Sunday, December 27, 2015

Finding Meaning

Cuba and his Mauser EspaƱa on December 26, 2014.

Ferreting out the best or most memorable photographs from the thousands taken in any year is a daunting pursuit at best. But then curating a show of your own work is a fool’s errand, a little like being your own lawyer. Still that’s what’s required if you want to take a short look back.

Arguably the story of the year was the sheep herder Victor Hernandez, whom you know as Cuba, and his flock of wooly critters.

For all intents, the story began a year ago Saturday, December 26, 2014 when we chanced upon Cuba on the Taos Plateau. That moment launched me into a 2015 of following the sheep from pasture to pen, from shearing and lambing and back to the plateau and the mountains. The story had enriched my life greatly and has been, along with my series on the Japanese-American Internment Camps, the most commented on subject of the last several years.

The sheep story itself is represented by thousands of images. The three I’ve selected may not be the best of the lot but have the greatest emotional heft to me.

Bottle feeding a "penco" or orphan lamb.

Patron Andrew Abeyta and an orphan sheep during lambing on a raw March day in which 26 ewes died.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Introspective Retrospective

White Sage and Borregos, Taos Plateau

A couple of things happened. I was thinking of posting of the year’s more memorable images according to me. Then Rick Romancito the editor of the Taos News Tempo Magazine laid down the gauntlet for something called the Challenge on Nature Photography wherein the nominated photographer has to post a nature photograph and nominate a new photographer for seven consecutive days. I accepted the challenge and for my first act in office posted White Sage and Borregos which may be my favorite of 2015. That’s the first one in this post followed by its esteemed colleagues Four Year Drought Motif and Singular As A Snowflake.

The nature photography challenge coupled with the task of looking back at several thousand images to find the best photographs of 2015 was instructive and, I hope, worthwhile.

Four Year Drought Motif, California Central Valley

Singular As A Snowflake, San Simeon Beach

As luck would have it these three fall into both categories, nature and best as I see it. Patterns abound.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Still Seeing Red

An homage to Lenny Foster's Healing Hands series

Red has reared its pretty head and won’t go away. These images feature the color red in various incantations, some new and some seasoned veterans. I, too, am a well seasoned number but more of pinky beige.

My friend Marti Belcher, an extraordinary photographer, commented on my last post that red is her favorite color. Daryl Black, who has been victimized on these very pages, published red images on her Monday post. And there's an exhibition called “Color It Red” curated by yet another friend, Tim Anderson, who has red on the brain, too. It’s a veritable epidemic.

To the pantheon of red images I offer varying proportions of the passionate hue:

A spot of red on a Monhegan Island lobsterman's cottage

How much is that doggy in the window? San Miguel de Allende

Street art, Santa Fe Railyard

Sunday, December 06, 2015

Still More Still Life, The Red Issue

Continuing the still life theme here are a couple of items from my famed red motif. Note the tones of the apples and the harvest table. So very coordinated. As last week these come from the Dixon Studio Tour in November. Both table and fruit are courtesy of furniture maker Rob Stout whose lovely abode caresses the Rio Grande in bucolic Rinconada, NM.

Apples on a Rob Stout harvest table

How 'bout them apples

And a little something extra from the red school of thinking.

Candy Apple Red

Sunday, November 29, 2015

The Talented Mr.Tyrrell

The one and only Al Tyrrell.

We’re big fans of Al Tyrrell’s stoneware. The Dixon, NM potter creates functional ceramics that are simple, earthy and feather light. Al’s cups are the only ones I use for my morning coffee. I have one for every day of the week, maybe more. Every year during the Dixon Studio Tour we visit his studio so we can add to our stash of Tyrrell pottery and to buy Christmas gifts for friends. It’s a true fall tradition.

From previous visits I knew Al had studied in Northern Arizona University’s noted ceramics program but didn’t know until this visit that he dropped out of NAU to work with Rose Naranjo in Taos and to apprentice with Willard Spence.That's when his current studio became available. He took the leap and some forty years later continues to throw his marvelous cups, bowls, plates, pitchers and colanders. Love the stuff.

