photography from the ground up

My Few Of My Favorite Things

Wow! Another year fades into memory. I have spent the last couple weeks editing the images I’ve made in 2013 with the goal of culling my favorite dozen. Image editing for me is a labor of love; I have a connection to my work, so picking “the best” out of hundreds candidates is not an easy task.


I knew from the time I made this photo of a bull elk in my yard on January 3rd that I was setting a high standard for the rest of the year. Also, not only was it serendipitous, but the image was a departure from my usual wide angle landscapes. I had been feeling for some time that my work had been stagnating, so I resolved then and there to take it in  a new direction.


In early February, I ventured into an area along US 550 that I had been looking at as a shooting location for some time. I was drawn by some red sandstone pinnacles that were visible from the highway. As I walked toward them, I came across this old section of road that is slowly eroding, being reclaimed by natural forces. The scene made me realize how impermanent our impact on nature really is. In the end, this is the image that stood out above the others I made that day. Again: serendipity.


As the year progressed, I found myself revisiting some places I had been before. The image of the church on San Ildefonso Pueblo (a scene I had driven past countless times before) is more about the light than the subject matter. It is also a more visually compressed image than is usual for me due to my use of a longer focal length lens.

Little Warriors

Every year at the end of May–Memorial Day Weekend to be exact–the Pueblo of Jemez hosts the Starfeather Pow Wow. Hundreds of native dancers from across the country come to dance and compete. I made hundreds of images that weekend, but this portrait of two brothers stood out. They are dressed in “dog soldier” head-dresses, hair-pipe breastplates, and feather bustles, all made by their father. Just before I released the shutter, I told them to give me some attitude. I think they did a pretty good job.


Anyone who is familiar with my work, knows that I spend a great deal of time in the Rio Puerco Valley. It was near the middle of July and the rains had just started after several months of searing heat and cloudless skies when I made this image. There are many possible causes for this animal’s demise, but the location of its desiccated remains along a now rain-filled wash and the rain falling from a heavy sky tells an ironic story about the uncertainty of life in this harsh environment.


And speaking of harsh environments, the Bisti Wilderness in July can be a sobering place. The temperatures can soar to well over 100°F. I usually try to discourage clients from booking a photo tour during this time, but if the monsoons have started, it can be relatively pleasant and the cloudy skies lend a sense of drama to the scene. I made this image of one of my clients pondering the maze in the Brown Hoodoos section of the wilderness.


From a land of parched earth to a place where water is omni-present; my travels took me to Wisconsin in August. On a day-trip to Olbricht Botanical Gardens with my daughter, I made this image of the Thai Pagoda. Normally I steer clear of this kind of symmetry in a photograph, but the structure, and the entire environment seemed to demand it.


Autumn is the best time to be in the badlands, especially if the atmosphere cooperates. Even though the ground was soft and the washes were running from the rain, there were still cracks in the earth. It was as though the soil had a memory of the scorching it normally receives and refused to let go. After processing this image, I realized that it was best  to convert it to black and white.


During the months of  September and October I spent a great deal of time photographing the trains of the Cumbres-Toltec narrow-gauge railroad which runs from Chama, New Mexico to Antonito, Colorado. I spent every weekend for nearly a month chasing the trains and the fall colors. In the end, my favorite image had nothing to do with color and everything to do with the train, the track and the trestle.


To most people, in the US anyway, November means thanksgiving. For me it is my annual trip to Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge. Over the years, I have come to relish my time with the cranes, herons, geese, and other waterfowl that call the Bosque home during the winter months. Even though I have thousands of images of the birds flying, taking wing, landing, wading, eating, and doing whatever else it is that they do, I still managed to make two of my favorites there in 2013.


This first is obvious and familiar: a crane in the process of taking off from one of the ponds to fly to the fields where he will spend the day foraging. The second is a departure from my normal Bosque images, but one that illustrates the reason  that I keep returning year after year.


In December I travelled by train to visit my oldest daughter (an adventure I wrote about in my previous blog entry). Chicago’s Union Station was a surprise to me. I made several images inside the station and when I wandered out the doors to Canal Street, I found this scene. I was immediately drawn by the fact that while some of the elements had symmetry–there’s that word again–some didn’t. And of course the cherry-on-top: the wet pavement reflecting the lights and columns.

23 responses

  1. Impressive collection, the deer is magnificent!


    January 2, 2014 at 10:22 am

  2. Well done……Great photo’s.


    January 2, 2014 at 11:20 am

  3. Doug

    Magnificent work, love them all!


    January 2, 2014 at 12:22 pm

  4. Great collection of photo’s!
    The 4th photo in very interesting.


    January 2, 2014 at 2:31 pm

  5. Awesome job!


    January 3, 2014 at 3:57 am

  6. franzisofie

    Amazing photos! Although I don’t like the one with the dead sheep 🙂 But the rest is really interesting!


    January 3, 2014 at 4:17 am

  7. maru clavier

    Wonderful selection!


    January 3, 2014 at 6:40 am

  8. wildwear

    Love the variety in your photos. Must be lovely looking back and having memories from these stunning photos.


    January 3, 2014 at 12:50 pm

  9. Wonderful display of impeccable photographs, one after another. And interesting to hear about your process. Thank you.


    January 4, 2014 at 6:58 pm

  10. Amazing photos 🙂


    January 6, 2014 at 3:55 am

  11. You’ve chosen an outstanding set of images Jim – many of which I’ve seen as I’ve followed you this past year, but it was great to see them again anyway! My favorite of your captures is the two young boys and their “attitude”! although the shot with your client overlooking the vast terrain is a close second! Keep up the great work and all the best for 2014!


    January 6, 2014 at 7:13 pm

  12. Your photos are stunning! I can’t pick a favorite! But the little boys have wonderful attitude! New Mexico and Colorado are two of my favorite states…I’ve spent much time in each one. 🙂
    Carolyn 🙂


    January 7, 2014 at 11:46 pm

  13. Great images all of them. I like your color tones.


    January 10, 2014 at 6:42 am

  14. What gorgeous photos!


    January 11, 2014 at 9:38 am

  15. Alissa Kirkwood

    These are absolutely stunning, I wish could take photos as good as these 😀


    January 12, 2014 at 9:35 am

  16. Your images are very dramatic


    February 26, 2014 at 10:51 am

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