Hit me with your best shot

(NOTE: If you surfed in here in search of the song “Orion,” please click here.)

A friend and I were talking about photography recently, and I was telling him that my best images always come out of those rare moments when God sets up the shot for me — perfect lighting, perfect weather conditions, perfect moment, perfect whatever — and all I have to do is see it and push the button before it gets away.

I promised him that one of these days, when I had a hand free, I would toss a few examples online for him to see. I have a hand free tonight, and I think I'm going to make this a permanent feature on the blog. I'll add to it whenever I get a keeper.

I shot this first image in October of 2000, at the Leaning Tower of Pisa replica in Niles, IL. I'd been dinking around with my aperture and fussing over the light meter for probably five minutes before I finally decided I was ready to take the shot. Just as I released the shutter, this flock of pigeons sort of exploded out of the tower and into the frame. I love the movement:

Leaning Tower

On my first Route 66 trip in August 2001, I was lying on the ground under the Blue Swallow Motel sign in Tucumcari, N.M., trying to shoot something from Scout's eye level for a project I was doing, when I got this next one. I thought about the way dogs look at things, tipped my head sideways, and — voila! — there was my shot. The atmospheric conditions in Tucumcari's high desert climate give neon photos a clarity and vibrance I haven't been able to replicate anywhere else.

Blue Swallow Motel

On the same trip, we stopped in Seligman, AZ, where I took this photo of Angel Delgadillo, the famed "Guardian Angel of Route 66." I explained what I was doing and asked Angel if I could photograph him from my dog's eye level. He agreed, and — much to his amusement — I proceeded to lie down on the ground at his feet and look up at him through the viewfinder. I couldn't have coaxed a better smile out of him if I'd tried:

Angel Delgadillo

Ron and I were still living in Illinois in December 2002 when we decided to light out for Oklahoma one weekend to visit friends and take pictures of Route 66 in the snow. We came through some spectacular winter storms that glazed the Route 66 corridor with ice all the way from St. Louis, MO, to Texola, OK. This next picture is of the old Regal Reptile Ranch sign just east of Texola. It wound up serving as our 2003 Christmas card image.


My little brother had never been west of St. Louis County in his life when I invited him to join me on a crazy weekend road trip to Tucumcari for a festival in July 2003. We had just driven out from under a dazzling electrical storm and into a beautiful Texas Panhandle sunset when Oliver said, "Oh, my God. Look behind us." Of course we had to have a photo op when I turned around and saw that double rainbow.


I have a theory that terrific light just follows my friend Michael around, because two of the best portraits I have ever taken involved Michael under ideal lighting conditions.

The first is this one, shot in October 2004 at the Route 66 Diner in Tulsa. I take no credit for its artsiness, because I truly had no idea what I was doing. I just liked the way the light was hitting his face, so I squeezed off a couple of frames. The image I saw through the viewfinder was very warm, very gentle, very flattering. This moody chiaroscuro thing turned out to be much more interesting than the portrait I thought I had.

I didn't notice that glass on the table or the Rose's sign in the background until I got the prints back and looked at them. I love that sign, because it gives the whole thing kind of an Edward Hopper vibe.


As I said: Good light just seems to follow Michael around. Here he is with Suzanne on a bus trip they led in November 2005 for the Tulsa Foundation for Architecture. We stayed at the Kerr Mansion in Poteau, OK. I have been dying to photograph them ever since the first time I saw them together, because after 20-some-odd years of marriage, they are still as crazy about each other as a couple of newlyweds … so when I wandered in for breakfast and noticed all this soft, golden light pouring through a huge wall of east-facing windows, I took advantage of a rare opportunity. I really like the results:


I got this shot on that same trip. I wish I'd had someone handy to photograph, because this would have made a great setting for a portrait, but I was wandering around another part of the museum, and by the time I got in here and noticed this window, everybody else had taken off to explore another area. Not bad for the one that got away, though. I think it looks like it ought to be on the cover of a self-help book or something.

Prison window

I looked out the window of the Rock Cafe in Stroud one evening in late January 2006 and noticed this Maxfield Parrish sky behind the Rock's beautifully restored neon sign. Yow. Za. I just love the colors.