Potsherds adorning a corrugated roof to ward aways birds.

Lustrous Tyrell pitchers on the seconds shelf.

The aforementioned pitchers in toned black and white. Which do you favor?

Sunday, November 22, 2015

It's Still Life

When I boarded the D train back in 2002 I was heading to Chamonix with my buddy Ian Cruickshank for a ski safari This tale has nothing whatsoever to with skiing but my $8,000 purchase of my Canon 1Ds was prompted by the trip. Surely this camera among cameras would make me a better skier. Either that or I'm confusing my sports.

Upon returning to the states, my first attempt at developing a photographic theme was one I called Studies and Abstractions. They were essentially still lifes, objects photographed close up and that I saw as little design projects. Then, as now, designing the image was the thing. And doing it in the viewfinder was the heart of the craft, no cropping. What I see is what I get.

Maybe ten years ago I took an advanced Photoshop class from John Paul Caponigro who informed me that still life was my milieu and that I was, shall we say, lacking in the landscape department. As you might predict I found recognition as a landscape photographer.

Anyway last week's post of the lowly wire took me back to the lady I came I with, the still life. 

This may last awhile, years even.

Stay tuned.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Rudimentary, my dear Watson.

This elegant number comes from my Sketches of Winter series.

There aren’t many things more basic and unartful than the thin strands of metal we call wire. The functional material keeps critters out, binds things together and hangs our art from walls. In itself it’s the essence of unimportance. Straight, bent or barbed the stuff is all around us yet pretty much unnoticed, till it is.

Resting on the sand of the the Topaz Internment Camp near Delta , Utah this coil of rusted wire bears testament to a tragedy.

This wire is part of a larger motif, that of fences, gates and corrals. It's an iconic western theme if ever there was one.

These twists of wire reside on a fence at Rancho de las Golondrinas southwest of Santa Fe.

Some enterprising soul stapled these mattress coils to the side of a building in Rinconada. This was featured in the Singular Image issue of  Black and White magazine back in 2010.
Some of these may appear familiar. They're not exactly new but haven't been presented a series so what the heck. We'll call it Straight, Bent or Barbed.

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Back to San Antone

As I was finishing breakfast on Tuesday the phone rang. It was an Alamosa, Colorado number that I didn’t recognize at first. When I answered it was Andrew Abeyta telling me that the sheep were on the way to San Antonio Mountain from Mogote at that very moment. He said “They’ll be there by noon. The trailer will be on the west side of 285 and on the north side of San Antone.” I tossed it around for about three seconds and said, “I’ll be there.”

I threw together a cheese, salami and apple lunch, poured myself a roadie of coffee and set off, figuring an hour to get there. As I headed north on 285 and came abreast of the mountain I began looking for signs of Andrew, Victor and the sheep. Just across from Victor’s usual site between two hills on the Taos Plateau I saw a shimmering object that I thought was trailer, but no sheep. I proceeded to the Colorado border and still no sheep. I went back to find the trailer and this time found a rutted path to the shoulder of Mount San Antonio, took it toward the mountain and found Andrew setting up the trailer for Cuba.

I parked the Pilot out of the picture and walked to the trailer. He greeted me and predicted, “Cuba should be coming over the hill anytime.” I followed him over the rise and we scanned the horizon for the herder and sheep. After five minutes or so Andrew exclaimed. “There he is. He’s wearing an orange hat.” And, indeed, a single figure and 365 wooly bulges spread across the llano.

The figures came closer and closer as Cuba trailed the sheep around the hill below us. Andrew brought a trough and filled it with salt. “The sheep will really want this after walking eight miles.” The moment they arrived they attacked the salt then wandered down to the pond below for refreshment. Andrew told me, “In the winter they don’t drink much. Maybe every two days. Besides they eat snow. When it’s hot they need a lot of water. Having water already here saves a lot of money. Otherwise I have to bring it every day.”

While the sheep drank their fill, Andrew and Cuba went about setting up the propane generator and connecting electrical to the campo before driving down to the pond so Cuba could be sure every sheep was accounted for.

