Sunday, December 25, 2016

Stormy Weather

Approaching Bryce Canyon nearly four years back we encountered a blowing snowstorm with temps in the twenties. Today’s entry befits the gusting winds and 7 inches of fresh snow that greeted us when we awoke to this (Sunday) morning. Yes, I write these posts on Sunday and they publish at 3am every Monday morning.

I hope you had a warm and wonderful Christmas.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Deconstructionist German Expressionist Architecture for short

Ray and Maria Stata Center which houses the MIT Computer Sciences and Artificial Intelligence Center was designed by Frank Gehry and opened to much fanfare in 2004. Referred to as Deconstructionist in style its roots are traced to the German Expressionist architecture of the 1920s. Because it sits at 32 Vassar Street in Cambridge, Massachusetts it is commonly called Building 32.

The building directly above is unidentified which is to say, I don’t remember its name nor can I find an image of it online. If you do happen to know its moniker give me shout.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Sky Lines Boston Edition

The Prudential Building

In the Boston area for a buddy’s 70th I gave myself one afternoon, night and morning to walk the very walkable city and add to my growing Sky Lines series. Come to think of it, the great American cities, Manhattan, San Francisco and Boston are walking cities. That's partly because they're relatively small geographically and people actually live "downtown."

I parked at my beloved MFA (Museum of Fine Art) thinking that I’d do my stroll, stash my camera and partake of its wonders. Well, that didn’t happen because by the time I got back to the garage it was nearing check-in time and it was more important to me to take a long run along the Charles River than ponder art. Running on the Esplanade among the hundreds of other runners remains one of my favorite routes, indeed things, in the known universe. I'm given to rituals, touchstones of joy.

Sunday, December 04, 2016

Dennis Dodge House

The Dennis Dodge House at 10 County Street, Ipswich, Massachusetts

Greater Boston is the place we lived the longest, 1973-76, 1980-2002. That’s 25 years in the Boston area. Add a couple of years in southern Connecticut and two more in northern New Hampshire and we flirted with 30 years in New England. That lengthy period infused us with great love for Yankee values and the rich history of the place. The first house that we owned was The Dennis-Dodge House on County Road in Ipswich, Massachusetts, locals say “Mass.” Built in 1740 the then brown gambrel saltbox sat on the corner a block from the Ipswich River. 

We frolicked at Crane Beach, one of the country’s finest, from which we could see Plum Island and Newburyport in the distance. A handful of miles east in Essex we ate steamers, lobster and fried Little Neck Clams at Woodman’s. The legendary clam shack claims to have invented the fried clam. Ipswich is where we started skiing. Nearly every winter weekend we’d drive to Gunstock above Lake Winnipesauke in southern New Hampshire. We’d ski all day before heading home by way of The Grog in Newburyport for a bowl of chowder. Yet again food looms large. Why are you not surprised?

Our son was baptized by rector Edward French of Ascension Memorial Church just down the street. He’d been John Updike’s Harvard roommate. French’s wife was a fiery redhead and the Ballantine beer heiress. The reverend drove a white 1963 Mercedes 280 SE convertible. To this day my favorite car. Ever.

The Jacobean stairway with oversized King George boards to the left. The wide boards were quite illegal as they were to be used exclusively for his majesty's ships of war.

I drove at least 30 miles in each direction to my office in Burlington and never once regretted the time or distance. It was pure joy to arrive at our clapboard classic with its seven working fireplaces which included a walk-in hearth replete with a beehive oven. The best Thanksgivings and Christmases ever were celebrated in the Dennis-Dodge House. There’s Christmas and there’s a New England Christmas. Makes me misty to remember.

Since I have no photographs of my own to illustrate this look back I’ve have had to rely on small files from the public domain. 

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Naked Fruit

Standing in the 94-degree heat at Tablas Creek Winery in Paso Robles and a trifling 9009 kilometers from Domaine du Beaucastel in Chateauneuf du Pape I am about to reap the wonders of the Grenache grape. Grenache is the dominant grape in the powerful wines of the southern Rhone valley of France, the region that we think of as Provence and more specifically the Vaucluse and the Luberon. When blended with the Syrah and Mourvedre the lofty Chateauneuf du Pape and its less known neighbor Gigondas are wines that are inky, smoky, earthy and mouth-filling treasures, the epitome of terroir driven wines. 20 years ago you could buy a Gigondas in the states for $10 and now they fetch $40. And that $10 bottle was just $4.00 at the vineyard in the lovely village of Gigondas in the mid-nineties and a garden variety Cote du Rhone was a paltry $2.50. My how time flies.

