What is “American Encounters”?

Yeah, it sounds like terrible English grammar, but the question is correct – what is “American Encounters”?

“American Encounters” came to me quickly. The muse of inspiration slapped me upside my head, and thankfully, I paid attention!

Photography – and pictures – have always been important to me. Photographs that we take – I feel – are documents of our own history. Since every one of us has a unique eye, the pictures we take are so different, and give us insight into our own minds – as well as the minds of others.

Traveling across America, I have taken the beaten and unbeaten path. I have sought out things that I normally would have never seen, and I wanted to protect those memories in photographs.

Pictures are never as vibrant as what we actually see. However, the development of memories relies moreso on the emotion that we feel when we see something. This is one of the reasons that I drive Sheryl crazy with some of my memories.

Although I was four years old, I can remember my Grandpa Rodgers stomping across the kitchen floor coming towards me, reaching for me. Why do I have that memory? Because of the emotion – I was excited, and happy to see him. And it still makes me feel good to recall that memory.

That’s why movies make us sad, music makes us happy, sports make us excited and we live the way we live – because of the emotions that are triggered at a given point in time.

“American Encounters” is my view of America. The America that I want to remember. The images conjure memories of where I was at a given point in time. Images of the American Southwest that I may never see again… the kitschy-ness of a nearly dead Route 66… some cool landmarks viewed from funky angles. Memories of the vast American plains… the warmth of the sun on my skin… the straight-up hugeness of California redwoods…

Our experiences in life are uniquely our own. No one has lived life the way I have. No one has viewed life like you have.

Sure, we can aspire to see things the way our idols see them – to experience things others have experienced – but it is always going to be different. “American Encounters” is my vision – my view – of life, and it’s something I wanted to share with the world.

I hope you have the opportunity to enjoy it.



On this fine October Sunday morning, the air smells of fall, which in many cases, reminds people of Halloween. It is in that spirit (see what I did there?) that I chose this creepy picture. On the outskirts of true blue ghost town Rhyolite, NV , lies two spine-tingling items of note: the Goldwell Open Air Art Museum, and the town cemetery.

The beauty of art is a powerful emotion. Here, set in the backdrop of a deserted ghost town, the art especially takes on an air of eeriness. The piece “Ghost Rider”, shown here, was created by artist Albert Szukalski. Szukalski has a few pieces in this strange collection, including the amazing “Last Supper”.

Rhyolite sits right on the edge of Death Valley. It was founded in 1904, and grew exponentially for the next two years. In 1907, however, the city began to falter, and it “died” in 1916.

A few people decided to stick around for their lifetimes, and many were buried in the dusty, gritty cemetery outside of town. During daylight, the town, cemetery, and art installations all seem safe enough, but the harsh desert air feels like it is hiding secrets of the past – secrets we probably don’t want to know anything about!

Guardians of the Mojave


The Mojave Desert is a strange animal. Somewhat equi-distant from Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and San Diego, the Mojave is similar to Death Valley, but has a completely different vibe and personality. It is the dusty, miserable home of 29 Palms – the U.S. Marine installation. It also houses the often-mysterious Edwards AFB and the U2-inspiring Joshua Tree National Park.

The original Route 66 also runs through this area, so you can imagine what might have been there 50 years ago. Roy’s Gas Station and Motel is there, as is one of Roadside America’s grand oddities, “The Shoe Tree”. Which, sadly, has fallen due to its own popularity.

As with many views of the Southwest, one can see for miles – and travel miles before seeing another car or person. One can almost envision Jim Morrison and the Doors dropping acid and dancing with the snake.

And there, in the middle of the desert, not far from a crater of celestial origin, sits two imperial Chinese guardians, marking a non-existent gate, perhaps a quarter mile in length. What they are guarding, exactly, is a mystery. How long have they been there? What is their purpose? Why there? The questions are as endless as the desert itself.

The only thing known for sure is that mysteries abound in the beautiful, magical desert. I often found myself wondering how many skeletons lie in and upon the desert dirt, and what stories could they tell?

Sunrise at Red Rock Canyon


The desert is an amazing place. We moved to Las Vegas, Nevada in May, 2013, and stayed there for two years. The time we spent there was a dichotomy between a miserable lack of social interaction and euphoric desert beauty.

On a few occasions, we cruised out to Red Rock Canyon to watch the sunrise. Red Rock Canyon is a national conservation area located on the Western outskirts of Las Vegas. The mountains tower above the park, and if you are not familiar with desert mountains, the views can be breathtaking.

Getting to the park for the sunrise can be crazy – we would often leave later than we had planned, meaning we’d have to race to get there in time. No big deal, right? Well, state road 160 typically has no lights, and few other drivers on the road at the time, which would make the 20 minute drive a little creepy. And then of course, there’s the danger of native burros!

We often saw signs warning us not to feed the wild burros, and we laughed – really? WILD BURROS?? We NEVER saw one. Until we did. One morning on our way home from watching the sunrise, we saw three of them. And knowing they really did exist made the pre-dawn race to Red Rock a little more treacherous!

The park opened at 6am. Because Las Vegas is the Easternmost city on Pacific time, it meant that the sun rose earlier there. And even if we got to the park at 6am, it would take another 15-20 minutes to get to the valley view scenic overlook.

Once we got there, though, the view was amazing, as this photo shows. As with every photo, it does nothing to represent the true beauty. There was an orange color in the sky over the horizon that I had never seen before, and I burned through about 10 pictures before I realized that the camera would never get it right.

In this photo, the camera is looking East over the Las Vegas valley. The bright set of lights just left of center is the South Point Casino. If you could look around the shadow of rocks on the left side of the photo, you would see the Las Vegas Strip, and even further left from that is Downtown Las Vegas (aka Fremont Street). The white lights at the bottom of the picture are actually other cars driving through the park.

We would spend an hour or two watching the sun rise in perfect calm and silence. It was a bit of magic that you wouldn’t expect outside of the buzz and bustle of the Las Vegas Strip!