The McKinnie Factor

Uploaded 15 Jul 2009 — 67 favorites
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© seanie blue
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Photo Info
UploadedJuly 15, 2009
TakenJune 17, 2009
MakeNikon Corporation
ModelNIKON D300
Exposure1/320 sec at f/16
FlashNo Flash
Focal Length18 mm
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Q: what happened to the themes and the challenges?

A: Do you know?

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Photo license: © All rights reserved

Rachel does not like crowds. I can’t stand tourists. Are crowds and tourists the same, I wonder, as we discuss heading into the wild or into the pretty landscapes protected by the Park Service and American taxpayers. Has Rachel McKinnie ever stood in line? I imagine her making a bank deposit, but I see a wall of the bank is missing and there are sand dunes and a boiling blue sky just beyond the counter with the slips and a pen on a thin chain, a place to total your money while wildness reminds you the only thing you have to waste or save is time.

This is the McKinnie factor:

Wilderness, the way a human finds itself only by becoming lost in its embrace, as the wild becomes a sort of cathedral where you can pray as blasphemously as you wish among romping elephants and soaring eagles and the wispy breeze which wakes you to a compass you carry inside, that reminder to avoid plastic and fiber optics, and follow tides and shores. She is a beacon, I think, always on the edge of trees or snowlines or streams or fossil beds. What an extraordinary creature, I think repeatedly, on my way from Vegas to the dunes in Colorado, where I run into her halfway. She drinks red beer while I study my Arnold Palmer like Galileo, wondering if she is thinking what I am thinking, of how strange it is to meet someone just like you, who thinks the sky and the sand and the wind were sculpted just for you, a personal playground for you to live in if only you dropped those anchors that keep you hooked to mortgages and frappuccinos.

Meeting Rachel McKinnie in the Utah desert happens after you say hello to her in a parking lot in Moab. You cannot know her until her blue and orange self melds with her surroundings. She sees without limits, with an appetite that erases the past but might kill her if she gives in to it, and this is the blue sky in which her pictures are captured: the limitless stratosphere, and eyes that stare even when she looks away. She leaks energy and moves over the land like a skate or ray in shallow water, every rock hiding possibility and every pebble a chance to scratch an itch, and this is the orange dirt of the sand in which Rachel McKinnie was built.

She agrees to shoot the Arches despite the crowd. It is late, and I promise she can hide in the shadows. The place is beautiful. She realizes she’s spent a lifetime here but only once been inside the park’s boundaries. She gets lost, and shoots. I watch her and promise you silently that I will write about meeting Rachel and seeing her in the blue and orange and expect that I will tell you how unique and mysterious she is, but take my word for it when I say instead that she is exactly the same as you and me.

The McKinnie factor is an act of camouflage. She becomes you, or me, and a gift of this deceit of hers is that you can see just like she does, through her eyes, following her feet. It’s a trick, and like all real magicians Rachel does it without knowing she is pulling it.

35 responses

  • Michael Van der Tol

    Michael Van der Tol (Deleted) gave props (15 Jul 2009):

    Stunning image, Sean. And a nice piece about Ms. M in her element.

  • j dixon

    j dixon gave props (15 Jul 2009):

    Wow this is a great photo. Love the rich, rusty earth and brilliant sky.

  • Christopher Long

    Christopher Long gave props (15 Jul 2009):

    Incredible shot!!

  • Vicenç !!!

    Vicenç !!! gave props (15 Jul 2009):

    got my vote!

  • Laurie Search

    Laurie Search gave props (15 Jul 2009):

    Wow, both the image and the writing are brilliant. The colors, light, and textures of the photo are gorgeous, and you've got quite the way with words...:).

  • Llorenç Rosanes

    Llorenç Rosanes (Deleted) gave props (15 Jul 2009):

    Well seen, well said, well done!

  • Pilar Coll i Gatells

    Pilar Coll i Gatells said (16 Jul 2009):

    Saludos. . .seanie blue

  • John Linton

    John Linton gave props (16 Jul 2009):

    Hell YEAH! Rad!