In Central California the sugar laden Grenache produces wines that are more fruit forward than their French counterparts and, since I’ve never met a fruit bomb I didn’t love, I favor the New World iteration.

We arrived at Tablas Creek smack in the middle of harvest known as “vendage” in France and while we didn't observe the picking we invited ourselves to take a closer look at the pressing of the Grenache grape, a look that included a mouthful of the sweet berries right off the vine. A well-tuned taster could probably predict the success of the vintage based on the sweetness and flavor of the naked fruit itself. And according to my novice taste buds the Tablas Creek’s 2016 Grenache and blends thereof will be killer.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Distant Cousins

The portal of the 1797 Mission San Miguel Archangel, the 16th of  Padre Junipero Serra's 21 California Missions.

Famed San Francisco de Asis in Ranchos de Taos, NM built between 1772 and 1816. 

Like the Spanish Colonial churches of New Mexico, the Spanish missions of California intrigue me. Though they were built at the same time, the late 18th century to the early 19th, they are very different. Why should two Catholic churches built at virtually the same time be so dissimilar?

My first guess is that it’s because of native American or Pueblo design influences in New Mexico and Moorish ones in California. What's your take on this riddle?

The pitched tile roof of San Miguel.

The rear buttress of San Francisco or Ranchos Church.

Comparing San Miguel Archangel in San Miguel, California nine miles north of Paso Robles to San Francisco de Asis in Ranchos de Taos, NM the differences are stark. In San Miguel there’s a sprawling “mission style” layout and long portal or portico. It feels more evolved and finer. Not finer in the qualitative sense but finer as in finished. San Francisco is more muscular, organic and contained.

The materials used were the same, adobe and timber, but in California curved earthen adobe roof tiles called tejas were employed and the architectural lines are more angular and the stucco colors lighter compared to the mud tones of New Mexican iglesias.

Massive buttresses are a feature of colonial churches in New Mexico whereas slightly pitched tiled roofs typify the "Mission Style" in California.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

A subject and a camera

David Marks

There’s a portrait right in front of us almost all of the time. It’s a wonder that we don’t take more of them. All you need is to see the subject and to have a camera.

Last weekend in Santa Fe for an art opening I attended the extraordinary History in a Moment show at the Monroe Gallery on Don Gaspar Street. The exhibition of iconic photographs from the Great Depression of the 1930s, WWll, Viet Nam and the Iraq War should not be missed. Carl Mydans, George Silk, Margaret Bourke-White, Alfred Eisenstaedt are among the photographers included. Many images in the show are part of Time Magazine: 100 Photographs: The Most Influential Photographs of All Time that appeared in my in-box yesterday.

Just across the street is the David Marks Gallery. It wasn’t on my radar at that particular moment but it featured black and white photography so I couldn’t very well not go. Turns out David is a fine black and white shooter and quite the raconteur. I commented that he was displaying landscapes and asked if it was because “that’s what sells.” He allowed that my hypothesis was valid but then he walked me to a bin of portraits. All excellent. He said that William Eppridge, a Life Magazine photographer and one of those featured in the History in a Moment show across the street, had visited his gallery a few years back and that, during that visit, he had photographed him. When Eppridge died in 2013 David’s image of him was the one included in news coverage of his passing.

As I prepared to leave I asked David where he photographed Eppridge. He said “In the doorway.” The picture up top was taken in that exact place.

Sunday, November 06, 2016


I’ve reported from Highway 104 in the past. It’s the ribbon of roadway that meanders from Tucumcari to Las Vegas that we traverse when returning from the Panhandle Plains Museum in Canyon, Texas. It’s a barely inhabited trove of desert wonders of which I never tire.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

All fall down

Spring of leaves and fall of leaves were the medieval precursors to our terms spring and fall and say exactly what they mean. To whit, the leaves spring forth in April and fall to the ground sometime in October. 

Today we dwell on the lowly fallen leaf and more specifically on the detritus of another golden season in Boston. In a parking lot across from my beloved Museum of Fine Art the gusty winds have swept the fallen leaves into tidy piles that just as surely as a janitor with a broom. A catfish or a dragon per chance?