Sunday, November 01, 2015


I first heard of Ocate during a one person show in Fort Collins back in 2010. Quite by chance the noted equine photographer Tony Stromberg was having an opening the same night. It was a drizzly April evening with very little action so I found myself wandering back and forth between my show and Tony’s. He did the same. In a snippet of conversation Tony described the horse sanctuary that he managed and spoke in spiritual terms about the rescued horses and life lessons they had taught him. He told me that his operation was in Ocate, New Mexico, a place somewhere between nowhere and oblivion. He said he had to drive to Mora for a tank of gas and to Las Vegas to find a real store. It sounded grim but it's lilting moniker stuck with me.

Last Saturday after we picked up a couple of Peggy’s paintings from the Kennedy Museum at New Mexico Highlands University we took the great circle route back to Taos through, you guessed it, Ocate. Being a man of the plains, figuratively speaking, the grasslands through which we drove were a tonic and the epic New Mexico sky enveloped us as only it can.

Wowzer! That's a sky.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Ignore Me Fred. Act like I'm not here.

Fred Black whom I've written about in the past is an extraordinary weaver. Peggy and I can pick out Fred’s spectacular rugs from across an aircraft hangar. And, as I have said, Fred is a man of many talents, a pilot, an architect, a high level martial artist and a tango dancer, the last two pursuits with his wife, my fellow photographer, writer and dear friend Daryl Black.

A highlight of the fall art season in Taos is the Taos Wool Fest and within it Fred’s booth which reigns supreme among the dozens of stalls and displays. After leaving the Taos Fall Art Festival’s four venues we crossed Paseo del Pueblo Norte and entered Kit Carson Park to see the churro sheep and alpacas, the hordes of wool aficionados and, most of all, Fred’s rugs. They are not shown here except in the blurred background in image number one. Instead here are a couple of candids of the steely eyed weaver himself.

Ignore me Fred. Act like I’m not here.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Intimate Histories

It was mid-September and I was heading toward to the Cruces Basin Wilderness with one last chance to find and photograph my amigo Victor “Cuba” Hernandez at his high camp. Maybe ten miles west of US 285 on FR 87 just beyond San Antonio Mountain my journey was brought to a screeching halt by bridge construction just ahead, an event with two results. First, I have yet to visit Cuba at his mountain Shangri-La and it won't be this year. That sheep has left the barn. And second, it propelled me into the fallback subject revealed here.

With mission one aborted I turned back to a nameless wildlife sanctuary I'd spied on the way in, nameless not because it had no name but because I've already forgotten it. It was last month after all. I hopped the locked gate, always a plus, and walked a rutted path to a discarded homestead with two buildings and a concrete foundation with a rusted water tank. Set in a grassy valley running west toward Laguna Larga the ruins whispered intimate histories into my ears. 

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Whining Aside

All whining aside I did get one dollop of fog during my second annual coastal California safari. By the time I reached for my second breakfast scone in Tomales the soup lifted and another sunny day in paradise reared its lovely head. These came during the five mile drive from my tiny cottage at Canvas Ranch to the nearly as tiny village of Tomales. Apres sconces I drove up the coast to Fort Ross and the towering redwoods of northern Sonoma beneath which I camped as a wee laddie around 1950.

Sunday, October 04, 2015

Found Art Redux

Years ago I launched a series called Found Art which deals with, for want of a better phrase, street art and artistic assemblages of ordinary stuff. Here are a couple in which great care was exhibited by the artist to "assemble" stones just so or, as in image two, to carefully wire and weld garden tools, muffler pipes and other detritus into zoomey sculpture.

On Museum Hill in Santa Fe

By the roadside in Rinconada, NM
Folks make art out of pretty much whatever's available. Always have. Always will.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Life's a blur then you die

Seldom do I post a couple of pics and call it a day. But prompted by my friend Terry Thompson’s vivid abstracts currently displayed in the Taos Fall Arts Festival and because fall color is upon us here are two autumn leafy items that celebrate the season with applied blur. That means I created the fuzz with rapid zooms of my trusty 28mm-135mm.

That's all folks.