photography from the ground up

Archive for July, 2012

A New (Old) World

I have been exploring the area in and around the Rio Puerco Valley for years and I think I’ve driven just about every road out there. But, there is one that had escaped me until recently. I had driven past it many times, but had always assumed that it was a private road leading to a ranch that could be seen in the distance.

That’s what I get for making assumptions. I recently had reason to study a map of the area for a totally unrelated reason, and discovered that the road in question continued on well past the ranch in a long loop that returned to the main road via a BLM road that I am familiar with.

So, this past Sunday we set out to explore what is identified on the map as the Empedrado Wilderness (it’s actually a Wilderness Study Area which means it is being considered for wilderness status). Well, one of the first things I realized is that for a wilderness, there sure is a lot of human impact, both abandoned and ongoing. Of course the former captured my attention.

This stone ruin is perched on the edge of Torreon Wash and if the steep banks continue to deteriorate, it will soon be a pile of rubble lying in the wash. There is something about these recent ruins that touches me. I see the abandoned hopes and dreams of people who were probably toiling here in my lifetime and who may still come to these places to watch those dreams decay.

A little farther along we found this water system that, at first, looked as though it could still be in working order, but upon closer inspection it was found to be, dried up, broken and rusting away.

Just around the next bend in the road is an old school bus that is filled with what could be mistaken for building materials. Most of the insulation has become nests for the pack-rats, and other small animals that have laid claim to the bus.

After the first five miles or so, the evidence of human endeavor began to dwindle and the place began to look more like a wilderness. We drove on for another ten miles making note of areas of interest for future exploration. Then, after turning on to the BLM road that leads back to our starting point, I stopped to make this image of an ephemeral New Mexico rain falling over Cabezon Peak.

Digging Through The Archives

I have been stuck in the Photographic Doldrums for the past couple of months, so I have been spending quite a bit of time searching my archived images. I’m not one to live in the past, but I’ve found that it can be rewarding to revisit my older work. I have rediscovered some of my best work rummaging around in old files. I have also found photographs that, for some reason didn’t make the cut when I first edited them, but over time, with my ever-changing vision and some changes in my workflow, they suddenly take on a new life.

This first image was taken in Canyonlands National Park in Utah. Mesa Arch is an iconic location for landscape photographers, but the shot almost everyone takes is of the sun rising behind the arch. Being a bit of a crank, and wanting to make an image that spoke of my vision and not some other photographer’s, I made this photograph in the late afternoon and used the arch to frame the incredible landscape that lies beyond it.

I made this image of Shiprock while driving to Utah a couple of years ago. I was drawn by the bright yellow rabbitbrush and I was also going through what I like to think of as my “fence phase”. These two elements made the perfect foreground for the great volcanic plug and brooding skies.

This is an image of the Virgin River in Zion National Park. The overcast settled lower and by the next morning, the rain was continuous, making my hike to the Subway impossible due to high water and flash flooding. But this moment, looking down canyon with the soft light penetrating the swollen sky is one of my best images from that trip.

Twilight at Chupadera Pond in Bosque del Apache NWR. These three cranes were hunting for their dinner. They had just flown back from a day of foraging in the farm fields at the northern end of the refuge and now they were continuing their seemingly endless search for food in the pond where they would spend the night. The color of the light in this image has not been altered. For one magical moment between sunset and the onset of night, the entire landscape was bathed in this golden-orange glow.

This final image of the Egg Garden in the Bisti Wilderness has gone through numerous iterations and I think I finally have it just where I want it. I know the composition goes against the venerable “Rule of Thirds”, but sometimes it’s good to break the rules, and sometimes it’s good to revisit the past.

One Day At The Taos Solar Fest

The Taos Solar Fest has been an annual event for the past fourteen years. I have often thought about heading up to Taos to join the fun, but for one reason or another, never made it–until this year. For anyone who isn’t familiar with Taos’ connection to solar energy, the Taos Electric Co-op ranks second in the nation when it comes to providing solar-generated electric power to its consumers. That’s pretty impressive for a (relatively) small town in northern New Mexico.

The festival is held at Kit Carson Park smack dab in the middle of Taos, and the setting is perfect. There are two stages, the main stage, and the solar stage. Between the main acts, there is music on the smaller solar stage provided by local musicians some of whom are from the main line-up. Max Gomez is one of these performers this year; he just finished recording his debut EP, “Rule The World” in Los Angeles, and at twenty-five years old seems to have a promising career ahead of him. His music is a blend of folk, blues, and alt country and he delivers it with the style and confidence of a well seasoned performer.

The Del McCourey Band followed Max Gomez, and while Del is a little too slick and polished for my taste, the crowd enjoyed his set and most everyone was on their feet dancing. He played many bluegrass standards that he has helped to make popular.

Los Lobos needs no introduction; they have been around for nearly forty years and during that time have won several Grammy Awards. Fronted by David Hidalgo and Cesar Rosas they burned for well over an hour and finished with a sizzling version of their cover of the Richie Valens classic “La Bamba”.

As the sun set over the park, a feeling of expectation filled the air. When Lyle Lovett walked onstage, the crowd erupted into a round of applause. For the next ninety minutes, Lyle kept us captivated with his own special brand of country, western, blues, jazz, swing…well anyone who has ever seen Lyle in concert knows what I mean.

He and his Acoustic Band (as opposed to his Large Band) played songs from throughout his thirty year career and no one kept their seats.