Category Archives: Photographer Q&A

Photographer Q&A: Peter Essick Documents the Pine Beetle Epidemic for National Geographic

Award-winning photojournalist Peter Essick has been traveling the globe documenting environmental issues for the past two decades. He’s also a frequent contributor to National Geographic, having shot more than 40 stories for the publication in the past 25 years. Last April, Peter was commissioned by the magazine to photograph a feature story about a pine beetle outbreak that has destroyed more than 60 million acres of forest from New Mexico to British Columbia. Pine beetles don’t typically exhibit this type of remarkable population growth. So what’s causing the crisis?

The author Hillary Rosner writes, “Rising temperatures and drought have stressed trees, leaving them unable to fight an invasion. Warmer weather also has boosted the beetles’ population and greatly expanded their range. They’re flourishing farther north and at higher elevations, invading pine trees, such as jack pine and whitebark, that had rarely seen them until a few years ago. Because these trees aren’t as good at defending themselves, a smaller band of beetles can overwhelm them. Three-quarters of the mature whitebark pines in Yellowstone National Park are now dead—a blow to grizzly bears, which eat the seeds in autumn, and to Clark’s nutcrackers, which cache the seeds for winter.”

The outbreak originated in the central region of British Columbia and moved through the mountain American Western states of Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho and Washington. Recently, the most active outbreak in the USA occurred in South Dakota. The beetles have also spread across the Rocky Mountains to Alberta during two large storms.

Essick visited all of these regions to photograph the story.  In the Q&A below, we talk to him about the experience.

Helicopter surveying of red trees by the Alberta Government near Grande Prairie a part of a mountain pine beetle control program. The red trees are all marked on GPS and in the crews go back in November and mark a 50 meter circle around infested trees and find all other trees infestested. Then in the winter crews go back and cut down all those trees and burn them.

How exactly does the mountain pine beetle kill the forest?

It attacks the inner bark or phloem that feeds the tree. First, a female beetle bores through the bark, and if she likes the tree she sends out a scent signal for other beetles to come to the tree. Often hundreds of beetles will then bore into the tree within a 24 hour period. The tree puts out sap to try to stop the beetles boring, but usually the beetles can overcome the tree’s defenses. The beetles then begin to chew tunnels through the inner bark where the females each lay about 50 eggs. The eggs then turn to larvae within a week and stay inside the tree throughout winter. If it gets really cold the larvae will die, but because it has been warmer in the winter due to climate change, more larvae are surviving. In early summer, the larvae hatch and then fly to another tree repeating the cycle. In recent warmer years, as many as 10 beetles have been coming out of the tree for each one that entered. That is why there are now outbreaks of beetles that can fill entire forests.

Colorado State University professor and beetle researcher Dan West collects mountain pine beetles from a ponderosa pine that was being attacked in a forest in the Front Range west of Ft. Collins.

How have the locals reacted?

The beetle is a native species and has always been a part of the forest, but now it is causing severe damage to whole forests so the locals don’t like it at all. Some have made a living out of salvage logging and carving the beetle kill wood, but overall it is bad for local economies based on logging or recreation.

In the town of Custer, South Dakota, some locals tried to think of something positive they could do for the community regarding the beetle. They thought of the burning man and came up with the idea to do the burning beetle to draw the community together and hopefully over the long run create a tourist draw.

Burning of Pine Beetle Effigy, Custer, South Dakota. the Ponderosa Pine trees of the Black Hills have been hit hard by the pine beetle. A local woodworker with the help of other in the community constructed a 26-foot long wooden pine beetle out of beetle kill wood and plywood reinforcement. It was loaded with fuel and candle fuses and set on fire

Experimental Fire in Beetlekill Forest, near Vandrhoof, Canada. A group from the Canadian Ministry of Forests is doing a test to see how fire reacts in beetlekill forest. They have several blocks and have firefighters surrounding the blocks before they are set on fire. The trees are mostly in the gray stage so there is a lot od down woody debris and fallen trees low, but no needles on the dead trees.

What attempts have been made to manage the beetle population?

Nothing to date has been successful in controlling the outbreaks. Pheromone patches have been nailed to trees to fool the beetles, but have had limited success. There is an insecticide that can be sprayed on an individual tree, but the cost is about $50/tree for one year of protection. It also kills all other insects in the tree as well. In Alberta, they have been identifying newly attacked trees by helicopter and then going back in the winter and cutting down the trees and burning then hoping to stop or slow down the outbreak. This is very expensive and may or may not work in the long run.

