be there every morning at 5:30. making our by the Dawn’s Early Light photos for absolutely free.

Day Twelve, Ofelia.

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This is an early morning portrait of Ofelia. I know my face lit up when I saw her on the bridge this morning, cuz she’s got such a romantic story attached to her. I think so anyway.

A couple years ago, she struck up a long distance chat relationship with a young man named Trond, who lived in Norway. Their online romance grew. She went to Norway to visit him. He came to America and visited her. She went back and he came back, but he stayed this last time and Vesta and I got to do their wedding photos.

How cool is that?

Just think, they lived half a world away from each other and now they’re together, thanks to the internet. My early morning stories don’t get any better than this.

Day Eleven, Richard.

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This is Richard, who is obviously a proud man. I was walking by the river at 5:45, when he stopped me to say hello and I made this portrait.

Contrary to what you might think, there are a lotta people out and about when the sun rises.

I’ve always been an early morning person, ever since I was a kid and delivered newspapers. The L.A. Times truck would drop ‘em on our front porch at 4:00 in the morning and my brother and I would get up and fold ’em and band 'em and put ‘em in our official L.A. Times bags, which hung from our handle bars, and head out for our respective routes.

And then I’d be alone, winging along on my Schwinn, tossing papers onto porches. Schwinning along, I’d see the various milkmen and I’d wave. The trash guys too, once a week, I’d see them. And sometimes I’d see the cops and I’d wave. And I’d invariably see the same people pull out of their driveways, headed off to work, to where so early, I didn’t have a clue.

And there was the Winchell’s donut man, who worked the donut shop on Woodruff and South Street. I’d bike thru the drive thru every morning, cuz I always had two papers left. One for him, which I’d trade for two donuts. A piping hot glazed and devil’s food chocolate with nuts.

I’d eat those donuts, while I was biking home, then after I got home, I’d read that last paper before I went to school, cuz we didn’t have the internet then.

And, I guess, the reason why I wrote the above, is because Richard, who probably doesn’t have a home, kinda reminded me of that Winchell’s donut man.

Day Ten, Nikki.

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This is Nikki. She’s an artist and a painter. What she paints, I don’t know, cuz right after I took this shot, her pocket chimed and she had to answer her phone.

There are a lotta people walking the streets today, who don’t remember life before cellphones. I’m not one of them. I don’t wanna say I’m not a phone fan, cuz I had one in my pocket too. Usually, I don’t, but Vesta was home alone and I was worried about her recovery.

She had mouth surgery yesterday and right now she looks like Marge Simpson and she has a big black eye to boot. We knew there’d be swelling, but we didn’t count on the black eye. And maybe there’s more swelling then we bargained for. So that’s why I had my phone and I’ll probably be using it to call the doctor in an hour or so to ask about that black eye, but I’m sure she’s fine.

She’s not too worried though, cuz she’s got drugs. She may look pretty bad, but she’s feeling no pain.

She wanted to come out with me this morning, but once she saw herself in the mirror, drugs notwithstanding, she decided I’d be going out alone. Then there’s the fact that she can’t walk too straight right now.

Anyway, she may be down for the count right now, but she says, “Hi.”

Day Nine, Angelina.

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This is painter Angelina Christina, who painted that awesome woman on the side of the parking structure in downtown Reno.

Vesta and I were out there this morning and it’s gorgeous. If you’re coming up Virginia from the south, you can’t miss it, it’s just to the right of the Reno sign and it’s a beautiful addition to the biggest little city in the world.

PS: Below you can see Angelina at work in her cherry picker.

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Day Eight, Vesta.

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Here is Vesta out in the Early Morning Rain. That’s why she’s got the umbrella. Me, I was barefoot and in my boxers.

Why was I outside in my boxers, taking a half day picture? I blame it on Anicia Beckwith. Here’s why.

I have long believed Elena Vizerskaya is one of the best photographers and certainly the best digital artist on Earth. There’s a reason she’s iStock’s number one seller.

But I’ve been following Anicia Beckwith’s work too. For over three years. And I’ll be damned if it isn’t as good as Elena’s now.

I will never make the kind of digital art like Elena or Anicia make, it’s just not what I do. However, that doesn’t mean I can’t study and appreciate their work, cuz it’s scary good.

Anyway, so when Anicia posted that I was kinda cheating, cuz I didn’t take a rainy day photograph, I didn’t care all that much, cuz what’s a little cheat every now and then?

But when she went on to say if I didn’t take a photo today, despite the rain, that’d I’d lose the magic. That I cared a whole lot about.

Vesta and I lived a decade in the Caribbean. We’ve met and been on good terms with obeah women, just like the one in that “Pirates of the Caribbean movie.” We believe in magic.

I was sitting at my computer in my boxers, when I read Anicia’s comment on the Reno Photographer's FB page and when I got to the “losing the magic part,” I said, “Come on, Vesta, we gotta go out front. I need a picture.”

She didn’t even ask why. She just picked up her umbrella and headed out the door.

I grabbed my little Oly and followed and took the picture.

“I think I’ll take another,” I said.

“You do know you’re in your underwear.”

“Oh shit.”

Comment from Anicia: Whew. Magic restored. I really do believe so deeply that there is so much more that goes into image making that the actual physical image. Its the story, the thought process and the soul of why you chose to click the button in that one tiny moment. Im happy to follow your journey....I applaud your dedication and feel like Im seeing a part of Reno that I would not otherwise get to see. I appreciate you and Vesta very much though we have never met. oxoxoxox.

