Sunday, December 29, 2019

And the winners are

Coyote Fence and Sky, Ranchos de Taos, NM
Here are your selections as the best or most liked images from 2019. Thanks for your invaluable if confusing input. Your choices were all over the place. Notably, as was the case last year, the top votes getters were evenly split between images taken with professional cameras and my ever present iphone 7. The top two and three of the top five were made with an iphone. My secret, if there is one, is processing the files with the most excellent smart phone app, Snapseed.

Crossed Paths, Keremma, France

Gas Station, Vaughn, NM

Ranchitos Fog, Taos, NM

Adobe Abode, Golden, NM

And as I opined last year, photos from an iphone rival those from a “real” camera. The limitation being the small sensor which, in my judgment, will not allow for a big print.

Which of these are from my Canon 5d Mk 3 or Sony RX100 Mk 6 and which are from the iphone 7?

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Year of Years, 2019

This is a look back at the images that stood out in 2019 according to me. They may be well designed, be appealing or tell a story. Your favorites may hit all the notes. That would be grand.

I hope you’ll take the two extra steps of, first, clicking on the title line you see above. That will take you to the actual blog. Then click on the first image which will display a full screen image. A full size computer screen will show the images to their best advantage. And mine.

Crossed Paths, Keremma, France
The Road to Magdalena, West of Socorro, NM
Silver Strand, Keremma, France
Store, Clarkdale, CO
Gas Station, Vaughn, NM
Metal Clad, Encino, NM
Sangre View, Tres Piedras, NM
Ranchitos Fog, Taos, NM
El Rancho Grande, Marfa, TX
Big Time Corral, Valentine, TX
Falling Snow, Valdez, NM
Clapboard Abode, Golden, NM
Coyote Fence and Sky, Ranchos de Taos, NM
Socks and Skinny Jeans, Union Station, Denver
Frolic, El Prado, NM
Wheeled Transport, Paris
Water Wagon, San Francisco
From Here to Marin, San Francisco
Siblings, San Francisco
Here Lies Bernardo Salazar, Valdez, NM

Would you be so kind as to choose your favorite of these images? In fact, pick your top five rank ordered. I'll share the results. 

Comment below or email your response. Gracias y Feliz Nuevo Año.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

It's Now or Never

Peggy and Steve at the opening or our fourth biannual two person show at Wilder Nightingale Fine Art in Taos. We're downright giddy aren't we. The event coincided with my 78th.

I received a wealth of advice in response to last week's blog Turning Corners. It all came from folks between the mid-60s and 81. The rest of you slackers are too young to relate.

The distilled take is that I should narrow the scope of my investigation, choose one, or at least fewer, of my targets and get on with it. The consensus is Sell the Porsche, Buy the Sprinter and make whatever it is happen. This floundering has gone on long enough.

These comments have been lightly edited for clarity and to protect the innocent.

If I travelled four months at a crack I'd be as happy as John Farnsworth.

John Farnsworth, in Cusco, Peru as of Friday and who the hell knows where today, wrote:

“There went my morning! Being a bit older and not a bit wiser, there, probably, will go the next days, weeks, months even, wrestling with most of the same issues, plus a few of my own devising. 

I have, just this moment, made a decision, or had a revelation. Not sure which. I have had forefront in my mind for the better part of a year, “I’m almost eighty!”. In just over three months I will turn seventy nine. At that point, no, right now, I’m changing that thought to “I’m not eighty, yet!” 

Next, I intend to devote what’s left of my seventies to visualizing who and what I want to be during my eighties.

I intend to change my thinking from “the autumn of my life is almost over and I’m about to slide into winter” to, “Wow, this has been a chilly winter, but, hurray, here comes spring again”!

Here’s to new plans, new dreams, new accomplishments…

Whatever we do in the next years, let’s be sure to do some of it together, ol’ friend!”

Juan Viejo

To which I responded:

“Yes, we will do some or a lot of it together. I’m still at the figuring out stage. Good comments all, Juan. I think I’ll devote what’s left of what’s left to “being” what I want to be. That’s opposed to thinking about what I want to be. There’s been quite enough navel gazing.” S

Lindsey, the most popular cowboy in the known world.

And from dear friend Lindsey Enderby came step by step instructions:


         What’s next?

Bundle the fun; what can I afford, enjoy the most, and what would Peggy like.

           1. Sell Sports car

            2. Purchase Sprinter van

            3. Take guitar and speed 


             4. Keep camera handy

              5. Pick up camera and

                    guitar in daily fitness 


               6. Eat well and often

                7. Good wine (what else?)

                8. Keep and enlarge Blog

                9. Seek adventure

                10. Enjoy the slow pace

I’ll keep thinking.”


From me came:

Absolutely nothing.

Mark Asmus, all 6'-6'" of him. From the Immel Studio.

Mark Asmus said:

“I need to read this one over a few times.  Lots buried in here which we can all relate to.  Comments will follow. Good being with you Friday.  Assume you recovered your wallet.”