Pine beetle flying on a leash in the lab of Maya Evenden at the University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada. Research is being done here to see how far mountain pine beetles can fly. They have found the average to be about 6km and one flew 24 km.

What was it like traveling around the forest while tracking the beetles? What did you find most challenging about documenting this story?

I did a lot of driving through the western states looking for areas to photograph. The scientists are always interesting to talk to about their research.

The one challenge that was different about this story was doing macro photography of the beetles. The beetle is about the size of a grain of rice, so the photographer needs to use a special lens that can go to 3X to 4X life size to get a full frame photo of the beetle in its environment.

Red Bellied Checkered beetle (Enoclerus sphegeus) preying on a mountain pine beetle.

See a complete lightbox with all of the images from this story here.

View all of Peter’s work available for purchase through Aurora here

On The Road With Joel Addams

Joel Addams is an adventure photographer who doesn’t shoot hardcore action, a travel photographer who gets up close and personal to his subjects. He’s an editorial and commercial photographer, a professor and a student, a curator and an artist. He is a multi-talented creator of imagery that uses emotion and mood to focus on details, like stones on a cairn, or on a more grand scale, like the magnitude of a mountain. His dream-like photos are imbued with a sense of calm and stillness, the moments influenced by his cinematography sentiments.

You can see more of his outdoor, lifestyle and travel images here.

The Dolomites of Cinque Torri are seen outside a dining area of a rifugio.

Aurora Photos: Can you speak to the premise behind your course at the University of Utah, “Photography as Communication, Art and Catalyst”, and the fascination with the art of observing vs. seeing?

Joel Addams: I was given a unique opportunity to teach in the Honors College at the University of Utah. I taught in a fashion course that looked at photography in the 20th century as much more than pictures: as a method for social and political change, and a mode of fashion styling and propagation, as a personal expression. We looked at war photography, fashion photography, art photography, commercial photography, and everything in between. It was interesting for me to delve deeper into those areas. I probably learned more than the students, to be honest. It’s amazing how photography is such a part of the historical record, but more than that, is a mode of change as well.

Two Nepali couples view Kathmandu from Swyambu Temple

[Au]: In 2014 you released the “Before I Burn” documentary about cornea extraction in Nepal. What brought you to this subject matter? How has being a still photographer informed your abilities as a filmmaker?

JA: I was in Nepal in 2006 when I was doing ophthalmology research at the Tilganga Eye Institute in graduate school. I was taken to the Pashupatinath Temple across the road to see the cremations and how the technicians worked. For “developed” countries, we are not used to the processes around death, but in Nepal and many other countries, the families prepare their relatives after they die, transport them to the temple for cremation, and perform most of the rites around the funeral. I was fascinated by the process around this, the visually interesting process and closeness of the family to their deceased loved ones. Then of course, following the corneas (just the thin clear outer portion of the eye) into surgeries and seeing the positive results was fascinating. I shot around this subject matter with the access of the hospital, and then wanted to film the process later on, starting a documentary in 2010 and finishing in 2013. Still photography was an excellent way to learn techniques of cinematography and the difficult process of learning how to tell a story visually. Filmmaking involves so much more to think about for documentary work with each portion of filmmaking its own world. Now I try to involve as many professionals as possible in my filmmaking.

A smartphone is held in the hands of a Buddhist monk in Nepal.

[Au]: It appears you have a deep respect and appreciation for all concentrations of art, even curating your own personal collection. What do you look for when purchasing a new piece? How do these pieces mesh with your own work?

JA: I’ve met a lot of photographers and filmmakers who look to other media for inspiration. Writing, music, film, painting, sculpture are very inspirational to me. Several good friends of mine, Zachary Proctor, Lane Bennion, CJ Hales, are all professional painters and have really been inspirational in terms of career, artistic understanding, and new ways of seeing. I would say their friendships have been invaluable to photography and filmmaking for me. I collect paintings for so many reasons. Maybe I love it because it has a quality that is so different from a photograph. I don’t choose paintings: they choose me! I don’t have specific things I look for. I’m not sure I know how my tastes in paintings mesh with my own work, though I think over the years, we have sometimes influenced each other.