Less aesthetic but as illustrative of the season are leaves and a beer cup swimming in a puddle from Saturday's rain.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Not New Mexico

I’m riding this fog theme for all it’s worth. Here’s a tight shot with a filigree of branches and leaves that has an abstract quality to it followed by a wide shot of the beach that shows just how foggy it was in Cayucos one fine September morning. This is about as un-New Mexico as it gets. Not to brag but we're all about bluebird skies and vistas to forever.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Man and Beach

Beach towns like Cayucos pretty much exist to serve visitors. That’s not to say there aren’t townies around but the bucks that keep the enterprise afloat come from flatland turistas like moi. Notice how I throw around foreign lingoes with such aplomb.

An iconic beachfront scene is of folks strolling along the strand bare feet in the froth. Above is a hirsute dad with his equally tousled tot and below strides a burly gent with his teen in tow.

Sunday, October 09, 2016

Post Industrial Motif

“Three stacks and a rock” is how Morro Bay is sometimes described by locals referring to the 580 foot rock monolith in its bay and the 450 foot smokestacks of its shuttered power plant.

When it was built by PG&E in the 1950s it was welcomed as a boon to the post war recession economy of the town of 11,000. Then in 2012 Dynergy, PG&E’s successor, closed the plant leaving an economic crater and a protruding eyesore with no mitigation plan or budget to remove it. Before the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act and in the thrall of the plant's economic largess no one thought about negotiating a clean-up commitment from the utility should the plant ever close. And Morro Bay with an annual operating budget of $10,000,000 can scarcely bear the $30,000,000 needed to demolish and remove the plant.

“Where is the corporate responsibility in America?” asked Morro Bay mayor Jamie Irons. Left unfettered corporate responsibility is to profit, Mr. Mayor. It’s a simple as that.

On the plus side, Morro Bay’s three finger salute in the fog gave me these.

Sunday, October 02, 2016

Mysterious and murky

These stripped down photographs of the lamps that light the pier in Cayucos, California remind me in their simplicity of the Sketches of Winter series. While the background in these additions to the Fog Series are medium gray instead of the paper white of the Sketches of Winter the Zen-like serenity is comparable.

This year I was blessed with one socked in day on the Central Coast and it provided enough fodder for at least two blogs. These lamps and posts recall gauzy late 19th century images of a fog shrouded London, images that some have called saccharine. Call me old fashioned but I like the dreaminess and find mystery and melancholy in the murky dampness.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

San Jose de Gracia

San Jose de Gracia in Las Trampas, NM rivals the better known San Francisco de Asis in Ranchos de Taos for its Spanish Colonial design and earthy beauty. I never miss the chance to photograph the historic church when traversing the High Road between Taos and Santa Fe.

It was built between 1761 and 1776 by 12 families from Santa Fe under the leadership of Jose de Arguello in the village whose full name is San Tomas del Rio de las Trampas. In English that’s Saint Thomas of the River of Traps.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

More of Monumental

Alain Comeau in North Conway, NH, 2002

Shortly after buying my Canon 1Ds in 2002 I started the series Monumental Heads. That’s the $8,000 11-megapixel piece of kit that lured me back into photography after a dozen years immersed in business endeavors, some successful, and the mid-80s committed to distance running and triathlons.

In the late spring of 2002 when I came back from a ski safari in France with Ian Cruickshank I took notice of Edward Weston’s theory of using the sky as a background and took it quite to heart. The first in series was of either Alain Comeau or John Snyder, both accomplished men with wide ranging talents.

On reflection I think the first victim was the very French man for all seasons, M. Comeau. Last I heard Alain was sailing the Caribbean with his latest squeeze.

He is followed by Mr. William Davis, the dean of Taos photographers and the original owner of ZZ Top’s beard.

William Davis, 2008

William Davis, 2016

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Waste Not Want Not: Memo to Self

Pondering 75 at 75

Looking at 75 through a long lens it seemed like it should be an epic event and a national holiday. Then as it drew near it shed its self-importance and became just another day albeit a good one. 75 after all is something everybody achieves if they live long enough. Big whoop. Can't take a lot of credit for it. Saturday I had a blue moment that I can only attribute to the recognition that I’ve lived three quarters of a century and that my kid is nearing 50. It’s enough to make an old man weep.

