Or at least some friends that aren't afraid to get into the river on a December afternoon. This image has been living inside my head for about a month.
Dance for the River is now officially on the road, opening next at SECCA Febuary 8th 2018. So, the photo shoots officially ended this past summer. But then this image popped in my head and wouldn't go away, plus I wanted to round out my series with a few winter scenes. Thank goodness this first weekend in December was warm, 65 degrees warm. One week later we have 6 inches of snow!
This project has been an incredible journey for me, and this last shoot could not have happened without the help of my photography friends, Dave and Lauren Clark with DesiLu photo and Ward Swann from Outdoor Provision Company that offered to put his beautiful new canoe on the river for me and show up ready for adventure in a dry suit and nylon line to make sure our dancers did not float downstream without a paddle! I think even with the swanky looking dry suit, Ward got cold hanging out in the river for 30 minutes while I waited for the dancers, boat and river to align perfectly.
And of course the amazing UNCSA dancers, Elizabeth and Claire Finfgeld. I feel incredibly lucky to have so much support for this project. and I'm super excited to add this new work to the exhibit when it opens at SECCA.
Farrah has been popping her head out of the woods more frequently lately. The summer kept her close to the woods and her visits to the house a little less often. But with hunting season open now, she seems to be a wanting our company more. While we don't leave food out near the house for her, we have put out some feeders hoping to keep her on our property. She's grown so big over the summer.
As I make my way through the field, I see Farrah perk her head up over the wildflowers and buckwheat. Her ears turn into my direction, listening for my voice. “Hey girl, pretty girl”. Her ears twitch, then her tail starts to wag a little quicker. She heads toward me. We walk through the buckwheat, I stopping along with her as she nibbles at the leaves. We catch up on the gossip from the forest, then we simply take comfort in the silence and just settle in with each others presence.
We keep each other company until the lightening bugs circle around us and the fog moves back to the river. When we both decide we’ve had enough, we part into the darkness, her to the woods, and me to the house. We know that we belong to different worlds but we are connected to both through this friendship.
If you'd like to see this story from the beginning, please visit: http://christinerucker.com/blog/2017/5/10/wild-love
Another Colorado trip in the bag. Each time is a little different. I lucked out on trading some photo work for a 5 day back country tour of the Colorado Trail with Rim Tours. I brought along my friend Jenny to experience the trip through some fresh eyes. Jenny has hardly been over the NC state line.. so a cross country road trip was a leap.
We met up with a mostly Colorado gang in a parking lot in Durango, then headed up a few thousand feet to start the trip on Engineer pass. Weather was perfect. Sky was cobalt blue. The clouds were puffy but they held their rain. The crew was hilarious and the gang at Rim Tours are amazing.
We ended up the road trip by cruising through Franklin, NC right about the time of the solar eclipse... then sitting in traffic for the next 4 hours! But no complaints!
And then to be in the sweet spot back in NC for the solar eclipse!
So. there was a small price to pay for all this magic.
We got off the river last month and took a closer look at some hidden threats the Yadkin RiverKeeper keeps a close monitor on in efforts to keep our water source clean. We were given permission to shoot in an abandoned chicken houses that are now re-purposed to house young cows and honeybee hives where they are given more protection from the weather in colder months.
Poultry farms such as this one, produce tons of manure a year, and with that large amounts of nitrogen and phosphates, which often seep into the watershed when applied to farm fields for fertilizer. This can pollute the river and its tributaries
Along with taking water samples near these farms, Riverkeepers also try and build good relationships with cattle farmers and promote projects to fence in farmland and install wells for water in efforts to prevent cattle to going to the river for water. Cows defecating into the water is not the main issue to the river. Bank erosion from the cows going to the water, creates silt in the river.
This was Daisy. Calm in the presence of chaos. Always a perfect combination of grace and goof. Of curiosity and fear. We were lucky to have shared 14 years of adventures and mis-adventures.
Yes, she was 14.
I do it myself, when someone tells me they lost a pet, first I offer my condolences, then I ask..so how old was he/she? somehow the longer the life of the animal.. the easier it should be to let go, right?