The Grandview Overlook in Canyonlands National Park is a vast sea of desert.

[Au]:  What ignited your passion for the outdoors, and how has it broadened your creative perspective?

JA: My dad was brought up fishing the rivers around Pinedale, Wyoming and then he started backpacking the Wind Rivers – something that became rather sacred for my father. He never wanted to backpack anywhere else, actually. He started inviting me along around the age of ten, before we had any fancy outdoor clothing. We backpacked in jeans and t-shirts and external frame backpacks. I think we all enter photography from a love of something, and for so many of us, landscape photography is a beautiful entrance. Over the years, I have loved the exploration into other areas of photography, but will never pass up a good landscape. There is something really calm and fulfilling about being alone in the outdoors in good light. Don McCullin seems to have found a space in the landscape again after his many years of photographing war. It seems like a place we can all go to return to something.

A young woman wearing a winter hat holds a coffee mug outside.

[Au]:  Given your experience in both photography and educating others through workshops, what are some life lessons that you want to share with budding photographers?

JA: People starting to photograph seriously should look at as many photographs and photographers as possible early on. It seems important to explore all the avenues of photography; they’re so different. In addition, I worry sometimes when photographers seem guided by the concept of “what sells”. They may move away from images they really enjoy, but may take longer to establish a clientele from that particular style. The happiest and most successful photographers seem to be true to themselves and eventually find markets for their photography. I remember that I was scoffed at very early on for exhibiting a large portrait of a man in Nepal, being told by another photographer “that will never sell.” I’m glad I didn’t listen to him.

We’re also glad Joel didn’t listen! Otherwise, we wouldn’t have his fantastic outdoor, lifestyle and travel images on our site

Tips for Summer Adventures from Top Outdoor Photographers

  Summertime is almost here, and with it comes the chance to have great adventures. Unfortunately, the season is rife with pitfalls: biting mosquitoes, sunburns, huge crowds, and even animal attacks. Luckily, Aurora Photos has some of the best outdoor, adventure, and travel photographers in the world, and we turned to them to give some tips on how to have the most fun this summer.

CLICK HERE FOR SUMMERTIME FUN IMAGES

Two young adults canoeing at sunset on a camping trip along the shores of a lake in Idaho.

1.  To preserve memories of summer adventures, keep your camera handy. The best camera is the one you have with you. You don’t need the newest gear either; work with what you have until you’ve outgrown it. –Ethan Welty

2.  Think twice about taking a super expensive camera or lens to the beach that is not sand proof. Sand WILL find the inside of your lens and camera body, and cause damage – Scott Goldsmith

3.  Sleep in beautiful places. That way you are already in position when sunset and sunrise roll around to capture beautiful photos. –Ethan Welty

The Milky Way sparkles in the night sky over an illuminated tent and the Never Summer Mountains of Colorado.

4.  Coffee shops (NOT Starbucks) always have local event guides with upcoming shows/concerts/cool things for the locals. It’s a great way to get into the local vibe with ease! –Tim Martin

5.  Just a few simple words in the local language helps exponentially and makes people much more receptive to you as a tourist! –Tim Martin

6. One of my favorite places to go in the entire world during the summer is Door County, Wisconsin.  Shopping, theatre, great Lake Michigan Beaches, canoeing, awesome fishing, parasailing, horseback riding… awesome choice of activities.  Also, traditional fish boils are a must and Door County has the best cherry pie you’ll ever have in your entire life. –Marc Sirinsky

Jemaa al Fna square with crowds and food stalls at sunset. Marrakesh, Morocco.

7.  Always pay in local currency – even if you are paying by credit card. Most hotels, shops and high end restaurants will give you the option to pay in US Dollars but the rate they charge is usually 10-15% more than the actual exchange rate. Select the local currency option and eat the 1% fee your credit card company might charge. –Tim Martin

8. When wrestling a fifteen-foot female anaconda, DO NOT let go of her throat! The males are only about three feet long — much easier to deal with. –Robert Caputo

caputo_anaconda

9. I leave a bottle of sunscreen, bug spray, a basket or bag and a sharp pocket knife in the car in the summer so I’m always prepared for spur of the moment walks on the beach or in the woods that might yield wild edibles. –Stacey Cramp

10. Three things to always bring on a hike: layers, a pocketknife and snacks. The bottom of a mountain will often be much warmer than the top, so make sure your top layer is waterproof.  Dry fit shirts are invaluable…even for just walking around and shopping in hot, humid weather!   –Marc Sirinsky

White water rafters on the Snake River, Wyoming.

