2018 Year in Review – A Year of Life Changes

As I prepare for a new year, I always take time to look back on my year. I like to look back and compare my images to the memories & thoughts I have in my head. This year I got pretty much what I expected, that being life changes.

Lots of life changes. I am most thankful for my wife and my kids. They are amazing kids that are now teenagers.  They turned 16 and somehow passed the drivers test and are driving to their own practices!  I can’t believe it.  For the first time some health issues impacted closer to home and closer to our immediate family.  We are good but it reminded us that life isn’t always predictable, nor easy, and we better live life to the fullest.  In that vain, Our busy kids life resulted in less family travel this year. We just had little or no time.   For example, Nathan’s (my son) club soccer season ended on a Sunday in July and the very next day he was at tryouts for the following season.  Natalie (my daughter) wasn’t even done with club soccer before Marching Band started this year.  That’s how it went.  There were weeks that I really did not know how Jen and I would get through it nor get our kids to where they needed to be.  Of course it all worked out, but let me tell you, it has taken a toll on my fitness, cycling & health. .

But through all of this business, it was my wife, kids, family and friends that got me through those weeks and occasionally trying times.   Here are few memories that I simply cherish.


I mentioned my passion, cycling, briefly.  I did not get out enough, but I did try to capture a few moments and I had a few incredible memories from 2018.  My favorite day on the bike was Landrun down in Oklahoma.  I got to the starting line and realized my camera had no SD card.  Oh well, it wasn’t meant to be so I put the camera in my jersey pocket and rolled out from the start line.  I have no pictures and that turned out to be a true gift. It was a PERFECT day in the country riding bikes.  Truly, my favorite day on the bike, but here are a few pictures from other rides.




I also picked up a new hobby, RC crawlers.  My friend and Bike Industry big wig Gary Gleason from Wilderness Trail Bikes got me hooked.  It’s been fun and gives me a late night hobby to pass time when I hide in my cave for my introverted, regeneration time.   I want a 1:1 size vehicle, but will never actually have the time, the space to build, the skill, the patience or the money to build one so I have to settle for the scale version. But it’s been a super fun diversion from life..


But, all was not quite what I expected.  There was something a bit different, that being intimate moments in my photography.

Last year I sold all my zoom lenses and shot either a fixed 28, 50 or 90mm lens.   Nothing else. No high speed zoom with thousands of soccer images.  No spray and pray I get something good.  Nope, just a camera I took out at specific moments to capture specific things.  Of course, I occasionally snapped some pics just to make sure a memory was captured, but I shot thousands and thousands less images this year and frankly speaking, I am not dis satisfied with my results.  Through it all, I find myself drawn to intimate moments. Something I did not expect when I was just shooting images all the time, everywhere, no matter what.

And with that in mind here are a few intimate moments from the year. I still have a lot to learn in this style of photography but I am liking the direction and what I am seeing. These images just make me smile and connect me to the both the people and the land that I love.



So what’s to come in 2019?!  Lots of family time. Lots of travel and fun. Hopefully more riding.  Hopefully I continue to hone my photography skills.   I have trips to Iceland, Ireland and Vietnam just in the first part of 2019. . Jen and I have our 20 year anniversary later in the year and we want to take the kids and head to a quiet, beautiful cabin on Minnesota’s North Shore.  I want to ride my bike. I want to take meaningful pictures. I want to laugh more with my family and friends. I want to continue to share my images, words and experiences here.

So thank you for following along.  Enjoy the end of 2018 and good luck in 2019!

The Salsa Cycles Deadwood comes to life

I know this bike is over a year old but I have changed my methodology for building new bikes. No more do I throw everything together as fast as I can with a hodgepodge of parts.  Instead I pain over every detail and build it when I have all the parts, or at least very close to all the parts.

This one took a while and will replace my old blue Fargo Titanium. It’s just right. I still have a second set of wheels to build as well as custom frame bags to get, but here’s the build.

