Ghosts of Christmas Past
a book of photographs and essays

chronicling more than three decades of curiosity, adventure, discovery and celebration
by Willis Greiner (featuring selected Photofantasia images with Cheryl Price)


Ghosts of Christmas Past -- a book of photographs and essays -- chronicles more than three decades of curiosity, adventure, discovery and celebration -- archived here through the family's annual Christmas card featuring Willis Greiner's evocative images of natural wonders. Included are photographs of magnificent unique and endangered wildlife, spectacular scenics and astronomical phenomena. Most years the holiday cards also featured essays describing these wonders literally -- such personal ramblings often additionally wandered through the author's vivid imagination in his attempt to emotionally and philosophically describe the universal beauty which surrounds us all. Some of the images included in this book also feature Cheryl Price's beautiful color enhancement, a process known to Greiner and Price as Photofantasia.



Forward / Prologue (Ghosts of Christmas Past)

​In 1986, my second wife and I (in the company of an old friend and his wife) traveled to Big Bend National Park in west Texas to observe firsthand the spectacular celestial event surrounding the return of Halley's (not "Hail-eee's" but "Hal-eee's") Comet. Our entire trip will not be chronicled here, but suffice it to say that, due to massive brush fires in the adjacent Mexican province of Chihuahua, the view, even from what is commonly hailed as the darkest place in the lower 48, wasn't all that spectacular. Later, while disappointingly traveling northward and home, we did get a great view from the New Mexico-Texas border at Guadalupe National Park (sporting some of the darkest skies I've ever encountered). From there we observed the comet exhibiting a spectacularly bright tail in all of its grandeur.

​After returning, I decided that perhaps I ought to photograph the comet, having spent a good bit of my lifetime previously observing astronomical subjects and occasionally photographing them. I set up on our second-story deck in Conifer, Colorado in March of 1986 and captured some acceptable time-exposed shots of Halley's Comet, using my telescope/mount as a makeshift tripod.

​Later that year, and for reasons long forgotten, I decided to create a Christmas/Holiday card featuring this photograph. At first I made just a few for family members, but upon reviewing the effort, my wayfaring buddy from the trip to Texas demanded I make dozens of blank cards including the photo -- for his personal use. I did this, and indeed the annual "Peace On and With Earth" photographic Christmas/Holiday card was born. For several years the cards only included that simple environmental message but no essay. Although the simple message has continued, I have added the essays that comprise the bulk of the text in this volume.

​In 1994, friends and I were floating down the Grand Canyon and I realized I just couldn't really express myself within the surrounding grandeur using mere photographs. So I began to write. In flow. As we approached rapids. Which, due to the size of the waves, the invisibility of the rapid from above and the increasing speed of the current, often alarmed my passenger. Especially at the brink of Lava Falls. Actually, at that "horizon line" -- the visualization from river level, because of the extreme and severe gradient, frighteningly suggests by its appearance that the riverway actually drops off into nothingness -- my mind seemed to wander a bit to my mom, who had passed away just a month before. Nevertheless we made it, and although I fell out, the boat and my passenger traversed the rapid untouched.

​I scribbled about the event that night in camp. I suppose my writing "career" started on that seminal trip.

​Of course writing is a process, and I remain a neophyte. I once took a four-day-long "creative non-fiction" writing class in Yellowstone in the dead of winter -- the instructor was the deeply respected nature writer and founding editor of Outside Magazine, Tim Cahill. Here's how his initial assessment went:

"You know, Greiner, unlike many here, you have real stories to tell. An interesting story-laden life. But you can't write a lick. I may be able to help you!"

Druid wolf pack

"March of the Druids" -- Lamar Valley, Yellowstone National Park, February, 2008

The last night, after the formalities ended and most had retired, he and I and his wife Linnea -- who had witnessed with me earlier that evening and with great excitement the circumstances leading up to the photograph entitled "March of the Druids," (see above and Christmas card 2008, pages 124-125) and who tragically died later that year; the three of us, in a stay-up-late-alcohol-fueled conversation, traded stories -- mine decidedly pedestrian, his and hers concerning the origins of Rolling Stone Magazine, his meeting of Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix and a "little multi-day float" with good friend and Outside Magazine associate Jon Krakauer down the remote Class 5/6 whitewater stretch of the Stikine River in northern B.C. I remember thinking how could it possibly be that I was there at that moment of time? But soon we pulled another (apparently the final) bottle of whatever out of a trusting someone’s open locker (don't tell; it was, after all, the last night), and in our self-induced fog all sins were forgotten -- and we had created yet another story to tell.

​From the Grand Canyon onward (with a very few exceptions) the Christmas cards included an essay and at least one photograph from a recent adventure. Because, as Rod Stewart so succinctly put it:

​"So remember, every picture tells a story, don't it?"


About the book . . .

Ghosts of Christmas Past is chock full of Willis Greiner's powerful and evocative images of magnificent unique and endangered wildlife, spectacular scenics and astronomical phenomena experienced over a thirty year span of the creation of the family's annual Christmas/holiday card.

Included is an extensive Bibliography, Endnotes and Additional References section to assist the reader who desires to further explore the myriad subjects covered in the included essays and photographs.

An additional index details the Technical Data associated with the astrophotographs included in many cards.

Greiner has also provided many provocative essays, including “A Modified Definition of Wilderness” (reflecting on a slightly different concept of the African backcountry) and “The Curious Mourning Cheetah of Kwando,” an interpretation of the very real emotional experience of a cheetah losing his partner, both originally published in Greiner's first book, Desert to Delta -- the Essential Botswana, linked here for your review or below, from Blurb.

Another essay of particular note is "The First Explorers," a fictional contemplation of the literal dawn of the human species and the characters' relationship with wildlife, art and the heavens. Additionally, "The Journey Home -- Tales of Wayne, the Turtle Man," is an essay centered on the life and times of a very special individual who once resided on a remote island off the coast of Borneo.


Or -- click this text to access the Ghosts book directly from Blurb.

(Click here to access the previously-published Desert to Delta -- the Essential Botswana -- second edition book directly from Blurb)


[all photographic and narrative content © Willis Greiner Photography, 2019, drawings and Photofantasia © Cheryl Price Originals, 2019]