They’ve had a full life, and probably enough love for five lifetimes. They have also been entwined longer in your life and they become the glue that keeps the rest of your family together.
Yes, fourteen IS a ripe old age for a dog, and especially her breed of German Shorthair Pointer.
But 14 years is not long enough when they have planted roots into your life.
She grew up in the shadow of a great dog name “Duke’, who stayed with us until he was 19. She was named DaisyDuke in honor of him. We shared her lineage with one of my best friends who adopted her brother “Luke”. They made up the Dukes of Hazard dog dynasty.
There are a million “little” things that made Daisy “Daisy”.
The way she would bark when the tires hit our gravel drive and she would stick her head out the window inhaling the air, biting at the trees we passed by. Like she was trying to ingest all that was home to her.
The way she would know the second I got out of the shower, no matter how hard it was for her to climb the stairs as she got older, she would be waiting to lick the water off my legs and if there was lotion involved. it was like icing.
The way she would press her body against mine at night.. not just sleeping “next” to me.. but sleeping with me. How you could easily get her to break into a song by one howl in the morning and the way her ears would perk and her head would cock when you told her there were rabbits waiting for her outside.
The way she barked at you if you were a little late in feeding her, just in case you might have forgotten.
These are just the physical things she would do. She could easily read my emotions and at times knew me better than I knew myself, and while she couldn’t talk, she had developed a different kind of language. One that spoke directly to my emotions.
She’s been my confidant, my therapist, and my marriage counselor when needed. She came into my life when I wanted kids but could not have them... and she became my surrogate child.
It might sound cliche to say she was the sweetest dog I’ve ever known. I’ve known a lot of dogs and been privileged to spend my time on this planet surrounded by dogs. But, Daisy truly was the sweetest I’ve ever met.
She had a combination of gentleness and kindness that really is rare in an animal. She never killed anything. She was kind of a Buddah dog that way..
There was the time she found baby bunnies in the back yard and brought them in one by one to her dog bed,then took a nap on top of them. If anything has ever died from too much love, it was those bunnies.
Being a bird dog, she would find birds and bring them to me inside. As soon as they dried off from her slobber , they would take flight and we would chase them through the house and release them back outside.
She once met her match when she cornered a chip monk who took offense and hissed at her, then took pleasure in chasing Daisy back to the house.
And she was the only dog in our pack that I would allow off leash when a baby fawn showed up at our house needing some care. It immediately imprinted on Daisy and Daisy reluctantly became a surrogate animal mom for the fawn.
Daisy was not the independent type unless we were on a trail, then she would satellite me or just plain wander off.
I tried the E-Collar a few times, but she figured out how far she needed to be away from me for it not to work. This only enabled the satellite effect.
I had a signature “Whoop Whoop” when I wanted to find her, and so many times that would be answered by a “Bark Bark” coming from the parking area of the trail. She would be waiting by the car for me, ready to go home and my bike ride was usually cut short when it was hot.
But other than that, she didn’t mind asking for help.. she would bark at doorsteps the couple times she got lost until someone came to the door. Once she wandered off on a hike along the Blue Ridge parkway, she went to the road and barked at passing cars until someone stopped.
Even though most pointers are good swimmers, she preferred if you’d find her a big raft or boat to float on. The few times she was inured, she was the best dog patient ever, because she didn’t fight your help, she loved it.
She eventually became a better trail dog and would come when called quickly. So when I blindly got another pointer. This one rescued and wired with an anxiety I couldn’t put my finger on, I recruited Daisy to help with the training.
Since Daisy came back to me when I called her and she was 20 lbs. bigger than our new dog Bailey.. I figured I could leash them together and Daisy could bring her back by overpowering Bailey.
I momentarily forgot how easy going Daisy was. Bailey took off, dragging Daisy along for the ride. They ended up 4 miles down the road at a dairy farm, probably with Daisy barking at the farmhouse until someone came out.
The call I got from the farmer was hilarious: “So, I know pointers are prone to run off and all.. but I never seen two of ‘em tied together before”
And that was Daisy. Ready to go along for the ride without a worry. She traveled across country with us when she was recovering from a knee surgery. She stayed in weird places and strange motels without a single bark of opposition. She traveled more miles with me than most people have. She adventured hard and made me laugh often.