Frame/Fork: Salsa Cycles Deadwood size large with carbon Firestarter fork

Headset: Cane Creek 110

Rear Derailleur: SRAM Rival 11

Crank/BB: SRAM GX1 w/SRAM BB (replacing with Chris King)

Cassette: SRAM GX 10-42 11 spd

Chain: SRAM 11 speed…Cant remember which model

Brakes: SRAM Force Hydraulic

Shifters: SRAM Force 11 1x

Bar: Salsa Cowbell, 46cm

Stem: Zipp Service Course

Seatpost: Eriksen Ti setback with black caps

Saddle: Brooks B17 Carved

Bar Tape: ESI bar wrap

Hubs: DT 350

Rims: Whisky Parts Co

Tires: Maxxis Chronicle 29×3″ Tubeless

Pedals: Time ATAC

Cages: King Cage Stainless

Bottles: Angry Catfish

Feedbags: Revelate Designs

Seatbag: JPAKs Gravel Pack

More pics to come. Maiden voyage today and got the little bugs and tweaks out. Time for some serious fun. Here’s just one shot from today.

Ben’s Custom Pofahl

I haven’t shared much here on the blog about my current bike set up lately. Partly because I am in transition and have several new bikes in process. But partly it is because I have been stable for the past year with the following rig.


This Fulton painted All City Macho King frame, Whisky fork and custom Paul Disc brakes is for sale. Contact me at G N A T at L I V E dot C O M if interested. It is a size 55 (56.6 TT).

But…I did find some time to ride with a good friend, Ben. Those following along here at the Gnat blog for a while know I’ve been riding with Ben for a long time. In fact, I could do an incredible photo series about our morning rides if I took the time to go through the archives.  Ben is a lover of wool, meat and fine bicycles. He has quite a collection and his newest rig and creation is nothing short of astounding.

This bike is Ben’s second Pofahl. His other is a custom made drop bar fatbike. It’s a stunner too. I have pics somewhere but here is one of him riding it a few years back.


I wonder if this is what riding on other planets is like?

Ben currently works for Whisky bike parts and prior to that worked for Salsa Cycles. Prior to joining us at QBP, he owned a really successful specialty retail shop that put out some incredible bicycles.  This bike is a culmination of many years of thought and experience. My favorite feature is the permanently mounted, front rack (which is a an old Salsa Casseroll rack).  I look at that front triangle and can’t imagine the gear Ben can pack in there (he’s a pack rat!).  Of course it has Whisky’s new carbon, 50mm wide, tubeless, 27.5 rims.  This bike is simply gorgeous and deserves to be seen so I figured I’d post it up here.   Enjoy.  Click on any pic below to go to slideshow mode.


But….while both Ben and I love bikes, they aren’t just for collecting. Here’s one quick snap from that morning ride.  What a bike and what a morning. Thank you Ben!


Fragments – My 1st Month with the Fuji X Pro 2

I am closing this month a very happy man. I’ve had an incredible month. My family is great. I’ve traveled to Oklahoma for the Landrun 100 and to Colorado for my family spring break and on Friday, I leave for Kansas City for a soccer tournament followed by Duluth, MN the following weekend for the state band concert. My job is going better. I also had my best month of traffic ever with over 35000 visitors and views. Blessed. That is the word that comes to mind. Thank you all!

It was also my 1st month with the Fuji X Pro 2. I had a great month of shooting. Here are a few shots. All of these were shot RAW and processed in camera to JPEG. I haven’t processed any RAW file yet.  Haven’t had too as the JPEGs are working well for my use. Here are few shots and links and words from my first month of shooting the amazing Fuji X Pro 2.


This is my very first shot from the Fuji X Pro 2.   A friend of mine had just traveled to Minnesota and given me this whisky glass with Mount Fuji in the base. This was shot at ISO 6400 with the 35mm f2. Right then and there, I realized we’d get along well and it’s high ISO seemed to be impressive.


I took it for a ride in the country on some of my favorite roads. Again, impressed. More pics from that post can be found here.


I also had the pleasure of seeing my new Fuji X Pro 2, handcrafted, wooden grip frome JB Camera Designs  being made and Steve Huff picked up and ran the story on his site. So cool!


I few images I like from Landrun 100 with the Fuji X Pro 2. It’s a wickedly capable camera. These images got over 30,000 views. Blown away to say the least.


Driving home from Oklahoma, I found this abandoned farm house. I shot it with the X Pro 2 and 90mm f2. It made the Fuji Rumor readers most like images on facebook this past weekend.


My kids. Lounging and reading while on spring break. I love the sound of the new shutter and of course the incredible Fuji lenses. Perfect for capturing those quiet and intimate moments.


My primary walk around lens is the quick and quiet 35 f2. It is pretty much perfect. Here are two shots from walking around Steamboat Spring, Colorado. The 1st being a friend and the founder of Moots Cycles followed by going off on his own and founding Eriksen titanium bicycles. The second being from a western shop. I just liked the way this looked and how classic chrome rendered the colors.


I brought the X Pro 2 skiing too. I carried only the 16mm f1.4 and the 90mm f2. Sometimes I like the wide point of view and other times I like the narrow and shallow. Of note, it snowed two of the three days so I really tested it’s weather sealing.  I’m happy to report that I had zero issues with body or lenses in the heavy snowfall!


I also tested the continuous autofocus and tracking ability. The zone focus really tracked skiers well. I shot about 30 images in bursts and about 27 were usable and sharp. I still don’t think it works quite right for shooting sports like soccer with players crossing each other but for many uses, the continuous autofocus with tracking is likely more than sufficient.


And with that, I leave you with one final peaceful images taken high up in the mountains. It’s my happy place.

As you can see, I am pretty darn pleased with the Fuji X Pro 2. Still shooting and learning. It’s got a few quirks, and all cameras do, but overall we get along nicely.  Looking forward to really finding out what the camera is capable of over the next few months.



The handcrafted JB Camera Designs Grip for Fuji X Pro 2

Last week I was in Stillwater, Oklahoma to ride the Landrun 100 gravel road race & ride, pics can be found here. While there I got to see one of my closest friends’ businesses, JB Camera Designs. JB Camera Designs makes hand crafted wood camera grips and accessories that are aimed to improve ergonomics and add protection to cameras. They are hand crafted right here in the good ol’ USA out of beautiful hard wood, bambo, plastic and/or machined alloy. On top of that, all three employees are photographers and the two primary craftsmen are also engineering students. What a cool college job.

While I was there, JB and crew (Ean and Eli) were putting the finishing touches on their new grip for the Fuji X Pro 2. In fact, the grip being produced in the photographs below is now mounted to my very own Fuji X Pro 2. I shot all these images with the X Pro 2 with either the 16mm f1.4 or 35mm f2 in RAW + JPEG with the JPEG setting to Acros with medium grain. I thought it fit the handcrafted nature of the grips. All these images shared are from JPEG as I have not processed any RAW files yet from the X Pro 2 but I find the JPEGS more than pleasing so it hasn’t been a big deal for me.

Below are some shots from my time at JB Camera Designs while they were making there new Fuji X Pro 2 grip, recently launched and available for pre order at Amazon. I grouped the images into some of the steps. These grips are a labor of love. All the details of the how and what happens at each step are not really mine to share so I’ll just share pics. I can tell you that the grips I am using on my Leica M and my Fuji X Pro 2 are really beautiful, fit perfectly and in my opinion have improved the overall shooting experience.   I especially like the new grip with my larger Fuji lenses and especially with the 90 f2. It has really helped me improve my grip to stabalize my shooting with this longer and heavier prime.

A couple of notes before moving to pictures.

  • Click on any picture in the tiles to make larger or move to slide show.
  • My friend JB did give me this grip. I just want to be up front and honest here. He’s a close friend and this was a gift. I am thankful. I make no money from this nor any affiliated link. I just enjoyed the experience and wanted to support my good friend. I like the pics too!

So with that out of the way, let’s get to pics of the new Fuji X Pro 2 grip.

Wood selection and initial preparation

Cutting, shaping, smoothing, sanding and prepping

Branding, finishing and adding alloy barrel grip

The finished product! I love it.


I wish I had a studio to shoot images of the final product installed on my X Pro 2 but I don’t. But…Here is a shot taken with my little Fuji X70 for you to get an idea of what it looks like on the camera. I took this on the way home from Oklahoma. I had 12 hours of driving that day and needed a nice espresso!  I snapped a few pics and then hit the road. Sorry for the poor picture quality on this one, but it’s all I’ve got.



Thanks again JB. Great seeing you and meeting your crew!