photography from the ground up

Posts tagged “hand of man

The Ancient Ones-Canyon de Chelly

Canyon de Chelly is unique in many ways. It is the only National Park that is contained entirely within a separate sovereign nation: the Navajo Reservation. It is administered by the Park Service, but access is controlled by the Navajo people. There have been people occupying Canyon de Chelly since the days of the Anasazi, making it one of the oldest, continuously inhabited settlements on the North American continent. Members of the Navajo Nation still live and farm the fertile canyon floor, but it has also been home to the ancient Puebloans, and the Hopis.

This first image was made from an overlook on the north rim. It is the point where Canyon del Muerto and Black Rock Canyon meet – Canyon de Chelly National Park  is actually made up of several canyons, the two main ones being Canyon de Chelly and Canyon del Muerto.

There are many ruins within the Park, some are located right on the canyon floor like the Antelope House Ruins, which are located at the base of a towering sandstone wall that served as a huge heat sink in the winter.  It was inhabited between about 850-1270 CE, and contains about 90 rooms. The remnants of several kivas can be seen in the bottom center of the image. They appear as distinct round structures.

Other ruins are situated high on the walls of the canyon. The Mummy Cave Ruins are located on a shelf which is nestled in a cave three hundred feet above the canyon floor. It is believed to have been continuously inhabited for over a thousand years. Its name comes from the many well preserved burials discovered at the site.

This last image is a view down Canyon del Muerto from the Massacre Cave Overlook. I realize that, visually, it is a bit confusing, but I was attempting to show the complex structure of the rock strata and this location seemed to be the best place to achieve that.

This was a drive-by shooting so to speak. anyone who is familiar with Canyon de Chelly will realize that these images were all taken from the North Rim. I plan to return soon to shoot the other side of the Park. So, look for Vol. 2 in the near future.


The Road And The Sky-Vol. II

When I was a much younger man, I spent a great deal of time standing by the side of a road with my thumb in the air spurred on by the likes of Jack Kerouac and Edward Abbey. Some of those roads were paved and four lanes wide; some were dirt or gravel and you couldn’t really tell how many lanes wide they were. I guess it really didn’t matter as long as they seemed endless.

These days I’m somewhat tamer in my ways, but I still get a feeling of expectancy when I look through the windshield and see nothing but the road, the sky, and a wide open or unknown landscape. Until recently, however, I would not allow the hand of man to enter the world of my landscape photography, so the roads were banished.

Now that I’ve overcome my phobia of including anything that smacks of man in an image, I am free to express my love of the open road in my photography. As I’ve mentioned in an earlier post, I am working on a project; I am making images of highways and byways as I travel around on my photo excursions. I hope to accumulate enough good photographs to publish a book. The images in this post are ones that have made the cut; some have been displayed in previous posts, but most of those have been re-worked to bring them up to snuff.

My expectations of my own work have been becoming higher lately and because of that, I have been forced to either discard or re-process images that I was, at one time, happy with. Evolution.

The only down side to all this road photography is that I seem to be spending a lot of time standing or kneeling in the middle of some very busy highways. Most of the time though, I’m on a road like Indian Rte. 13 or NM 16 which see very little traffic.

And, at other times, I find myself on unpaved roads such as BLM 1103 in the Rio Puerco Valley, or small access roads like the one in the photo of the Shiprock Lava Dike below where I could stand for hours or even days without being in danger of becoming road kill.

No matter if it’s a paved four lane or an unpaved ranch road, the idea is to get on down the road, maybe to a place where you’ve never been before, and that’s where the magic lies.


The Fallen

I made this image at the Santa Fe National Cemetery. I’ll just allow the image to speak for itself.


A Desert Rat’s Journal-Chapter 2

Being a desert rat in New Mexico is a full time job; there are so many places to polish your craft. One of my favorites is the Rio Puerco Valley. The Rio Puerco is a mostly dry riverbed that winds its way through some spectacular country on its way to join the Rio Grande.

This is the view looking south from BLM Rte.1114. It is a primordial landscape, dotted with volcanic cones and with the addition of a stormy sky, it becomes a journey to the time of dinosaurs if you disregard the cattle-guard in the foreground.