And she was always there waiting for me when I returned from adventures of my own. She taught me to be kinder, and made me a more patient person.
We always think in terms of how to train our dogs, but don’t realize the way they train us. She taught me how to relax more and appreciate a 2 mile walk in the woods instead of a 20 mile ride in the woods.
14 years of adventures are suddenly ending in a sterile emergency vet office at 11:00 at night on the 4th of July.
Leaving us wondering what happened and how we are going to walk out of here without you.
Daisy was too sweet of a dog to linger with an illness and too sweet of a dog to make us wonder when the time was “right” to let her go. She got sick suddenly and the decision was made for us. Everything happened so quickly.
All we could do was send you out of this world with our love and our tears.
Your last day was spent in the woods and by the river, with a pack that loved you. And that’s how it should have been for a dog as sweet as you.
I’m sure you’ve carved out a little piece of dog heaven and named it Hazard County.
There are thousands of pictures I could share of Daisy's life. But these embody her like no others I have taken of her. We loaded her up in an overpacked element and drove west. She was the peacekeeper, the comedian, and the best therapist a married couple could have on a 4,000 mile journey. This is the spirit of Daisy:
It's been a busy summer and the Dance for the River series is about wrapped up and I'm already thinking how hard it will be to choose only 25 images to build the exhibition this fall. It's been such a journey to explore this river with the dancers and with our Yadkin Riverkeeper, Will Scott. I've learned a lot about threats to our river and the importance to make a stand in some way for clean water. It's a gift that should be protected.
My first of three shoots began inside a 3' pipe kneeling in a trickle of water that is the beginning of the mighty Yadkin.
The trickle flows out of the pipe into a small creek surrounded by a road crew doing a major expansion on Hwy 321 in Blowing Rock.
The creek becomes a river as it joins the Tailwaters at Kerr Scott Dam where it becomes the drinking source for Winston-Salem.
From the Tailwaters it travels through Ronda and Elkin, once a hub for many textile industries and mills along the river. I was chasing a rumor about cows in the river. A major threat to the river is agricultural run off which causes of silt in the river. I didn't find any cows bathing in the river on this float, but I did find new home construction that had clear cut a path through the buffer of the river. Buffers are as important as fencing in cattle in terms of protecting from erosion and run off.
While this section seemed isolated, we had a few reminders of civilization by the intake pipes for the town of Ronda's drinking water.
The last shoot took us under I-85 where the Yadkin River empties into several lake, finally resting in Badin Lake near Salisbury.
So, get out on your rivers and creeks and learn about ways we can come together to protect them.
This is Carley
And THIS is Carley
And this is Stephen
And best I can tell, they are the perfect ying and yang. Carley nearly drown as an infant on this beach, and then she came back to the same waters to marry the man who will always catch her. She loves that Stephen is so honorable, Stephen loves the child like joy Carley brings into his life. I've photographed many, many weddings and it's nice to come away from this one with a renewed faith in love and partnership. Cheers to you both!
Now, meet the rest of the gang:
The Hubbard sisters came out to my property winter of 2016 and during that photo session, alight switched on inside my head about a great photo series that would feature dancers along different points of the Yadkin River.- in some of the series, the dancers would be aligned with the beauty of our river and in other photographs, and the dancers would be a contrast to areas of the river that are threatened. The project, "Dance for the River" has gained some steam and funding support through the Yadkin Cultural Arts center and the Yadkin Riverkeeper. The series will open in October of 2017 at the Cultural Arts Center in Yadkinville, and I can't wait to see it all come together! I wanted to feature Lexi and Katherine in the project, since they braved the cold of our riverside trails in tutu's and tights that one winter day.
I had my eye on the bridge that goes over the Yadkin River on hwy 67 for a long time for part of this series. Donnaha was quiet the day we were there, but it usually is the playground of many Hispanic families, kayakers, and fishermen.
I read this text from Ann before I starting to upload a few images from their wedding on Saturday:
Yes. Love is grand and emotions can sneak up on you. I think everybody that witnessed this beautiful ceremony learned a little about the power of love.