11. White water rafting with kids can be an amazing experience, but don’t expect the first time to go without a hitch. But with the right preparation and planning,  fun whitewater is on the horizon. The number one priority when rafting in general is to come prepared for the rapids and different weather conditions that mother nature can throw at you. Make sure kids have a strong swimming foundation, always wear a life jacket even when swimming, even in gentle rapids. Bring extra food, snacks and water for the kids so their comfortable and make sure to take fun breaks and engage in on and off river activities to break the trip up. A good water fight, swimming, inflatable kayaks or inner tubes allow the children to engage in river activities beyond the whitewater. Greg von Doersten

12. As an added bonus, here are some videos from Corey Rich that will get you amazing nighttime and campfire photography AND keep you from getting burnt in the process!

http://news.coreyrich.com/2014/09/tech-tip-getting-the-shot-with-corey-rich-glowing-tent-under-a-night-sky/

http://news.coreyrich.com/2014/07/tech-tip-getting-the-shot-with-corey-rich-firelight-photography/

https://vimeo.com/100157409

Staying Adventurous with Kids with Kennan Harvey

You get married, you have kids, you stop going out, you watch lots of cartoons, you memorize all the words to the Frozen soundtrack. Your life becomes about your children, rather than your passions and interests.  Is it possible to do both?

Click here to see our gallery of adventurous kids

We recently asked those questions of adventure photographer and outdoorsman Kennan Harvey, who seems to be able to do it all. We emailed Kennan and waited for his answers and a headshot.  His response? “Will look for a good headshot, but first I need to cut some firewood for next season.”

A young girl camping in Glacier Gorge, Rocky Mountain National Park, Estes Park, Colorado.

Aurora: You’re an avid outdoorsman and climber – you were once named one of America’s top 10 best climbers by Climbing Magazine. What inspired you to become an adventure photographer, and who or what inspired your love of the outdoors?

Kennan Harvey: My love for the outdoors matured in the deep woods of western North Carolina while home schooled and living simply without electricity – our family even went car-less for several years. My mother worked for Outward Bound and introduced me to climbing. During the 70’s backpacking was almost a national pass time. We walked a lot. Ambling along a trail, with unknown corners ahead lined with green Appalachian lushness helped me develop the keen observation skills necessary for striking images. My transition to photography was initiated through a mentorship with landscape photographer Pat O’Hara, who helped satiate my wanderlust after college in exchange for help hauling his large format gear far into the wilderness. During the late 80’s there were a handful of adventure photographers such as Galen Rowell, Chris Noble and Greg Epperson who showed me the possibility of turning my climbing passion into income. At the time there were no media crews or sponsored athletes so personally combining the two gave me an early edge.

A young girl standing next to al[pine lake with wildflowers,  San Juan National Forest,  Silverton, Colorado.

Prevailing wisdom tells us that youthful adventuresome ways are over once you have kids. That might go double for an outdoor adventure photographers. Has that been true for you?

Having a child only extended my photo career. First, kids are endlessly creative which forced me away from my set routines. I was 40 when Roan was born, suddenly I had more dominating youthful energy in the house. Having children is first about creating a safe and predictable environment for them to thrive, a wise parent then needs to encourage exploration in all things social, academic and physical. My wife and I both believe outdoor education is even more important than classroom learning. Adventures are fun ways to set obtainable goals and build success. They don’t have to be dangerous. But learning about risk management at an early age will be valuable for her teenage years and beyond. Breathing high mountain air may become her addiction or just a memory of youth. Until that point we are very similar to any soccer family – midweek practice followed by a weekend road trip – only to remote and quiet wilderness.

A young girl rock climbing on Grassy Ridge, Bakersville, North Carolina.

Your daughter currently goes camping and hiking with you and has started to rock climb as well. Are there any sports or activities you DON’T want her to attempt?