One of the things you can find without too much trouble (unfortunately) is trash. It comes in all shapes and sizes. This piece of culvert, with catch basin attached, is the extra large variety. It lies slowly rusting into the earth with Cerro Cuate as a silent witness.

There is also an abundance of old tires in the valley. They can be found serving as containers at watering holes, on the roofs of old trailers, or as in this case,  ornamental artwork hung on a cattle-guard.

But, regardless of the trash, cattle, and other abrasive signs of man, there is much beauty to be found in this unique landscape. I will soon be adding The Rio Puerco to my High Desert Photo Tours line-up.

I made this last image from an overlook near Cerro Cuate. There are no rock walls or steel stanchions at this overlook, so you must be careful. In a place like this, the buzzards will find you long before a rescuer.


Shiprock-The Big Plug

New Mexico is a geologic wonderland. Much of the earth is laid bare by erosion, both wind and water sculpt the land removing the softer material and leaving the harder stuff to stand as enormous monuments to a time long past. Shiprock in the northwestern corner of the state is what remains of a volcano that erupted about twenty-seven million years ago. It now stands at a height of nearly sixteen hundred feet above the flatlands which surround it. The monolith is sacred to the Navajo people and it plays a large part in some of their creation stories.

I made this first image as we approached Shiprock from the west. I saw this as a great addition to my byways project; it also puts Shiprock in perspective in relation to its surroundings. The plain stretches for miles in all directions and the great volcanic plug is virtually the only-and certainly the biggest-thing to break the horizon.

As we got a little closer, there was a herd of ponies grazing peacefully with Shiprock in the background. Close by stood a trailer with a small addition. I assume these horses belong to whomever lives there. What a great backyard!

This last image was made after we drove through the breech in the largest lava dike. It is one of six that run for miles in all directions away from the central column. These dikes were underground lava tubes at the time of the eruption, they now stand high above the ground, like Shiprock itself, exposed by time and the elements


Give Me A Dramatic Sky

If you’re a landscape photographer, there is nothing worse or more boring than a clear blue sky. Don’t get me wrong, I love a crisp autumn day with cerulean skies as well as the next person, but when I’m out making images, I want some drama from above.

Luckily, here in New Mexico, we get nearly as many days with stormy skies as we do with clear ones. I have always been deeply affected by the weather; when the barometer drops and the sky closes in, I get gooseflesh and I’m out the door with my camera and tripod.

The first two images were made in the Rio Puerco Valley which is quickly becoming one of my favorite places to photograph. There are over fifty volcanic plugs, wide vistas, and beautiful stormy skies. The color photograph above is of the Rio Puerco, a (mostly) dry river for which the Valley is named.

This last image was made near the small village of Torreon, NM. I had driven past these ruins many times, but on this day something told me to stop. The result was several good photographs, this being my favorite of the bunch.

So, the next time you see a storm brewing, grab your gear and head out to make some images. Oh, and you might want to bring a raincoat.


In Praise Of Ruins

One of the nice things about living in a dry climate is: things are preserved. They are not washed back to the earth as quickly as they might be in a wetter climate. The desert southwest is famous for its ruins, not only those of the Anasazi, or Ancient Ones, but also of cultures that are more recent. I spend a lot of time making photographs in the desert where I come across a ruin on just about every trip. They may not be as famous as Pueblo Bonito at Chaco Canyon, but they speak of the past nonetheless.

Usually these locations are single dwellings, the remnants of someone’s dream slowly being reclaimed by the earth, but sometimes they are entire villages or settlements that were thriving communities, but are now nothing more than abandoned piles of crumbling adobe and rotting wood. The first two images are of ruins in the Rio Puerco Valley in north-central New Mexico

Many of the more well known and much older sites are of Native American origin. Pueblo Pintado is an outlier of Chaco Canyon and was inhabited from around 900-1250 CE. The image below shows one of the kivas in the foreground and the Great House behind it. The people who lived here were the forebears of the modern day pueblo people

Whenever I am in one of these places, I am overcome by a feeling of kinship with the people who lived and died there. I find myself wondering who they were and what they did to sustain themselves. What were their names? Why did these places fail and fall prey to time and the weather? In many cases, such as the ranching communities in the Rio Puerco Valley, it was overgrazing that forced the inhabitants out. In places like Pueblo Pintado or Mesa Verde, it is thought that drought played a large part in their demise.

