Sunday, April 30, 2023

Cloud Cover, Edition Three

Just as I threatened last time, I’ve been able to pillage my archives for not only a third edition of Cloud Cover but a fourth that will follow next week. Big Whoop!

Around fifteen years ago I took an advanced Photoshop course from John Paul Caponigro at the Santa Fe Workshops. Like virtually everybody else in the class I was over my head from the jump. To compound the felony, we used Apple computers which added another layer of difficulty, entirely different macros. I was and still am a PC Guy. Still, it was instructive and John Paul, the son of photography icon Paul Caponigro, was a master teacher.

As part of the course, he asked to see examples of our work and commented freely. At the time my best stuff was from the still life arena. Several of those images remain among my best. But when it came to landscapes, not so much. John Paul allowed that landscapes were my weak point. Still, I’ve plowed ahead over the last decade and a half and have scored the occasional winner.

Thanks in large measure to clouds I offer you these examples.

Sabron du Ponteves

We wouldn’t have known about Bargeme if we hadn’t seen a poster for British photographer Michael McKenna’s one man at show at Le Souffle des Arte in the spectacular village. Bargeme is the highest point in France’s Var region and it's crowned by the Sabron du Ponteves, a medieval castle at the belvedere or height of land.  Once again, the dramatic clouds of a September afternoon created a timeless tableau in the village, one of Les Plus Beaux Villages du France. I asked the gallerist how she could command an exhibition from a world-renowned photographer in such a tiny and remote town. She told me that she was a friend of Kenna’s and that he was having a Paris show right after this one. I learned later he had lived in the village from 2006 until 2011. So, it is who you know. And where you live, apparently.

Sangre View

Sangre View
was taken from a partially buried potato storage cellar in the San Luis Valley of southern Colorado. I liked the way the eaves of the building framed the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and the layer of clouds beyond the pastureland in the largest alpine valley in the United States

The Stroll

An elderly woman was walking along a footpath next to Cottam Road. She looked down on Taos Valley with the Sangre de Cristos, two bands of clouds and an arrowhead of rain pointing into the frame. I call it The Stroll.

Storm Over Taos Mountain

We had just photographed the cloud show on Los Cordobas Road and the junction of the Rio Grande and the Rio Pueblo. It was one of a dozen of my best photography events thanks to Peggy who insisted that I get out of bed and make the effort. The sky as increible as we say in El Norte. On the way back into town was Taos Mountain in its snowcapped, cloud swathed majesty. It’s called Storm Over Taos Mountain.

Upper Oro Mine

The abandoned mines above Leadville are compelling subjects unto themselves but when backed by a powerful sky they’re epic subjects. This is the Upper Oro Mine.

West Rim Morning

West Rim Morning
. On the way to Leadville on an early August morning I crossed the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge and entered a scruffy patch of land referred to as the West Rim. It’s earned a Wild West reputation where even the police are hesitant to intrude. The humble spread was bathed in early morning light as I drove north to US 285 toward the Colorado border and the Route of the Silver Kings.

Sunday, April 23, 2023

Cloud Cover, Edition Two

Continuing the theme launched last week, here are more duets of earth and sky. Each occurred when the harmony the duo created was pitch perfect and the result vibrated just so. As every serious photographer knows when the sky is moody it’s time to take advantage of the magic. The outstanding Taos photographer Geraint Smith submits that, “Blue skies are boring.” That sentiment is largely true though a featureless deep blue sky properly rendered has another kind of gift to offer. But that's a tale for another day.

Today it’s the thick, billowing, streaking ones from top to bottom.

You couldn’t make a bad picture on the snowy morning that Into the Clouds presented itself. Taken on the county road leading to the junction of the Rio Grande and the Rio Grande, it felt like we were entering the low-lying clouds. Surely an undiscovered universe lay at its center. I shot half a dozen variations, all worthy, but this one feels the way it felt that January day.

The same is true of Presbyterian Church, Taiban, New Mexico. The abandoned house of worship was a thing of grace and beauty but the clouds above the arid steppes made a profound statement. You could drop your camera and get a killer image.

Walking Rain
is one the Southwest’s great themes. I’m lucky to have found this trophy north of Highway 160 while traversing Navajo Country. I looked left or north and saw two icons of the Four Corners, a low mesa bathed in sunlight and shards of rain piercing the sky.

I was stopped in my tracks as I drove south on US 285 just north of Cline’s Corner. On my left were Wagon Ruts merging into the grasslands. I didn’t appreciate the con trails directing me into the scene until I was processing the photograph. The con trails make the image. Some sage told me that a difference maker in a photograph is called  the “punctum” from which, I deduce, the word punctuation is derived. Anyway, this image would be diminished without those darts from one o’clock.

Georgia O’Keefe Country is picture post card New Mexico and Ghost Ranch is the lovechild of the red mesas and hoodoos near her home in Abiquiu. This bluff that I call Cathedral Rock is quintessential Ghost Ranch and the cumulus cloud peaking from behind combine to make the photograph more than another pretty face.