I've heard lots of stories about blended families, and I'm sure it's sometimes hard to combine two different families, but Molly and John seem to have the perfect balance. Their kids seem to have aquired not only a new brother and sister, but also friends. Molly and John also have the support and love from both their families, which was very evident in their intimate back yard wedding.
May all that love and support continue to be the air under your wings as you enter into a new family!
Detached attachment is a sticky line.
Love tends to hook onto my heart easily and when I love back, it’s for the long haul.
So when a starving fawn walked up to me in the yard last September, I felt those hooks sink in and I knew I was in for a life changing experience . I named her Farrah Fawncett. And Farrah was going to teach me to love without expectations.
But I felt like new mom. Second guessing my every decision, wondering what to feed, how much to feed this new baby. When her belly would swell from the fruit and goat milk.. I worried I might kill her.. but a quick google search tipped me off to adding baby gas drops to her milk.
Of course I wanted to bring her inside, let her sleep with us and our three dogs. But I also knew that might ruin her chance of staying wild. And I more than anyone, know that being wild is being free. So instead, I made little huts all around the woods near our house. I spread straw under our deck and kept all our dogs.-except our gentle dog daisy- on leashes until I knew she would grow bigger and faster than the pups.
And I fell in love. hard. I’ve had many animals in my life.. I’ve raised all our dogs from pups to old age. But Farrah was different . I felt a crushing weight of responsibility to keep her alive and also keep her free. With the dogs I had a level of control.. but when Farrah left our front porch after eating and went into the woods, control was out of my reach.
I didn’t sleep much on the nights it got into the single digits. But Farrah would be at the door at day break , her fur all fluffed up and looking much bigger than she actually was. When I would her the coyotes howl and yip at night.. I’d get up and turn all the outside lights on. And in the morning, she would be waiting for me by the door.
I would try to prepare myself for the morning she would not show up. And those occasional times she wouldn’t be waiting at the door, I would loose hours of my day just worrying about her.. until she rambled up to the house mid day. So it was a tightrope I balanced on .. and I did learn to love without expectation. I learned to love something as much as I could.. then let hope take over.
When I wondered if she was lonely being out in the woods solo, I would look outside and watch her doing hot laps chasing the dogs around the fence. She found a way to play with them on my terms.
She brought a kind of balance into my life that is hard to explain. There was this calmness around the house that her presence created.
One evening I was walking the dogs down by the river. We had just had a big rain and this heavy fog had settled over the river but you could see the clouds turning a deep pink from the sunset. It was as if we were surrounded in a soft cotton candy colored fog. I turned to walk back up the trail and Farrah was standing behind us.As she joined us at the river she was silhouetted in this amazing colored fog. I wished only for a second that I had a camera.. but then realized it would have taken me out of this moment and taken away the rawness of this experience. Farrah walked the trail with us.. all of us still enveloped in this surreal fog. As long as I live, the memory of that evening will be etched into my mind as one of the most pure experiences I’ve had.
So She began to take walks with us, then she started to follow me on my mountain bike though the trails. I finally let Bailey, my English Pointer, off leash and she and Farrah would rip through the woods playing a hilarious game of tag and hide and seek. Farrah always won.
She became part of our family. She met all our friends. She even met my mom. And she changed us.
I spent a fortune at Whole foods, because she preferred organic strawberries over the strawberries on sale. She got tired of bananas, so we switched to grapes. She liked honey crisp apples more than the bulk deer apples I could get at tractor supply. She would wait by the chicken coop for me to let out her 7 yard mates, then she would sneak in and eat all their chicken feed. Sometimes I wondered if she thought she was a chicken instead of a deer.
Eventually she stopped coming every day. Spring was here and the forest was full of new green treats. Maybe she was getting introduced to other yearlings that had separated from their mom. She was becoming more wild. This was my goal all along. She had gotten through the winter. She was still small, but she had filled out.
She was returning where she belonged. But it hurt. And we missed her. When she would pop back out of the woods, I was almost as surprised as when I first saw her. A kind of excitement you might get when you see family member you haven’t seen in a while. A kind of fluttering in your stomach.