This last image is one of twenty-three kivas in the Cliff Palace which was the largest cliff dwelling in North America. It housed about one hundred people in 150 rooms. There are close to six hundred cliff dwellings in Mesa Verde National Park.


Take Your Camera

One of the first things I tell my beginning digital photography students is:“Always have a camera with you!”. I can’t begin to tell you how many times I have come across a wonderful scene and, without a camera, could only stand there and appreciate it. Not a bad thing, but as a photographer…!!!

I was driving into town for groceries-a sixty mile drive for me-and this scene unfolded along US Hwy. 550. I stood on the shoulder and waited until traffic cleared so I could make this image. Sometimes the light and the conditions combine to create a scene that may never happen again in exactly the same way. Be ready when that happens.

This image was made in a friend’s driveway. I was visiting him and noticed these leaves lying on the snow. I was drawn by the way they were nestled together and slightly embedded into the snow . I was taking my own advice that day and had a camera with me. The next time I visited him the leaves and the snow were gone.

This last image was made while I was driving from Albuquerque to Los Alamos to teach one of my classes. Just south of Santa Fe, these tracks cross under 1-25. I had gotten off the freeway and driven down the frontage road to the bridge over the tracks. I made several exposures of them from different points of view and was climbing up the bank to where my car was parked when I heard the whistle. The Southwest Chief (Amtrak), on it’s run from Chicago to Albuquerque was rounding the bend through the cut in La Bajada.

The point of these anecdotes is to illustrate the importance of being prepared. If you are in the right place at the right time armed with a camera a whole new world of possibilities opens up. To paraphrase Jack London: “You can’t wait for opportunity, you have to go after it with a club”.


The Bones Of The Image

Sorry about the bad pun, but this seemed like the perfect image to drive home the idea that black and white photographs are more about the structure, tones, lines, and shapes of the photograph, whereas a color image can distract from those basics.

All of the various skeletal segments in the left foreground create lines into the image; they all lead the eye in about the same direction-towards the mesas in the background. The eye then should travel in a kind of spiral: up to the clouds and then back down to the distant double peaked mountain. The focal point (hopefully) is the carcass; the lack of color in the (blue) sky, and the (yellow-ish) grasses means that there is nothing to distract the viewer’s eye from it.

I made this image last year on a trip to the Bisti Wilderness. I had some luck with the atmospheric conditions that day and came away with several very good photographs. This one of the Bisti Arch is one of the best from that outing, and while I think the color version is pretty strong, I feel the black and white conversion says more about what I was seeing and feeling when I captured the image.

Also, the second image has more dynamic tonality;  the saturated colors in the first capture the viewer’s attention, but the rich tones in the monochrome version say more about the structure of both the formation and the composition of the image.


Black and White!

Forty years ago when I purchased my first SLR camera-a Nikkormat FTN that I still have-I immersed myself in the world of black and white photography. Naturally, one of my heroes was, and still is, Ansel Adams. I learned how to develop film and make acceptable black and white prints from the negatives. I was hooked.

Fast forward to the present day: Photography has changed in ways no one could have imagined in that long gone time when a computer was still a large room-sized machine with unknown purpose and potential. Most of my work since switching from film to digital has been color landscapes. The portraits I have made are also (mostly) in color. Why? The answer is twofold: First, I lost that connection and, with it, the ability to visualize the scene and the image in the frame of my viewfinder in black and white. And, I just could not make a black and white print that matched those that slowly emerged from the developer under that red safelight. Granted, some of the shortcoming was due to my lack of expertise, but much of it had to do with the inability of the available technology to make an acceptable conversion

Recently, however, I have been re-connecting with that which I had lost in terms of visualizing my images in monochrome, and, with the ongoing development of new and better software, I find that I can once again produce a black and white or toned print that lives up to my expectations. Once again I can get excited about a black and white image the way I used to.