She really likes backcountry skiing and so we have a small beacon for her to carry. However, we are pretty nervous about steep terrain and avalanche hazard. I would certainly be nervous if she ended up in a ski movie at 18, but if she does she will have way more experience by then than I did at the time. Any sport with objective hazards is a parenting challenge for anyone, but it is important for kids to learn how to make good decisions. Luckily, she likes fun over danger and so far has shown good judgment managing risk.

Young girl walking on Appalachian Trail past rhime ice, Roan Mountain, Tennessee/North Carolina border

Many photographers use their children as free models. Your images of your daughter have an authenticity to them, they’re in the moment, and there’s a bit of wildness there. Has your daughter gotten sick of you taking photos yet?

There is a saying, “Kids don’t come with instructions!” So right at the beginning, we just went family adventuring and now Roan seems to have the bug. When a good photo materializes mid adventure, often with serendipity, fleeting and authentic, it only takes a moment to capture. Any grumpiness is easily dispelled when she hears, “A few photos now and we can start planning our next adventure!” Bringing a friends adds magic. Jumping off a rock into the water a couple times first, for example, keeps the activity organic and sometimes Roan even makes the photo suggestion.

Many might think your work isn’t really work — you get to spend so much time outdoors in nature — but the life of a photographer is often grueling, with long days and heavy equipment.  How do you maintain a good work / life balance and keep the outdoors fun? 

I recently finished climbing a granite ridgeline in a windstorm, in the winter, with skis strapped to full packs. It was way more than anticipated and we wondered about the worth. But then, after an exhausting day we topped out into 5 minutes of glorious light. Above us were dark clouds with the rays of the setting sun bouncing off of their undersides and painting a sea of alpine rock with gold. My life does have more work, but in these moments, there is balance. Parenting is no different. There are days where the work of parenting is exhausting, but then just 5 minutes of glorious light, and it makes it all worth it.

 

Young girl standing below redwoods in California.

In this age of technology, surely even your child wants to be on the computer, cell phone or watching TV.  Do you have advice for other parents who want to get their children to spend more time in nature?

In my view, technological obsession with kids is a sign of boredom. I realize all situations are different, but with 300 days of sun a year in Durango, kids around here would much rather ride a bike or the zip line, even planting peas is more fun than screen time. It also helps that we live in a solar powered house with a hard wired computer and no wireless. Photographer Ace Kvale once told me that the best way to become a photographer is to just start. My advice for parents wanting to get their kids into nature is the same, just pack the car and find a campsite.

Click here to see more photos from Kennan Harvey in the great outdoors

Getting inspired with Michael Hanson

 

A portrait of a young girl holding a sea urchin on the inner reef at low tide. Tobou, Lakeba. Photography by Michael Hanson
A portrait of a young girl holding a sea urchin on the inner reef at low tide. Tobou, Lakeba. Photograph by Michael Hanson.

There’s an immediate connection forged in a Michael Hanson image, between the viewer and the subject.  Whether it’s a gaucho in Patagonia, or a child with big dreams in the suburbs of California, you always feel as if you’re there, drawn into the moment as a participant rather than an outsider.  Michael’s versatility is on display with his award-winning work at Aurora, which spans the gamut from documentary to humorous moments caught while exploring the great outdoors in his adopted Pacific Northwest.

Click here to see a curated gallery of Michael’s images

Click here to see all of Michael’s work at Aurora

We caught up with Michael in between his travels and personal projects to ask what inspires him to tell these stories, and how he got his start.

A young boy holding a baseball bat points to the sky while standing in front of his two-story house.
A young boy holding a baseball bat points like Babe Ruth while standing in front of his two-story house, Redding, California. Photograph by Michael Hanson.

Aurora: You were a scrappy minor league baseball player in the Atlanta Braves organization and now you’re a well known documentary photographer. What inspired that change? What lessons did you learn as an athlete that have helped you your photography career?

Michael Hanson: A ‘scrappy minor league player’ is often a synonym for a ‘not-so-talented but boy, do you work hard’ player (which is pretty accurate for me, so good intro question). I hope I have a little more talent with the camera but maybe not. The transition was easy for me. Dayton Moore, the director of player development, told me I should think of my next career. That and every time I saw my batting average on the jumbo-tron, I knew the end was near. I like to think I worked hard for a decade or more to be able to compete on the field with some really good players and maybe the same can be said about photography. Both are pretty difficult industries to really make it. Luckily, I love both. I was obsessed with baseball while playing and now I seem to be consumed by photography. When I was in the minors I was exposed to a really interesting culture and it was a conscious decision to start shooting it. That’s how I started my photography career.