A mile from our sweet house in Baudinard sur Verdon was a tilled pasture with a stone outbuilding. The sun was about to fall below the horizon as we turned right onto a country road. The farmstead which I dubbed Vielle Ferme glowed where the last light fell. Otherwise, the serene tableau was deep in shadow. And, again, every shot in the remaining light was a gem. It’s called the magic hour for a good reason.

Sunday, April 16, 2023

Cloud Cover, Edition One

Sinclair, Wyoming the home of Sinclair Oil as seen on the way to the Heart Mountain Internment Camp in Powell just east of Cody.

Dusk in Cow Springs, AZ hence the title Cow Springs Sundown.

Book Cliffs, Gunnison, CO. This scene lured me off I-70 where found a vantage point on a knoll above the interstate for this dramatic shot which is as much about the clouds as the the cliffs.

Early morning in the withering village called Keeler, CA. The high Sierra loom among the brooding clouds in the distance.

Welcome. We're Closed. What's left of Rice ghost town between the Colorado River and 29 Palms, California.

After throwing up my hands last Sunday and settling for lesser prey, namely five photographs that I happened to like, I revisited the grander targets Unforgettable and A Golden State of Mind. I remain dazed and confused by both but in the winnowing process I settled on a more accessible theme that I’ll call Cloud Cover. That’s because evocative clouds play a prominent role in just about all my favorite landscapes. Clouds and the landscape, it must be granted, have been and will always be life partners in the captivating world of landscape photography. Besides I can squeeze 113 more posts out of that tidy category. I’ll leave the illusive May-June Shadow and Light article to its own devices. I’ll reach for that shiny bauble at the last possible moment, the night before it’s due on May 1.

Sunday, April 09, 2023

Dazed and Confused

Lucie, Taos, NM

Following up on last week’s post about California Highway 46, a story in which struggled to capture 100 miles of desert, rolling hills, a soft shouldered mountain range and fog cloaked seashore I’m going to post two tales that flow from that story in successive weeks. It’s my way of sorting through images and choosing a path forward. One would be a glorious snapshot of California told in no more than a dozen images. That’s the one entitled A Golden State of Mind. The other has a working title of Unforgettable because it directs me to a brace of photographs that have become part of me. I may be proud of the image. It may be emotionally charged. Or the location, company and circumstance of the effort continue to resonate after 50 years. Occasionally it’s all of those. 

Cloud Bank, Los Cordobas, NM

Canal, San Francisco de Asis, Ranchos de Taos, NM

Another element is a time and circumstance when everything comes together; subject, weather and mood, and every shot feels like a masterpiece. In those magical times you know the image works from the second you compose it in your viewfinder. Those special times are few.

Jackrabbit Homestead, Morongo Basin, CA

Bishop Pines, Presidio of San Francisco, San Francisco, CA

As I write these words, I don’t know which story will arrive on your device Monday. So, I’ll start as though I’m doing both and see what survives Sunday evening.

My friend, the talented writer and photographer Daryl Black assures me I am capable of delivering A Golden State of Mind or Unforgettable in 12 images and a thousand heartfelt words. I'm far from sure about that. It hasn't come together so far.

I give up for now. I’m still in the hell of image selection for which story I don’t know. I’m as confused and lost as I’ve been in 818 consecutive posts. So, I’m throwing you a place holder till I sort this out.

Sunday, April 02, 2023

Nowhere to Somewhere

Wasco Yard

Kecks Corner

Lost Hills Oil Field

Solid Oak Realty

Highway 46 begins in Central Valley desiccation and winds up dipping its toe in the blue Pacific between Cayucos and Cambria. It starts in a scruffy nothing called Wasco and reaches Paso Robles where it becomes a playground of well-healed oenophiles. Then it twists it's way over the Coast Range where the shimmering ocean beckons below.  This little sampling emerged from an array of images which may become an article entitled A Golden State of Mind. The story intended for the May-June issue of Shadow and Light Magazine promises to be a bitch of an editing job since there’s no likely path to ten photographs that can represent the Golden State or the nearly 80 years of love I feel for the blessed and blighted California that I first saw as World War Two wound to an end. I couldn’t even tell the tale of Highway 46 in nine photographs as you can plainly tell. So, good luck with ten that display the glory and gamut of the Golden State. I do have another tale in my back pocket if I can get on the road in the next two weeks. Lake Powell, Lake Meade and possibly Great Salt Lake would fill my dance card for a story called Deadpool.

Fallow Nut Farm

Live Oak at Tablas Creek

Tablas Creek Vineyard

San Simeon Pier

Cayucos Fog

California 46 often called the Paso Robles Highway may show how the bleak nothing above Bakersfield meets the bounty and wealth of the world’s fifth largest economy better than any other. That California’s agricultural wonderland depends on acres feet of water is vividly on display. Nut farms, water suckers that they are, have been left to wilt just thirty miles shy of paradise. In 85 miles you leave the San Joaquin Valley, traverse desert scrub, cross the Chalome Hills and drop into a heady stew of wineries, fine eateries and a short jaunt over the mountains to the Pacific.

While incomplete it is a fair snapshot of the Golden State.