But the weeks we didn’t see her, that fluttering was replaced by a quiet sadness.
As the summer wound down, she started coming into our buckwheat field to graze in the evenings. My office overlooks the river. One evening I noticed that sunset fog drifting in after a storm, so I headed to the river to take a boat out. As I make my way through the field, I see Farrah perk her head up over the wildflowers and buckwheat. Her ears turn into my direction, listening for my voice. “Hey girl, pretty girl”. Her ears twitch, then her tail starts to wag a little quicker. She heads toward me. The fog has now moved up over the field and she seems to want me to stick around for a bit. We meaner through the buckwheat, I stopping along with her as she nibbles at the leaves. We catch up on the gossip from the forest, then we simply take comfort in the silence and just settle in with each others presence.
I decided that it was actually Farrah calling to me instead of the river and we keep each other company until the lightening bugs circle around us and the fog moves back to the river. When we both decide we’ve had enough, we part into the darkness, her to the woods, and me to the house. We know that we belong to different worlds but we are connected to both through this friendship.
I’ve tried to write this many times but could not find the words. Or I thought in writing this, it might jinx her from ever coming back.
But this friendship is not driven by human expectations, I realize I am a guest in a place most people never experience and in my connection to this land, it connects me to her..I know where ever she ends up, she has the love of her human family, a free love that won't try to make her less wild. She is just loved and has been given a little more of an advantage to survive.
A special thank you to Lauren and David Clark with DesiLu photography, for coming out to meet Farrah and get some great photos of us.
As I filtered through images from my last session with Jodi, Chris and Sloane a week ago, I felt like I time traveled back to the last time this crew came out to our property in 2014. It's amazing how much Sloane has changed.. and yet, hasn't changed. This kid is overflowing with personality and while I've always enjoyed watching my regular families grow, Sloane has a special kind of spunk that is so much fun to be around. I think you'll get the idea scrolling through these "then and now" images.
THIS IS HOW YOU MAKE LEMONADE
0% chance of rain and nothing on the radar, despite looking at ominous dark cloud in the distance at the put in.
No dry bags. because you know, 0% chance of rain. The first sprinkles were kind of refreshing.
Then Mother Nature let loose all her glory.
So, maybe I didn't get a bucket full of usable images for this project.. but I got a memories I'll always think of every Easter Sunday. I've worked with UNCSA kids many times and I always come away with a sense of amazement of what they are capable of... and now this one may be at the top of my list!
I hope all these kids adventures end as epic! They are amazing!
The UNCSA kids are getting a great field trip education of the Yadkin River and it's watersheds. They have danced on the rocks at Shoals, seen the effects of Duke Energy's coal ash ponds, danced amid the graffitti under the bridges of Peters Creek, one of the main city watershed creeks of the Yadkin. Last weekend, they danced on the ledges of Shacktown falls and felt the power of the tumbling water that once powered several mills situated near North Deep Creek in Yadkin County.
Dance for the River project has been as much as a learning curve for me as a photographer as it has been for my subjects. My main work has always been documentary and editorial. This has been unique in a way that I am trying to capture movement and how it relates to the environment around each dancer. Dance for the River tells a story through dance and hopefully provides a unique environmental message about the Yadkin River, our main drinking source for Winston-Salem.
Last month Phoebe Zerwick and I traveled to New Orleans for the closing chapter of our Sacred Rivers project. For the past five years we have been traveling to different U.S. rivers to tell a story of ritual, celebration and awareness of rivers that are central to not only our water sources, but a deeper voice that lives inside all of us. The connection we all have to rivers is not always connected to a prayer or a specific religion, but it is a connection to what we feel is sacred; a tradition, a belief, a re-dedication, a celebration of birth, and of death.
So our last chapter found us in the midst of the St Anne's Krewe on Mardi Gras day. In a swirl of glitter and ribbons, feathers and fur, in shades of pink, purple, silver and gold. We marched with a happy tribe of hundreds from New Orleans and other far parts of the country, as they danced, sang, drank and partied their way to the Mississippi to release their grief as they tossed the ashes of loved ones that passed away the prior year. It was an amazing day and a perfect way to find the last page of our story.