Rock Cafe sign

Stay tuned; I'll post more images as I get them.

37 thoughts on “Hit me with your best shot”

  1. I really enjoyed looking at your pictures tonight. I especially liked the window. Not sure why…just like it.

    I’m a very amateur photography, but on my site are pictures of one of the world’s most beautiful children–my grandchild, of course. Actually, Thane is my great grandchild.



  2. Just read your blog for yesterday. What time were you in Afton? I hope you didn’t drive right past Afton Station without stopping in! I was only there until about 3, so I probably missed you. Not many tourists out there yesterday — over 60 of ’em last Sunday and only 3 this Sunday. You just never know.

    Nice pics of Waylon’s sign!

  3. Hi
    In regard to “Back In Red Fork” 12/26/05. I thought I was the only one who remembered that “Orion” song. I used to sing it in school as well. My search for the the title of it led me to your website. Would you by any chance rememebr the title so I can research and find the rest of the lyrics? I would really appreciate it. Thanks!

  4. hey – came across this in a google search. seems a lot of us had the same music class in 6th grade, here’s what i could find>>>



    By unknown folk artist

    Orion is a-rising, you can see his stars a-blazing in the middle of the clear eyed country sky And it’s never too suprising, that the sky is still amazing, way out here where nothing hides it from my eyes.

    And sleeping outside, in a bag as a kid… it seems like the best thing that I ever did. And chasing the shadows, and the tracks in the snow..

    Don’t you know?

    The world is getting older, you can hear it in the thunder, and the rain might come and chase it all away. The night is getting colder, and I really start to wonder, why they’re clouding all the country skies to gray…

    And sleeping outside, in a bag as a kid… it seems like the best thing that I ever did. And chasing the shadows, and the tracks in the snow.. Don’t you know?

    The moon is on the wane. And it looks like it might rain, or maybe snow. And how are we to stay here, if there’s no room left to play here, or to grow…

    Don’t you know? Don’t you know?


    i’ve beens earching for about 3 years now, but can’t seem to find a recording of this. i’ve been in touch with my old school, but they don’t have it. if one exists, let me know.

  5. Hi there.
    Today I was at work and started singing this song. what I could remember of it anyway. I also sang it in the 6th grade. When I got home I did a search and found your site. I went Leroy F. Koch Elementry in St. Louis, Mo. I am going to do some more research. If I find anything I’ll let you know.

    Lisa Weaver

  6. I sang this song in my 6th grade choir class at Orchard View Middle School in Muskegon, MI. I think the song may simply be “Orion”. If anyone has an audio snippet that would be great to post.

    craig Morris

  7. I remember this song word-for-word from elementary school. I still play it on guitar occasionally. On the sheet music we had I clearly remember that it was attributed to someone named James Zimmerman. However, a websearch for this lost country/folksinger has turned up nothing for me.

    I remember one part slightly differently than above:
    The air is getting colder, and I really start to wonder, why we’re clouding all the country skies to gray
    The world is getting older, you can hear it in the thunder, and the rain might come and chase us all away…

  8. Well I asked my mom about this and she contacted my music teacher at school then the publisher…. She got this response. Turns out James Zimmerman is the writer, living in NYC.


    I am writing at the request of Tyson Harper, Editorial Director of the Music Department of Pearson Education, concerning your interest in the song “Orion.”

    During her time as a music teacher, Ms. Harper taught this song herself, so she shares my pleasure in knowing that “Orion” has become part of your family’s musical traditions. This song was published in the 1974, 1978, 1981, and 1985 editions of the school music program Silver Burdett Music, Grade 6, published by Silver Burdett Company. “Orion” is Part 1 of a musical composition entitled Orion Suite, which was written by James Zimmerman. This piece had not been published prior to its use in the 1974 edition of Silver Burdett Music, and we negotiated the rights to use this piece through Mr. Zimmerman’s lawyer.

    Silver Burdett, now an imprint of Pearson Education, no longer retains the rights to use this piece. Were this not the case, we would gladly send you a copy of the song from the Silver Burdett Music, Grade 6, book. I am happy to help you locate the composer and a copy of the song, however, and I suggest the steps described below.