I responded:

“M. Lots to contemplate for sure. I’m still flummoxed. Yes, the coat and wallet were waiting for me. Look forward to your comments as well as further discussion. S”

Uh, your comments did not follow, Mark.

And from Anonymous came this wisdom:

“Hi Steve,

I always love your stuff which I get from whatshisname. Your musings have certainly resonated with me, as I turned 81 last week and have been assessing my situation for some months now. It had momentarily totally ruined my mood but, I'm happy to report making the decisions have lifted the huge weight and I am getting back to normalcy. I think this is what you're doing right now. And, yes, it is depression, something I don't usually wallow in except for maybe a few weeks at a time, not a month’s worth. What I did was decide to give up tennis and skiing and take up pickle ball. A few other decisions but essentially the first two weighed heavily on my mind, having to admit that I've just gotten too old to do those sports the way I want to do them.

One suggestion I have for you in the service department which may satisfy part of your longing and not tax you one iota! This fall, whatshisname and I met with a fellow (Louis Moya) at UNM Klauer Campus to fund scholarships for their students. For $500 a student, we are making a difference in some person's life. Yes, Louis assures us that $500 is a make or break amount of money for some of the students who can get Pell Grants but lack the money for things like gas, supplies, babysitting, etc. We were given about a dozen essays from the applicants and we chose three, originally wanting to choose only two until we saw how it worked. But, one more applicant was just too compelling to pass up. If you are interested in this, Mark and/or I can explain further and put you in touch with Louis. The Spring term is coming up soon.

Btw, I was impressed with your "Bucket List" and wonder if you haven't set the bar too high. It sets you up for failure and more depression! Pick just one or two. I know you love unsolicited advice! No, wait. You did solicit it from Mark so maybe I should run this by him before I click Send. Nah. I love shooting off my mouth!

Love and good luck.”

Jamie Hindman offered this:

Focus  on writing...mucch as I love your photography, given the nature of fine art photography art marketing, if you are looking for validation there you will make yourself crazy...There's work to be done as your stripmine your experiences and intuit the path ahead. Too many choices lead to overthinking I have found. Grab one and run.

A studio Portrait of photographer and friend, Daryl Black.

Daryl wrote:

"Absolutely adored this blog of introspection at age 78. Fred's comment? I want that breakfast right now. Lucky for you, we know many people who turned 80 this year, are 80+ and continue to be avid fourteeners and kick butt climbing mountains I Colorado and Nee Mexico. You should meet some of these folks. Just amazing. But first, you asked for it and here it is. Start jettisoning the emotional baggage for the Porsche, prepare it for sale, and buy the damn Sprinter. Heck, you were talking about that years ago when we were out on photo shoots. Those two things would really set the tone for other things might want to do. Giving back would be easier as well if you had the Sprinter. You could go yo wildfires, floods, etc. and offer your services. You could get stories and take photographs in the process. A real photojournalism workshop in progress. I am so happy Terry T has asked you to be a second shooter. You'll be a great team. So, so much potential coming up, Senor. As they say in the Times, we will look forward to reading all about it."

To Jamie and Daryl’s comments I responded:

“Thanks to both of you. Good advice all around. There’s a groundswell for losing the Porsche, buying the camper van and wandering forth to find stories worth telling. And there’s a plurality that says stop drowning in an ocean of choices. Pick a gold ring and reach for it. Decisions, decisions. Yes, to the writing.”

I’ll say this. It’s sure easier when you write my blog for me. Peggy said she didn’t know that I was that I was so depressed by 78. I told her that I was maybe possibly in a funk for half a day but “How dare you say depressed.”

It’s gratifying to know that others (everybody?) faces the abyss with a measure of trepidation and uncertainty. Most of us had made accommodations brought on by advancing age. Anonymous gave up skiing and tennis, my Spanish group cohort stopped skiing, like Anonymous Terry T has given up tennis for Table Tennis. I stopped road cycling and downhill skiing when I was diagnosed with Osteoporosis five year ago. Being the diehard that I am I will take that decision under advisement after my January bone density test. Cycling was the sport where I could still approximate my performance of early middle age, so it is not a fait accompli. Yet.

Garrett and his proud dad last Thursday.

Our son Garrett, age 52, visited last week and that was a tonic for this old psyche. To be close to your kid is an invaluable treasure. And to feel that the gap in our ages is smaller than the math suggests is priceless. To be able (still) to do the same adventures with the same appreciation and energy informs the immediate future and tells me that maintaining fitness, both physical and mental, is job one. “We exercise to preserve function” wrote author Jeff Jerome in The Complete Book of Running at least 35 years ago. That axiom has been my religion since the mid-70s.

So, I can’t tell you what’s next for me or how I’ll choreograph the next 78 years. I imagine I will choose what’s most compelling and get after it. Since I’m so scattershot the choosing will be the hardest part of achieving something of real importance. Choosing fewer goals means not doing the other things. And that’s just appalling.

On second thought it was harder to edit your stuff than to start from scratch. But it was worth it.