I got up this morning, chugged a cup of joe and slogged through an eight mile run, the kind you time with a calendar. Felt good all things considered. The osteoporosis symptomless. The full thickness cartilage loss unnoticeable. The back a little cranky but tolerable. Enjoyed brunch with a view and a Bloody Mary, the first in probably 20 years. Later a couple of steaks and monster bakers accompanied by a Reidel or three of 94-point vin rouge will complete the ensemble. The message: Enjoy each day to its fullest. Oui?

And I don’t want to lament the things I haven’t done but to see the event as a call to action and to waste no days. The list is long of things I want to do, see and experience and, as the wise man says, it’s not getting sooner.

The old bucket list needs some refinement, too. I have been tweaking the same old list for a decade. Those who know me can testify that publishing the sheep book The Last Shepherd has ranked high on the dreaded list for nearly two years. It has somehow lost momentum. Has it run its course or is it on hiatus? Then there’s that Spanish windmill that hasn't been properly lubricated. Son of a bitch squeals like a stuck pig. Come November it will be three years since I studied in Guatemala despite pledging to do study somewhere every year and practice daily till I become fluente. It will not be four. Then there's seeing a new (foreign) place each and every year. That hasn't happened since 2014. I'm bereft.

Live a year in a foreign country. Live in a city. Hike hut to hut across France. Rent a Italian villa with friends. Swim the Bosporus. Ride the Tour de France. Ski to the South Pole. Sail around the word. Do ten pull-ups. There's pipedream. I could go on.

25 at Camp Cayuga in the Adirondacks. That's my 180 pound self after a summer of playing 2 man Volleyball and teaching guitar. I  received my Army Reserve discharge during this lark and found myself on the buying end of all the Carling Black Label we could drink.

Sunday, September 04, 2016

The Gift

Edward Weston believed that the sky was the best possible backdrop for photographing the human head. This portrait employs that dictum.

Luis in Llano San Juan

I like to photograph people candidly or at least to have the images appear extemporaneous even when I’m in the victim’s face. Most people can’t ignore the photographer so their portraits look posed or awkward. That’s even true with rich folks and celebrities who should know it and can afford better. Luis on the other hand went about his business when I said “Forget I’m here” and I was able to capture his expressive face in a couple of minutes. It helped that he was having an animated conversation by my cohorts Steve Bundy and John Farnsworth. Having the subject interact with somebody else is a very useful device.

He began talking about Viet Nam from the jump. Seeing combat in that theater of the absurd seems to have colored his life like nothing else. “You don’t want to mess with a Vietnam vet he told us.” The implication being that if you survived that hell hole you’re one tough dude. He tells a story of a captured Viet Cong who was going to be flown out by helicopter along with Luis’s company commander when a grunt from the squad “blew his brains out” saying “He doesn’t deserve to ride with our captain.”

Luis says he had the next to last number in the draft and deployed to Viet Nam. When he returned to the U.S. he and his fellow soldiers were greeted with derision and hostility. “Didn’t they know It wasn’t our choice to go? Did you know that more hispanos served per capita than any other ethnic group?” he asked. John Farnsworth added that “More suffered and died in the Bataan Death March, too."

Joining the Army Reserve in 1960 and discharged in 1966 I missed Viet Nam and am happy to say so. Too young for Korea. Too old for Viet Nam. It’s a gift. 

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Blondes Prefer Gentlemen

Renowned Taos painter Walt Gonske has one of the world’s great smiles. Seems to me it's especially radiant when he's being fawned over by a six-foot blonde named Ginny. She's playing the dude like a freaking double bass.They met precisely 9.58 seconds before this shot and connected so fast I needed a 2000th of a second shutter speed to stop the action. 

That’s his Praying Mantis Romeo on the flip side.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Face Time

The human face is an endless source of inspiration. The case can be made that absolutely every face deserves some facetime. So it’s a wonder that I don’t do more candid portraits. My photographer friends and I frequently talk about ways to extract more dinero from our photographic habits because trying to make money from so called “fine art” photography tilts with some serious windmills. Quixotic in a word. When pressed to say what commercial path I would take if so inclined I always answer "portraiture" since it draws me so.

From the trip that Steve Bundy, John Farnsworth and I made to the Mortenson Ranch for National Day of the Cowboy come these unposed headshots.

I'm something of  specialist as you can see. All of these folks are on the other side of young like me. And my apparent sub-specialty is white facial hair.