For 90 years, Alcoa owned and operated an aluminum smelter along the banks the Yadkin River, specifically Badin Lake. During that time, cyanide, fluoride, PCB’s, PAH’s and other toxins, including arsenic, were generated and disposed of through Alcoa’s 13 outfall pipes into Badin Lake and outfalls into Little Mountain Creek. Hazardous materials were also buried throughout the community of Badin at 44 identified locations, without liners. Buried waste continues to contaminate ground and surface water around the old Badin smelter.
Now under new stewardship, with Cube Hydro Carolinas LLC, the river has a newpurpose, but Badin and High Rock lake still have a long way to go to heal it's waters from decades of pollution.
My shoot last month with two dancers from Helen Simoneau Danse was a stark contrast to earlier shoots I've done on the Yadkin where water flows freely.
This month's "Dance for the River" shoot had us splashing through Peter's creek, which is one of the creeks in the Yadkin River watershed and it's health is directly tied to the health of our river. We started in a tunnel that runs past Brunson Elementary. It is lined with graffiti and the water runs around building material, clothes, toys and even a few shopping carts filled with debris. We ended beneath one of the old Hanes plants, where earlier this month an industrial dye spill turned the creek water red.
Life really is made up of little moments, and those little moments can create a beautiful tapestry of community. I took a step back in 2016 and followed stories that had weight to things I felt were important, as well as stories that just made my heart sing. I've realized that we are sometimes removed from people or cultures we don't understand. Black, white, brown and everything in between, we are all part of the melting pot called 'Merica. And my hope this year was to do my best to reflect that through my camera and capture all the little moments that make us a community and connect us.
A cooking class taught by refugee families, summer concerts, bike racing, explorations in the woods, water fights , a wedding , family gatherings, music, dance, the fair,-Using my camera to reflect all the little moments that connect us helped to created my 2016 tapestry of community photojournalism.
I also launched a new project called "Dance for the River" , which is a collaboration with UNCSA, the Yadkin Riverkeeper and other local dance groups to create an environmental message about our river through the art of dance.
The Dixie Classic Fair
Women from Syria and Somalia donate their time during a luncheon and cooking class in a West End home in WS, NC
I even managed to survive a mountain bike trip through the Swiss Alps and come home to find an orphaned fawn that adopted us.
A UNCSA dancers leaps, fluid and beautiful, against backdrop of a Duke Energy coal ash pond that borders the backyard of a Dukeville, NC home. Unlined ponds leaked into the groundwater contaminating many wells in this community. This is part of a bigger series called "Dance for the River"
Biking through the Swiss Alps was no joke. Made me want to take up hiking.
2016 ended with the loss of so many great people and new political challenges to try and understand and navigate. My hope for 2017 is to create stories that give voice to our fears and to communities that we may not understand. I live in East Bend. It's about as rural America as you can get- My hope is to bring some of the stories from here to life as well as continue to explore the lives of recent refugees as they try to make this country home. You don't always have to travel far to try and create change in understanding.
Yea. Tree climbing was one of my favorite past times as a kid too. I still love it, although it's tricky getting back down sometimes.
Preparation for baptism of teenagers at Hilton Head Island, SC
So, here's my 2016 in a nutshell. I hope you enjoy and find a little inspiration!
When I was in photography school, the first thing we were taught about photo stories is: fewer images are more powerful. In fact, we had find photo stories and tell a complete story in no more than 5 images. That's kinda hard when in the wedding industry "more is better". When covering a wedding, there are the detail photos, group photos, wide shots that give you a sense of the venue and of course the candid photos.. which I feel are the heart of every wedding story. Gus and Hannah were the perfect wedding clients in so many ways, and .. I cannot tell their story is 5 images- Here are 5 reasons why:
1. As you see, they are adorable.
2. Hannah had an amazing sense of humor.
3. They were extremely adventurous! with every "melt your heart" image, there's a complimentary image that shows the friendship that seemed to be the foundation of their love.
4. They kept their wedding intimate, which gave me more opportunities to photograph genuine connections.
5. They never stopped dancing!! so I cannot pick just one or two of them on the dance floor!
Here's the rest of the story: