Raging Chief Joe

“Spillways are open.”
That’s a common comment after warming rains pelt the snowpack each spring, and the little town of Bridgeport is washed in the echoes of angry water churning from the Chief Joseph Dam.

It’s soothing, really, like the constant purring of an enormous concrete cat.  Unobtrusive–you get used to it quite quickly–unless you approach the beast.

This photo is from a couple of years ago, and was taken at dusk with a ND filter. It’s unusual for all the spillways to be opened at the same time; usually one or two are closed, making for a less than ideal photo. Luckily, on this day the dam was wide open.

Right now there are six inches of snow in my yard, but in March, some unseen hand flips a switch and we warm up quickly. Then the Chief Joe will rage once more.

Chief Joe at Dusk


A tree never travels until it dies.
It captains a vista
or cloisters in the shadows
like a resolute monk fettered to the land
some Calvinist hand fingered for its seed.
The speed of our rings to the girth of his
spawns envy for the boughs that shade our lusts;
gratitude and grandeur bestowed to the naïve
who views so little of the world,
blankly pondering nothing.


Infrared photograph taken with a Hoya IR 720 nm filter.
© Brad Skiff

There are fewer of these kids that it seems…

The other day, after a productive period of work in my freshman art course, I asked my high school students to put away their chalk sets and wipe down the tables. A teacher poked her head in to ask me a question while the kids went about their task of cleaning the room, so I didn’t provide my usual oversight. Still, after the bell sounded and the room was emptied of my charges, I noticed the tables were spotless and, instead of a jumbled pile of chalk sets on the back counter, someone had gone to the trouble of neatly stacking the thirty-odd sets of pastels for me.

Kids today.

They’re not at all like the knuckleheads in the cartoon below, which I drew to illustrate that school isn’t just about pragmatic knowledge. Yeah, I see that kind here and there, but they’re not as prevalent as you might think. After twenty three years in the classroom, I find cynicism toward our youth is generally unmerited. Sure, they’re not adults yet, and mistakes will ensue. But they’re never boring, and more often than not, they possess boundless promise!

Kids These Days


Warmth is a mirage birthed from a singularity
to shimmer on entropy’s stone,
a blip of vindication dismissed by eternity.
Cold is the hard truth of us all.

The Marker

Poem and photograph © Brad Skiff

Twisted thicket

This small stand of trees is located on Dyer Hill, not too far from my home. The wind was strong, and since I use an infrared filter on my camera (as opposed to a full IR conversion), exposure times often run several seconds. The tree tops are blurry for this reason.

The Stand

Taken with a Hoya IR 720 nm filter


To provide a new perspective on photography, I occasionally try to shoot images for abstract compositions. For this project, I decided to keep my images in a square format. The shapes are extracted from old mining equipment, and were taken during a trip I made last summer to the World Museum of Mining in Butte, Montana.




gears square






Rust and Shadow

Rust and Shadows

The Fear of Dyer

Don’t take my picture, please, I’m not at my best.
The rest of my town was taken by fire, and I fear
now the awkward celebrity mired in my lines.

Leave me to the sage of Dyer Hill. Promise you’ll delete
that photo, just as age withers the lies of triumphant love,
gloved to the souls who trusted in me.


House on Dyer Hill
Taken with a Hoya infrared 720nm filter