This image was made on a lonely highway in northern New Mexico. A storm was rapidly approaching from the south and the heavy clouds added to the feeling of desolation in the scene. The arrow-straight road with the mountains in the distance suggests a lack of any creature comforts. Even the rough texture of the road and the dark silhouette of the tree compound the sense of total isolation.

I did not pre-visualize this image as a black and white photograph. I like the way it looks in color, but I decided to experiment with it. I used Silver Efex Pro to do the conversion and I am very happy with the results. I think stripping the color adds even more to the bleakness of the scene. It lays bare the basic elements and structure of the image. Sometimes making a change in your pattern can help you to revitalize your passion and creativity. Even something as simple (or as complicated) as returning to your roots can breathe new life into your work.

This final image was made in the Mesa de Cuba badlands in the San Juan basin of northwestern New Mexico. It is a three image exposure fusion which I then converted to a sepia toned image in Silver Efex Pro. What caught my eye when I first happened upon this scene was the almost visceral appearance of the erosion channels. It had just snowed and the thirsty ground was sucking the moisture from the newly-fallen snow emphasizing the tonal contrast between the channels and the surrounding earth. At first I was concerned that it may be a little over the top in terms of the tonality, but I realized that I was merely presenting the scene as I had interpreted it. In the end, that’s what matters. Be true to your vision and you will evolve as an artist.


A Friendly Ghost (Town)

I have been spending a lot of time in the Rio Puerco Valley lately. One of the big attractions (for me anyway) is the ghost town of Guadalupe, NM. The main road through the valley, County Road 279, runs right through the middle of it. Guadalupe is not much at first glance: a number of ruined adobe houses, one of them a large two story, and what’s left of a church. Oh, and an outhouse right on the side of the road.

But, if you stop and explore the place, you begin to notice the little things that give some clues about the people who lived here when it was a thriving ranching community back in the early part of the last century: niches in the crudely plastered adobe walls, candles, crosses on the walls. In one house, there is an eerie scene: a bed with the covers turned down, a shirt and hat hanging on the wall as if the occupants just stepped out to tend the sheep. I suspect that whomever these things belonged to was a more recent resident of Guadalupe, perhaps someone who was just squatting here and then vanished like those who came before.

When I stand amidst the ruins and look around at the horizon (which is broken by volcanic cones), and the broad swath of the Rio Puerco, I wonder what it was that drew these people to such a harsh land. I know that it was overgrazing which caused them to eventually abandon the place. Places such as this are fragile. Anyone who attempts to make a living off the land  must do so in a measured way, or they will likely be driven out leaving small clues to their presence for some future wandering photographer to ponder.


The Road And The Sky

In keeping with my fascination with our connection to, and impact on the natural world, I have been making road images. There was a time not too long ago when I would go to great lengths to keep anything that smacked of the human hand out of my photographs. But, I have come to realize that it’s not really necessary to hide the things that we have “contributed” to the landscape. An open road in a remote location can create a powerful resonance in the human psyche, and so I hope that this realization can contribute to my ongoing, and (hopefully) never-ending growth as an artist.

This first image was made on US  64 west of Taos, NM, a few miles beyond the Taos Gorge Bridge. The atmospheric conditions were incredibly dramatic and that long stretch of empty highway was looking like the road to infinity. I love the possibilities that are implied by that vanishing point!.

Here is another photograph that suggests the same hope (or fear) as the first image. Sandoval County Road 279 runs south off NM 44 about eighteen miles north of San Ysidro. For nine miles or so it is paved. A short distance beyond the village of San Luis, it turns to dirt and continues past the ghost town of Cabezon and through the Rio Puerco Valley. This is a desolate part of the world, but in such places my spirit is renewed.

And finally here is an image of BLM Road 1103 which splits off County Road 279 close to Cabezon. From this point, it crosses the Rio Puerco and continues on past Cerro Santa Clara and Cerro Guadalupe, and then farther south along the eastern edge of the Rio Puerco. These roads whether paved or dirt give us access to the places that quench our thirst for wilderness, and for all those unknown destinations we have seen only in our dreams.


The Human Element

In my last post, I commented on how we, as a species, are responsible for the degradation of our environment, and how we are the only species that has the capability to affect such an assault. That being said, I would also like to acknowledge our status as a part of the natural world in which we live. We need only accept our place to begin a process by which we become more attuned to the ebb and flow of the cycles that are a necessary part of life on our wondrous planet.