Sunday, December 08, 2019

Turning Corners

Serious breakfast at Sears Fine Foods in San Francisco
When I woke up at 5:00am on the morning of my 78th birthday I had the sinking feeling that I had finally turned the corner to oldness and should stop fooling myself. That’s never happened before. So, why now? There’s no demonstrable difference between 77 and 78 after all. Yet it felt wildly different. I suppose those blues can be attributed to seeing a tractor-trailer full of 8 Zero steaming toward me like a tsunami of decrepitude.

I came out of my funk over breakfast. Food will do that for me. We had a wee celebration that included half a dozen birthday cards and calls from my son and four buddies of long standing. Peggy had me giggling by third cup of coffee and left for her studio so I could do whatever the hell I wanted. And, as always, that means something from columns A through D. Exercise, ideally both cardio and strength training, a creative pursuit which more and more is writing, a good meal with an interesting wine and a page turner before I turn off the lights. The best days have all of the above.

Yet, a malaise has swept over me since September 11. Not exactly depression though writing the word suggests otherwise. What’s missing is the impetus to finish any job that requires a real commitment of time, energy and focus. Maybe there's some what's the point in the situation. My week begins with a Sunday to-to list that stretches in into the low forties and has been topped by Create a new website, Complete the sheep book, Become a competent Spanish speaker, Pitch the sheep story to the Sangre de Cristo Arts Center and Sell the Porsche for five years and counting. And now I’ve added learning to edit video and mastering blues guitar. All of those take concentration and discipline which are apparently in short supply. “Get a grip” you say. “Pick one and finish the son of a bitch.” Good advice I’m sure but how to I choose?

Basically, I won’t apply myself for the two, three or four hours at a sitting required to finish any of the jobs I’ve started. Writing this blog is the exception and it can take as much as a day to complete. Had I actually studied Spanish for two hours a day since studying in Guatemala in 2013 I would be an accomplished speaker by now but I don’t study the language at all except for writing a three paragraph story for my Friday Spanish group, itself a six year staple of my life without which my Spanish would have withered into nothingness. Studying Spanish doesn’t even make the list of forty most weeks. The same would be true of video editing, a newer interest. If I had systematically ploughed through my video editing course with its how-to CDs and sample videos, I’d have that complex process as wired as the Spanish.

Thankfully I’ve signed on to man the second camera on a video project helmed by my good friend Terry Thompson and will force me to man up. Terry, a former movie producer, won’t let me not do the job. Last week we did a short practice video of a two-camera conversation between the two of us.  While I watched he edited the first five minutes of the piece and it was remarkably good for a first effort. The clip looked half-way professional despite our rudimentary tools and my non-existent skills. We’ll do another test this week before shooting a real story which will involve three subjects and three locations including a car interior.

The only pursuit where I have a modicum of discipline is fitness where I work out as much as I ever have except for the triathlon years of the mid-80s.

In the runup to my 78th I had a revelation while driving to Albuquerque for a doctor’s appointment. I found myself thinking of myself as a writer first and a photographer second. That may be hubris but after 650 blog posts totaling at least 3,000 pages and a couple of years contributing my series Telling Stories to Shadow and Light Magazine, I have earned the right. 3,000 pages you say. That’s a lot of books. What you really mean is that if I’d invested that kind of time on a real book I’d have ten of them.

At the dawn of old age one asks, “What’s next?” aside from general pleasure seeking. Not to suggest seeking pleasure is a bad thing. In fact, I’m pondered making it what's left of my life’s work.

It’s well established that good food and wine make my world go ‘round. And the fact that I’m always hungry makes me an eager participant. As I’ve written in these pages, my memories a laced with dining experiences and food epiphanies. So, why not make the pursuit of culinary delights under the broader banner of travel be my be all and end all. Because it’s self-indulgent and frivolous and it accomplishes nothing. There is that.

Which leads me to ponder what to do for my 80th in 2021. Extravagance on that scale requires serious contemplation. Not to mention planning. Among the ideas for monumental self-congratulation are things so sweeping or expensive that I’ve haven’t done them yet. Now I’ll have an excuse. They’re experiences that I’ve dreamed of for decades. Live in a bustling neighborhood in foreign city for a full year through all its seasons, celebrations and attendant tribulations. Meander without an itinerary anywhere in world for all of 2021. Naturally, I’d keep a serious journal of my life on the road or in the 6th Arrondissement. The 6th is a place holder. I’d probably want to live where Spanish is the language of choice and that could be Latin America or Europe.

Third of the big three possibilities would be to sell the sweet 1980 Porsche 911SC with 74,000 miles and buy a Sprinter van and do the big mosey all over North America.

180 degrees from all of this self-indulgence would be a year in service. I’m the first to admit that I haven’t given back enough. That I haven't explored this option more fully is telling.

We’ve all heard the Shakespeare’s line, “What’s past as prologue.” So, looking back, even at failures or goals not met, may be instructive. Reviewing the odd success and understanding what experiences provided the most satisfaction might inform the next 78 years. Or at least one of them, the all-important 8 Oh.

I’m open to suggestions on how to waste my time in 2021. What would you do?