    Contact the composer.

    James Zimmerman
    210 West 101st Street
    Apt. 9D
    New York, New York 10025

    Contact the lawyer, agent for James Zimmerman.

    Mr. Donald Aslan
    171 East 83rd Street
    New York, New York 10028

    Since 1982, when we last heard from Mr. Zimmerman, the piece may have been published in publications other than Silver Burdett Music. The Harry Fox Agency, the licensing agency for the music industry, currently represents more than 27,000 publishers. To locate the composer, or a source of “Orion,” click on

    HFA Online, http://www.harryfox.com

    You might also try the “Search” links of either or both of the performing rights organizations in New York.

    BMI (Broadcast Music, Inc.), http://www.bmi.com/search

    ASCAP (The American Society for Composers, Authors, and Publishers), http://www.ascap/ace (for ACE Title Search Database)

    Local colleges with music education departments may have copies of Silver Burdett Music. Should you need to, I suggest you contact one of these for help in locating a copy of this now old textbook series.

    We appreciate your interest in “Orion” and wish you all the best in locating a copy of the song. Please feel free to contact me with any further questions.

    Susan Greene
    Senior Editor
    Music Publications
    Pearson Education

  9. I’ve also had this song in my head since elementary school (think I learned it earlier than 6th grade, in NJ, but maybe the music teacher used the same textbook for other classes – the publisher’s info is a real blessing – thanks! – check http://www.bookfinder.com for a copy), also found your blog through a google search for this song, but was missing a verse or two and am SO happy to have all the words. Perhaps I will find a way to record these two songs and upload them. In turn, I share with you the other song I dreamed of for years and found online, composed by a girl scout camp counselor at their Glen Spey sleepaway camp:


    Have you ever seen the sunrise turn the sky completely red,
    Have you slept beneath the moon and stars, a pine bough for your bed
    Do you sit and talk with friends, though a word is never said,
    Then you’re just like me and you’ve been on the loose.

    On the loose to climb a mountain,
    On the loose where I am free.
    On the loose to live my life, the way I think my life should be,
    For I’ve only got a moment and the whole world yet to see.
    I’ll be looking for tomorrow on the loose.

    There’s a trail that I’ll be hiking just to see where it might go.
    Many places yet to visit, many people yet to know,
    So in following in my dreams, I will live and I will grow,
    On the trail that’s waiting out there on the loose.


    So in search of love and laughter, I’ll be traveling cross this land
    Never sure of where I’m going, for I haven’t any plans,
    So in time when you are ready, come and join me and take my hand,
    And together we’ll share life on the loose.


    In this world that I am traveling, I will think of you this way,
    Remembering your smile, for it seems like yesterday
    When we slept beneath the stars, and we dreamed about this day
    Now we have come together on the loose.


    Do the trees in the forest make you sit and think of love?
    Does it take you twenty times or more to count the stars above?
    For I’m here now and I like it and the hours melt away,
    And if I want I’ll stay here another day.


    As I sit and watch the sunset and the daylight softly fades,
    I am thinking of tomorrow and the friendships we have made.
    I will value them for always and I hope you’ll do the same,
    And forever we’ll live life on the loose.


    Now the moon is softly glowing and the stars are twinkling bright
    Our laughter and our friendship have cleared this cloudy night
    Come and join our flickering campfire, come and sing our happy songs
    And together we’ll share life on the loose.


    p.s. I only ever knew the first verse of this song, but found the others online. Another blogger claims it’s Judy Keller’s song.

  10. Lovely pictures. I just found your site by looking for “On The Loose,” a song I also remember from my camp days (and if you ever find/put it online, Michelle, I’d give my right big toe to know where). Ironically, I’m in the city trying to take some sunset shots from my grandmother’s apartment, only to not have gotten any type of sunrise. Oh well. Win some, lose some.

  11. WOW! If you can get out today, you could get some great pics! We have a spot on our back porch that is 13 inches deep! I live on the opposite side of Tulsa, off of Garnett, but my son works across from Ollies. So happy to find your site…looking for pictures of this snow, and found it. Your blue whale snow pics came up. My husband used to swim there when he was young. Enjoy this beautiful snowfall!