Day Seven, Don.

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This portrait of Don was made this morning at around 6:00 on the Virginia Street Bridge, by the Dawn's Early Light. We see him every morning out there. He’s always got a cheery hello for us and we always give him one back.

This morning, I asked him if he was on Facebook, cuz I was going to post one of his photos.

“No,” he said. “I never got into computers. I read instead.”

“Really? What do you read?” “Mostly mysteries and thrillers.”

“I got some by this  writer I like. I’ll bring one out tomorrow morning for you. A guy I bet you’ve never read.”

“Oh, I don’t know. I’ve pretty much read them all.”

“Not this guy, I’m betting.”

“Who is he?”


“We’ll now I’m intrigued.”

Crap, he’s read them all. That’s a lotta bloody competition. I sure as heck hope I don’t disappoint him. Now I’m a little worried.

PS: On another note, the Virginia Street Bridge is coming down in two weeks, so if you want your portrait or a mini session made on or by the bridge by the Dawn’s Early Light for absolutely free, come on out at 5:30, while it’s still there.

Day Six, Austin

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Here’s a portrait of Austin by the Dawn’s Early Morning Light. Just before I took this shot, he said, “That’s an interesting camera.”

“Little Olympus,” I said.

“EM1?” he said.


“And the lens?” “A Leica twenty-five.”

“Oh man!” He high fived me. Then he looked upward and I took the shot.

“I bet that photo’s gonna be sharp and good.”

“Hope so,” I said.

Like Austin, if you’d like your portrait or a mini session, which includes fifteen or twenty shots, for absolutely free, come on out to the Virginia Street Bridge at 5:30 in the morning.

Vesta and I will be there for three hundred and fifty-nine more days making these By the Dawn’s Early Light Photographs.

Day Five, Mike

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Same time, same light, same place, next day, different Mike. And like the Mike from yesterday, today’s Mike was in a hurry. He was on his way to do a photo shoot at the Sparks Marina and only had a minute, maybe two.

He parked on the bridge in the red, handed Vesta his keys and asked her to move his car if the cops came and we went down to the river and I made this portrait. Then he dashed back to his car and was gone.

And these last two days taught me something. It’s possible to make a portrait in just a few seconds. So, if you got ‘em, a few seconds that is, and you can get up at 5:30 in the AM, come on out and Vesta and I will make your photograph.

However, you can stay longer and we’ll take more photos if you want, up to twenty or thirty. Also, please remember, these mini photo shoots by the Dawn’s Early Light are absolutely free. Just come out to the Virginia Street Bridge at 5:30 and prepare to be photographed.

Day Four, Michael

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Our friend Michael came out this morning. He was on his way to work and only had ten minutes, but Vesta and I got off ten or so portraits before he had to jump in his car and go.

Here, he is standing just to the left and below the Virginia Street Bridge, facing the Artist’s Loft with the river at his back. The only light is from the lights on Virginia and the lights in front of the Wild River Grill above.

My original intention was to make all of these photographs in black and white, but you know how it goes, intentions hardly ever prevail. I liked the green reflection on the river from the lights above and the blurry blue water. So, color it is.

We’ll be there again tomorrow at 5:30 in the morning, on the Virginia Street Bridge, right on top of the river, making photographs. Come on out and get a mini session as you’re bathed in dawn’s early light. It’s absolutely free.

Day Three, Amber

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Here is Amber, who is kind of a ringer, cuz she came to Reno with Dave and we did her portraits at the same time, but I didn’t wanna post two in the same day, for two reasons. 1.) One is enough. And 2.) what if no one came out the next day? If that happened, then I could have Amber in reserve.

But someone did come out today, so if I post them, then Amber would get left behind and maybe never get posted, so I’m posting her today and the new couple, tomorrow.

Speaking about tomorrow, Vesta and I will be out on the bridge where it crosses the Truckee River on Virginia Street, tomorrow morning at 5:30, so if you’d like a photo session done by dawn’s early light, come on out, we’d love to shoot you. You know, with a camera, not a gun.

Day Two, Dave

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This is my friend Dave, who lives in SAC (that’s Sacramento for those of you who are not from the Northern Nevada/California area). He came to the Biggest Little City in the World to check out the Bio Tech program at UNR.

And he came by to see me and Vesta in Reno’s Dawn’s Early Light to have his portrait taken at 5:30 in the morning. He came with his girl Amber and we made about forty photos of him, her and them and I processed them all in both black & white and color.

It’s okay, in fact Vesta and I would love it, if you brought along your significant other, your family, friends, dogs, cats, ferrets and gold fish even, for your free 5:30 in the morning photo shoot. Our only requirement is that at least one of you is a human being. Your dog can’t come alone.

Day One, Christopher

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This is Chris, who stopped by at 5:30 in Reno’s Early Morning Light and Vesta and I made his portrait with his dogs, Seppi and Jesco.

Chris is on his way from Grass Valley, California to Buffalo, New York, just him and the dogs. And since they don’t have driver’s licenses, he has to do all the driving himself.

We made about thirty or so photos of Chris, Seppi and Jesco and I processed them in both color and black and white. After we do this for a few more days, I’ll make a spot on our website for these albums, because I don’t want to overload FB with these photos. One a day should be plenty.

Vesta and I will be out there again, tomorrow and for three hundred and sixty-four more days, making photographs and portraits by the dawn’s early light for free. So if you’d like us to do you, come on out. It’s not that cold now, really, it’s not.

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