  • Kimm

    Kimm (Deleted) gave props (16 Jul 2009):

    absolute! voted!

  • Chris Whitney

    Chris Whitney said (16 Jul 2009):

    A long time between posts, but it was definitely worth the wait for me Sean. This is a wonderful post about Rachel, and about all of us who share a common bond, especially out there, in our minds or our photos, where the cement stops and we are free.

  • conchita. del. mundo.

    conchita. del. mundo. gave props (17 Jul 2009):

    seanie, i have to say, with some prejudice for both parties, that this is one of my favorite all time seanie blue moments.. so beautifully and perfectly said. i absolutely love the photo you chose to accompany your first mckinnie moment.

  • Jason Platt

    Jason Platt gave props (17 Jul 2009):

    love all of it!

  • Alexis - Now on Flickr

    Alexis - Now on Flickr gave props (19 Jul 2009):


  • Michele Randell

    Michele Randell gave props (20 Jul 2009):

    I think we all connect with this Seanie....beautifully written and captured as always!

  • Mojca Savicki

    Mojca Savicki said (20 Jul 2009):

    I can't stand tourists. I love crowds though, well, sometimes, not always. Sometimes I enjoy walking big cities, where no one knows me, no one notice me, feeling the energy of a place. It's all about different moods....But i think I most enjoy wandering through endless empty spaces where I can't see anything but what is called UNSPOILED NATURE, avoiding meeting people on every corner. Though, such places are less and less easy to find these days :). You've found it and captured it perfectly :). I'd love to see the world of tomorrow like this....

  • Paul Lavallee

    Paul Lavallee gave props (22 Jul 2009):

    wonderful image and words. great dedication to an amazing photog and person

  • Hunaid H

    Hunaid H gave props (23 Jul 2009):

    Beautiful work, my vote is in.

  • Michel Vaque

    Michel Vaque gave props (24 Jul 2009):

    yes!! my vote !

  • tobie hickey

    tobie hickey said (26 Jul 2009):

    I want to slither in that sand!

  • Ronnie Ginnever

    Ronnie Ginnever gave props (29 Jul 2009):

    Love the footprints....

  • Aelica

    Aelica (Deleted) gave props (30 Jul 2009):

    This is stunning...

  • adniloj

    adniloj gave props (6 Aug 2009):

    wow & wow!

  • Silvia Poldaru

    Silvia Poldaru said (10 Aug 2009):

    such a wonderful sky! great colour contrast

  • Andrew Lorimer

    Andrew Lorimer (Deleted) gave props (11 Aug 2009):

    Absolutely Amazing Capture

  • Alexander Bussey

    Alexander Bussey gave props (11 Aug 2009):

    beautiful shot.

  • John Linton

    John Linton gave props (24 Aug 2009):

    hope to see more uploads soon.

  • andrea conti

    andrea conti gave props (11 Sep 2009):

    wonderful, i vote

  • Dawn Duffield

    Dawn Duffield (Deleted) gave props (15 Nov 2009):

    Incredible image; magnificant story!

  • Karen Zimmerman

    Karen Zimmerman gave props (20 Nov 2009):

    Fantastic image and a stellar tribute to Rachel! Well done!

  • Catherine Hadler

    Catherine Hadler gave props (28 Jan 2010):

    wow, what a great tribute - lucky you to have such a fantastic encounter

  • Sonia Adam Murray

    Sonia Adam Murray gave props (9 Apr 2010):

    Absolutely fantastic!

  • eithne mythen

    eithne mythen gave props (18 Apr 2010):

    Wow this is an outstanding shot, love the colours, the lie of the land, the footprints in the sand, brilliant..

  • Cindy Griff

    Cindy Griff   said (17 May 2010):

    I think your words speak for how we all feel inside, very well written and a beautiful


  • David Eastham

    David Eastham said (20 Jun 2010):

    Love the story and image. Rachel is one of my idols :)

  • Richard Knight

    Richard Knight gave props (28 Jul 2016):

    Where is she now,, seven years later?

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