  12. You’re image of a window at the museum is very beautiful.
    I’m interested in this image for a project I’m working on at the moment. I’d appreciate it very much if you could get in touch
    with me through my email to find out if this would be OK.
    Best wishes,
    Darren David

  13. Dear Jacob Michaels,

    I thought about your request and finally decided to record both of these songs on my laptop, unprofessionally. I do have a friend who might upload the file to his website, but without accompaniment or professional recording, I’m embarrassed. Maybe I’m just embarrassed for no reason, maybe I’ll change my mind later. Send me an email and I’ll send you the files. NO BIG TOE REQUIRED! heehee!

    mushylala at yahoo

    Dear other beautiful people who posted here, I’d share it with you too, if you just want to remember the melody – I can’t promise you a rose garden.

  14. hi i’m a little hippie girl from kansas. always great to find another hippie. i have a question for you? my brother told me there was going to be a concert in oklahoma. he said it was called rocklahoma. i haven’t been able to find out anything. i guess all the 80’s hair band are going to be there?????? if you know anything please e-mail me cuz it seems like my kind of event. thanks little hippie

  15. Great photos! These are very atmospheric and inspirational to me as I try and develop a new photography website from another part of the world.

  16. We sang “Orion” in 6th grade too(Skyland Elementary in Atlanta, GA). It’s funny, I was laying in bed singing it tonight and could only remember some of the words to it. I still remember all the tune though!! I came across your site in a search for the lyrics to the song. Thanks so much for bringing back some great memories! Now I can sing the song with the right words!!

  17. I’m the writer of the song “Orion”, and I’m so excited that all of your remember it so fondly from so long ago. If you’re interested in “the real thing” as to how the song goes, email me at jkzim@verizon.net.

  18. Michelle Levine, I was at Camp Glen Spey in New York when “Lefty” aka Judy Keller wrote this wonderful song (along with several others). I would love to hear your version of the song. I think I still have a tape of us singing it a camp. My email is addisonboyce@yahoo.com

  19. Too weird. Every once in a while when I see Orion in the sky I think of the song that we sang in middle school around 1980 or so in Tennessee. I only remember the words to the first part of the song , but that tune has stuck with me for a long time now. I saw the constellation again tonight, thought of the song and decided to look it up on the Internet. How strange that the writer posted not that long ago. Timing is everything, huh? Thanks for the blog and thanks so much, Mr. Zimmerman, for the beautiful song.

  20. I stubbled on to your sight while googling pics of hyacinths for a tattoo I’ll be getting . edI hope you don’t mind if I copy your lovely pic and have it or it’s likeness tattooed on my body. while I was waiting for my terribly slow computer to load I started reading your blogs and was pleasantly suprised to find such a like mind person.I too read mother earth and love the entire idea of the earth ship. I live outside colorado springs if ever your in the area {i know it’s a bit off route66} but we’d love to such a enlightened soul as your self to grace us. Keep shining your light. Angela

  21. @Angela: You are certainly welcome to use the photo. You’re more patient than I am — I don’t think I could sit still long enough to get a tattoo of something as intricate as a hyacinth. I’m still trying to get an opening in my schedule big enough to have some repair work done to my fireflies after learning the hard way that very small, detailed designs simply do not age well….

  22. Loved the Route 66 pictures. Hope you can tell me where you got the Route 66 floor mats.

    Thanks again.


  23. Staring out into the sky tonight I was singing “Orion” and just had to do a web search. Glad I found so many other people for whom this songs rings such a clear bell. I am going to email Jim Z and see if I can get a copy of the song to download onto my iphone.

  24. I have been singing this Orion song every time I’m outside and the stars are shining since about 3rd grade in St. Paul, MN! I could never remember the 2nd verse and I tried to make up my own lyrics a few times. I’m so glad you posted the words! I also thought I was the only person who remembered this song.

  25. I love “Orion” sung in Point Pleasant Elem. in Maryland. I used to always sing
    ‘and i always seem to forget the last line” at the end. Now I have words again! 🙂

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