It occurs to me that since we really are one with the world around us, why should I as a photographer of nature be reluctant to include the human element in my images. After all, I have photographed people in natural settings for environmental portraits. So, it is a short leap to accept the subjects of those portraits as elements of the landscape they inhabit, rather than taking the opposite view that the scene is just a backdrop for the portrait.

This first image is one that I made several years ago. I was photographing a friend of mine who wanted some photos for her website. Halli is a yoga instructor, so I immediately visualized what became this image of her in a half lotus pose with this wonderful waterfall behind her. The waterfall, the whole environment, is certainly more than just a backdrop here. It is an integral part of the image; it suggests the power inherent in our connection to the natural world, if we can just be receptive. The technical challenge here was to have Halli remain still through the long exposure required to render the moving water as a silky curtain. Luckily, due to her training, she had no problem remaining focused and still while the shutter was open.

This image was made at Ghost Ranch near Abiquiu, NM. Robin and I were out exploring the area and she disappeared into this cabin. I noticed her moving around inside and asked her to pose in the window. The missing pane served as a frame and the glass in the remaining panes reflected the surrounding landscape. The result is a portrait that not only captures her essence, but also reveals the source of her tranquility in this moment.


Abandoned In The Wilderness

The Cabezon Wilderness Study Area is a wild and beautiful place in north-central New Mexico. There are endless vistas dominated by volcanic plugs; there are deep cut channels of the Rio Puerco and its many tributaries; there are ruins of a long deserted Chacoan outlier; and there are roadside dumps where someone, at some time, decided that he or she could improve on the scenery by leaving what they no longer treasured to bake in the sun.

I assume that some of the trash that has been left here was discarded by former residents of the area–there are numerous small ranches and ruins of many more that are now slowly making their way back to the earth. The ruins will probably disappear long before the abandoned refrigerators, stoves, culverts, and other artifacts of human habitation that litter the landscape. Maybe we should just learn to accept it. After all it’s human nature to defile the only home we have. No other species has the means, the desire, or the audacity to deface and pollute the earth.

We already have become accustomed to such degradation-and perhaps we  even expect it-in the cities and towns where we gather and live in great numbers, but is it really necessary to leave traces of our arrogance in the wild places where our presence is, or should be, but a whisper?


Pueblo Bonito Re-visited

The first time I visited Pueblo Bonito in Chaco Canyon, I was overwhelmed by a sense of gratitude. I felt such a connection to the people who built this amazing place, and I silently thanked them for building it strong enough to withstand the ravages of time so I could stand in awe of their craftsmanship a thousand years later. This first image was made at the southeast corner of the pueblo.

Pueblo Bonito is the largest of a number of Greathouses in Chaco Canyon built by the ancestors of the present-day pueblo people of northern New Mexico. At the time it was built, the Anasazi’s territory covered a large area which spanned the entire Four Corners region. Chaco Canyon contained several pueblos, and is thought to have been a gathering place for religious ceremony and trading. Pueblo Bonito may have been used to house visitors as well as a large population of the local people. It was four to five stories high in some places, contained nearly eight hundred rooms, and was capable of accommodating  several thousand.

This is an image of one of the thirty seven kivas in Pueblo Bonito; two of them, the great kivas, were used for ceremony. The rest were used as gathering places, similar to our present-day family or living rooms. They were, for the most part, constructed underground –the word kiva means “world below”, and had roofs constructed of vigas, latillas, and mud. Access was by means of a ladder through an opening in the roof.

This image shows a section of the long, curving back wall of the complex. The builders who designed Pueblo Bonito used core and veneer architectural techniques, making the walls of the lower levels up to three feet thick.  These massive walls were capable of supporting more levels above as the structure grew in size over the centuries.

This last image was made from the top of the mesa behind the pueblo; it shows the entire complex, and the semi-circular design of the structure. The center wall divided the whole into two symmetrical halves, and was a design element in many of the pueblos of this era.