Au: There’s a sense of connection to the subject in all of your images, which are candid, open and honest. How are you able to immerse yourself in a culture and be accepted by people, so that the perspective you show viewers is no longer one of an outsider?

MH: Curiosity, I guess. It looks authentic because it is. It’s more fun and fulfilling if my interaction is genuine. Some photographers might be able to get good photographs without that interaction but I like the interaction as much as I like having a good set of images. And, I know the images will be better if I can get access to the subject’s lives and they don’t look at me as an outsider with a camera.

A young man holds his kalashnikov rifle while overlooking the Omo river in the Omo Valley of Ethiopia. Photograph by Michael Hanson.
A young man holds his kalashnikov rifle while overlooking the Omo river in the Omo Valley of Ethiopia. Photograph by Michael Hanson.

Au: Where do you find inspiration on a daily basis to tell your subjects’ stories?

MH: It’s hard to answer. I just don’t want to list photographers I like and magazines I read and say it’s that simple. I get inspiration from my friends, other photographers, editors, people who aren’t in the art world at all.  There are a handful of photographers I really like and are working on subjects or with certain styles that inspire me. Jonas Bendikson has always been a favorite of mine. Aurora’s own David McLain is another. And, lately Erika Larsen is a pleasure to see.  So much of the inspiration that we find comes from the people doing what they do, whether that’s teaching or starting an urban farm or whatever it is they do. That’s the inspiration, and we just have to figure out how to tell it simply and not let production get in the way of the story. When I’m shooting in a remote location, there’s not a ton of room for inspiration. The subject is doing what they do, with or without me there, and if I set myself up correctly with good light and don’t drop the camera, all I have to do is figure out how to make a clean frame that accurately describes the subject. Of course, my research has given me an idea of what to expect in that situation.

Part of the inspiration comes from the fear of failure. I like being a photographer and I want to keep being one. I want to tell an accurate story so I better be inspired to put the work in. I’m inspired by people who are trying to use their images or work for good. That’s a wide net but I think we all admire those individuals and they inspire us.

A woman holds a collection of prayer dolls she made in her house with the support of a local co-op.
A woman holds a collection of prayer dolls she made in her house with the support of a local co-op, Nahuala, Guatemala. Photograph by Michael Hanson.

Au: You’ve been able to get great access to the Amish community, a religion that, in your words, “shuns photography,” and capture some deeply personal and candid imagery. What was the inspiration behind shooting them, and what drives you to keep trying to get access?

MH: At first it was simply the challenge of getting images from inside a small community. After spending a few days with them, I realized how unique their lifestyle was, and it was smack right in the middle of our country. Again, the curiosity of a unique culture might be enough to drive me to get to know them more and document something that isn’t often accessible. I’ll still visit them and have developed some good relationships.

A young man harvests leaks at an organic field, Sequim, Washington. Photograph by Michael Hanson.
A young man harvests leaks at an organic field, Sequim, Washington. Photograph by Michael Hanson.

Au: You have a brother who is also a photographer. Do you find yourself competing with him or do you bounce ideas off each other?

MH: We still wrestle daily for assignments just like we did after I beat him in Tecmo Bowl in 1989-1993. We haven’t had too many clients that overlap. Occasionally, we do and are supportive of each other. We have different styles I think. I’m more documentary and he has a little more fine art in his work. We definitely bounce ideas off each other. And, we work together often on the video projects with our good friend Brett Schwager on ModocStories.com. Working together is a nice way to not compete.

A gaucho, a Chilean cowboy, on his horse in an open field as he rounds up his sheep, Patagonia, Chile. Photograph by Michael Hanson.
A gaucho, a Chilean cowboy, on his horse in an open field as he rounds up his sheep, Patagonia, Chile. Photograph by Michael Hanson.

Au: If you weren’t making pictures, what would you be doing?

MH: Well, damn, I would say playing in the big leagues, but I already went down that road and it was a dead end. Maybe some sort of research biology. I tend to like science-y work. My friend is a hydrologist, and I think that’d be cool. But probably just an A-list movie star on the side to be safe, like Eric Estrada or something. Ya know, gotta pay the bills.