Sometime around 1150 CE, the ancient people began to migrate away from the area. Their sudden disappearance is attributed to several factors, including: climate change, topsoil degradation, and pressure from other cultures.¹

1. Wikipedia contributors. “Ancient Pueblo Peoples.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 9 Mar. 2011. Web. 10 Mar. 2011.


The Rio Puerco Valley

The Rio Puerco begins its journey to the Rio Grande high in the Nacimiento Mountains of northwestern New Mexico. Its course wanders through San Pedro Parks and the Santa Fe National Forest before leaving public lands near the village of Cuba. From there it follows the western edge of the Jemez Mountains past the village of San Luis, the ghost town of Cabezon, and Cabeon Peak. This first image was made along County Road 279 between San Luis and Cabezon.

The Rio Puerco is an ephemeral flow; most of the time there is no moving water in the deep arroyo that has been carved out over the ages. When there is enough water to fill the stream, it is usually a muddy brown from the sediment being carried by the “ flood”. I made this image after heavy rains transformed the channel at the place where BLM road 1114 crosses the Rio Puerco west of Cabezon Peak. It is my first attempt at HDR imaging; it may be a little over the top for some tastes, but I still like the effect.

A little farther south from this point, the Rio Puerco meanders past Cerro Cuate, and turns to the south. It is here that the river begins its journey through the Cabezon Wilderness Area. As the road begins to drop down to the edge of the wash, there is an expansive view of the valley with Cabezon on the left, and several other mesas and lesser peaks in the distance.

From here the road crosses the Rio Puerco and continues south following the course of the streambed, which, in places is more than a mile across. Several miles beyond the river crossing is the ghost town of Guadalupe, which thrived as a farming and ranching community from the early 1900’s through the 1950s, but drought and overgrazing forced the inhabitants to leave the area. Now all that remains are some dilapidated adobe ruins and some weathered corrals.

About three miles beyond the town, high on a mesa are the Guadalupe Ruins. There are about twenty rooms and three kivas at a location which commands a broad view of the valley to the north and the south. This was an outlier of the Anasazi Chacoan complex which thrived in the area from around 900–1150 CE. Like the people who inhabited the town of Guadalupe, the Chacoan people were also driven out by drought and resource depletion.

If you choose to visit this remarkable place, remember to respect the land and the people who have lived here: take only photographs, leave only footprints.


Stone Echoes

This image shows some of the the amazing stone work at Chetro Ketl in Chaco Canyon. Seen against the backdrop of the canyon walls, it is not hard to imagine a bustling city with people going about their daily lives. It is also easy to see how the Anasazi took some of their building techniques from the world around them. These stone walls, some up to two feet thick, and interwoven, created an impregnable barrier to weather and enemy alike. They also provided a solid base for the two upper stories. In all, Chtro Ketl is thought to have contained 550 rooms in a complex that covered almost three acres.


Kiva At Pueblo Bonito

This an image of one of the kivas in Pueblo Bonito at Chaco Canyon. The literal translation of the word kiva is “world below”. It is thought that they served as gathering places. Some of the smaller kivas may have served as living areas, and the larger ones as sacred places for religious ceremonies. There are thirty-seven kivas in Pueblo Bonito alone, and well over a hundred in Chaco Canyon. The largest at Casa Rinconada is 19 meters in diameter, and has a window which is aligned with the rising sun on the summer solstice. The light from the window shines on a recessed niche in the opposite wall. This is just one of the amazingly accurate architectural/archeological features found in Chaco Canyon.


The Greathouse at Pueblo Pintado

This is an image of the Greathouse at Pueblo Pintado. When it was occupied, and the Chacoan culture thrived, it was three stories high, and contained 135 rooms. The entire structure was composed of two wings which were at right angles to one another, each one being about 200 feet long, and joined by a semi-circular row of rooms which enclosed a courtyard. There was also a large kiva southeast of the main building, and another structure to the west of that.

Pueblo Pintado, as I stated in my previous entry, was part of the larger Chacoan complex which flourished in the center of New Mexico’s San Juan Basin from around 900–1250CE. The people who built it were the Anasazi, the ancestors of the present day pueblo people of the desert southwest.


Pueblo Pintado Kiva

Last Sunday Robin and I took a drive out through the village of San Luis, and then on through Torreon, and finally to Pueblo Pintado. Pueblo Pintado is located about thirty miles southeast of Chaco Canyon. It was actually an outlying village, and a part of the Chaco culture which thrived in northwesten New Mexico around a thousand years ago.

Both Chaco and Pueblo Pintado are characterized by the intricate, tightly fit stone work of the buildings. Many of the walls are still standing even though they are situated on a ridge with high exposure to wind and weather. This image shows the ceremonial kiva and the walls of the great house beyond. As I have mentioned before, when I stand amidst the ruins of an ancient culture, there is a profound feeling of connection with the people who lived there that comes over me. I try to imagine what it was like to live here at that time, and to be a part of a long forgotten way of life.


Road To Cabezon

Yesterday I set out with with no particular destination in mind. As I turned north on 550, I thought I might try to get a good shot of Cabezon from the highway. When I got to that stretch of road the sky was overcast, the light flat, so I pushed on, and turned on the road to San Luis and Cabezon.

As I got closer, and the great neck of lava grew larger, I decided to go all the way to the parking area. I was driving my car which has very little clearance, so I wasn’t sure I could make it. Sure enough, the road began to get rougher, so when I saw this two track leading off to the left I stopped. I had to play a waiting game with the sun which was obscured by the overcast. As it got lower in the sky, the light began to soften. I made some exposures, and this image is the best of the lot.

Equipment: Nikon D700, Nikon 17–35 mm 2.8 zoom lens, circular polarizer, Bogen tripod.

Camera Settings: f22, 1/15th sec., ISO 100


Valles Caldera Storm

This image was made at the Valles Caldera. The Valles is a large meadow created by the collapse of an ancient volcano. For years it was private land, a part of the 89,000 acre Baca ranch. In 2000 the federal government bought the ranch; it is now public land, protected from development, for now at least.

I made this image one day on my way home from Los Alamos. I have photographed this scene numerous times, but never with a more dramatic sky.

Equipment: Nikon D300, Nikon 17–35 mm f2.8 lens, circular polarizer, Bogen tripod

Camera Settings: f 14, 1/125th sec., ISO 400

Processing: Contrast, clarity, vibrance, and saturation adjustments in Adobe Lightroom, curves adjustments, and RAW conversion in Photoshop


Ojito Petroglyphs

These petroglyphs are the most extensive in the Ojito Wilderness. This is just one of several panels which are scattered along the edge of a mesa in the southeast corner of the wilderness. I had seen photographs of them, and heard about them, but research into their whereabouts was sketchy. It’s like an unwritten rule that you have to work a little to find them. That’s as it should be. When I stepped onto the ledge where they are inscribed, I felt a sense of accomplishment; I didn’t exactly stumble upon them, but no one showed me the way.

The petroglyphs are estimated to be about one thousand years old. I try to imagine an artist from that time using his tools to etch these stories into the rock. The landscape was probably not much different than it is today, and as I stood there looking out across the land to the west, I felt a connection to him. Through his drawings, I caught a glimpse of a fellow man long departed from this world.

Equipment: Nikon D200, Nikkor 17–35 mm f2.8 zoom lens, circular polarizer, Bogen tripod.

Camera Settings: f 16, 1/20th sec., ISO 100

Processing: White balance, contrast, clarity, vibrance, and saturation adjustments in Adobe Lightroom, curves and RAW conversion in Photoshop.


Thistle Stop

Thistle Stop

Tumbleweeds (Russian Thistle) piled against a barbed wire fence, with a far–off horizon in the background. If it weren’t for that fence, who knows where those damn tumbleweeds would be by now!

There was a time when I would go out of my way to exclude a fence from an image, but fences are a part of the landscape, and sometimes they can evoke emotions. So, I guess in many ways they can be considered works of art.

This image was made on the same day as I made “County Road 5728”. It is a bit further up Hwy. 550 from Lybrook. I struggled with the color version of this for days, but was not satisfied with the results, so I did a B&W conversion, and I like this version much better.

Equipment: Nikon D200, Nikon 17–35mm f2.8 zoom lens, circular polarizer.

Processing: Exposure, contrast, clarity, and vibrance in Lightroom, Curves and B&W conversion in Photoshop.