Sunday, January 28, 2024

Sketches of Winter Revisited

Lines of Defence

Long Shadow

Inky Shadows

Sketches of Winter
may be my most distinctive portfolio. When it was launched in 2007, I’d seen nothing like it. Then a couple of years later I saw similar images in Lenswork magazine. Damn, I thought, I did it first. I had a successful show of the series at Open Shutter Gallery of Photography in Durango Colorado in 2009 and one at the Cache Gallery in Fort Collins in 2010. Margi Dudley of Open Shutter thought the series was unique and told me that she knew the images were hard to create. They did in fact require careful timing, right after heavy snow, and laborious post processing to render truly black and white images. And the white had to be nearly but not quite paper white.

Snow Fence



Recently the Sketches of Winter series re-entered my internal conversation. That’s partly because it’s, well, winter and because I just published the article Wonderland in Shadow and Light Magazine. I sorted through dozens of winter images throughout December and posted many on my blog before selecting the most representative ones for Wonderland. And each of the four Wonderland posts in December included at least one Sketch of Winter.  

As I enjoyed a far-ranging end of the year wrap-up with Rob Nightingale at his Wilder Nightingale Gallery, our thoughts turned to the winter doldrums in this poor snow year in Taos. We brainstormed ways to kindle a mid-winter spark. First, I tossed out the idea of a show of older photographs at a deep discount. The idea stunk. So I took my foot out of my mouth and said, “Wait a minute! I have a better idea. Let’s do a Sketches of Winter show. I know you’ve hung a few from the series but I’m not sure we ever did a full-fledged show.” Rob was excited by the concept and asked, “Are they already framed? I said that they were. He replied, “Let’s do it.” So, we’re going to mount a short Sketches of Winter show from February 17 through February 25.

Monday, January 22, 2024

Lo Siento. I apologize

This morning's post came wrapped in unsolicited ads top and bottom and was sent by not Steve Immel Photography. I need to change mail formats in to excise the intruders. That process has begun. That is to say that I've sent several emails to in Turkey to set the wheels in motion.

In the meantime I'm sending these apologies in a slightly different way. I have been using preset email time that  I'm told by necessitates the crass and commercial post you got this morning. Instead, I'm choosing a specific time in hopes that I'll shed the ads and other content. If I can't make it work with I'll have to change mail burners.

Please bear with me as I sort this out. I appreciate your patience.

Best regards,



Sunday, January 21, 2024

Scholastic Art Awards then and now

That Gold Key should be Gold. And the print is illegible except for my signature, the important part.

Thursday, we received an email from the New Mexico School of the Arts in Santa Fe. In the email Cindy Montoya, the president of the prestigious high school, touted its “Unprecedented Wins in the New Mexico Scholastic Art Awards.” We are longtime supporters of the school whose programs extend beyond the visual arts to include theatre, dance, writing, music and now film. The school’s jazz orchestra will blow your mind and its ballet graduates have been awarded scholarships to Julliard in recent years.

Montoya continues that “60 artworks created by visual arts students have earned esteemed Scholastic Art Awards-the nation’s most enduring recognition program for emerging artists. Since its inception in 1923, the Scholastic Art Awards have played a pivotal role in nurturing the artistic skills of countless high school students." 

Among the 60 awards were 14 Gold Key awards, 16 Silver Awards and 30 Honorable Mentions. Congratulations to the school and all the winners.

The rest of the story if only you could read it.

My connection with the Scholastic Art Awards goes back 59 years. And, no, it wasn’t as a student artist. I was the director of the Arizona Regional Scholastic Art Awards in 1965. I was 23. And it was the first time I talked myself into a gig for which I had scant qualifications beyond knowing some artists.. The show had 4,000 submissions and we hung, I’m guessing, 600 of them. Happily, the show which was held at the Arizona State Fairgrounds in Phoenix was a grand success. The capper was a dinner for the judges in a private dining room at the toney Arizona Biltmore which I hosted along with the event’s sponsor. Peggy was at my side. I was completely out of my depth and loved every minute of it. “I could get used to this” I thought.

The exhibition was sponsored by Valley National Bank, Arizona’s biggest. I remember the bank’s slogan when I began organizing the show the year before. It read “A billion of more in ’64.’’ That was a gaudy target in those days. The bank’s founder and chairman, Walter Bimson, an imposing figure to my man-child self, was a major supporter of the arts as was reflected in the bank’s sponsorship of the event.

Amazingly, I still have a copy of the awards handout dated February 27-March 6, 1965. Unless I’m hallucinating, I designed the single fold relic. Then Friday, I spilled black coffee on the poor dear. The damage was not fatal so I’m including two pathetic smart phone images.

As I was reading the text in the flyer, I was grabbed by this arcane factoid. From the Gold Key winners, the jury sent 100, count ‘em, 100 Blue Ribbon Finalists from Arizona to the National High School Exhibit in New York City. This I remind you was in 1965. With inflation at 2% that would be 1,000 today.

Take that NMSA.

Sunday, January 14, 2024

Missed Adventures

Monte Similaun is the peak in the distance. Those tracks across the glacier lead back to the Similaun Hut and the descent through a labyrinth of crevasses in a stream bed back to Vent. Our guide, the fabulous Florian Schranz, told us to "Follow in my tracks." Apparently we did.

I’ve spent lots of words over the last few years lamenting dreamed about but not fulfilled adventures. And each time I whine about the missed opportunities and pledge not to repeat them, I do it again. Here I am, ever the dreamer not the doer.

Much like the photograph you wish you’d taken, places of your dreams can lose their luster or become outright dangerous or even disappear. Or, worse, you may no longer have the capacity to do it. While I’m not there yet in the broadest sense I can no longer do things that could have accomplished twenty years ago, say climb a 20,000 foot Himalayan Peak. And I’m not going to run a marathon. At 62 I could link a few 7 minute miles on my way to a 48 minute 10k and at 82 it’s more like 12 minute miles if I’m lucky. Often it's 15 minutes per. 

And it’s not just physical limitations that befall us. Sometimes the portal to the place of your dreams has closed or shouldn’t be opened, like Ecuador.

In the category of don’t go there now is Cuenca, Ecuador, the best place to retire in the world a scant five years ago. That would be the next place I’d study Spanish or so I thought. Now the country is gripped by narco-violence that it doesn’t have the capacity to fight. A national emergency has been declared. Fito, the leader of the Los Choneros cartel just escaped prison under dubious circumstances and is nowhere to be found, Of course, like much of Latin America gangs run the prisons and direct their minions from luxurious accommodations behind prison walls. Pinched by heroin producers in Colombia and Peru who use Ecuador’s ports to transport product Ecuador lacks the will, money, military, or police to extinguish the fire. And the latter are probably dirty. Murders doubled in 2023 and eight times in five years. I didn’t go when I could have. Woulda shoulda coulda.

Buenos Aires, Argentina, another city that has captivated me the last decade may have fallen by the wayside, too, though for less explosive reasons. The Argentines have elected a toupee wearing right wing populist president and inflation has risen by 140% rendering living or traveling to the Paris of South America problematic. At least three friends call Buenos Aires their favorite city on the planet: a vibrant stew of art, wine, steak and tango. Maybe I’ve may missed the boat to Argentina, as well.

And while we're talking about Argentina, wine producing Mendoza at the foot of the Andes has stood atop my wish list of places to visit for the thirty years since I asked world traveling mountain guide Marc Chauvin “What’s your favorite place in the world?” He said “Mendoza” without hesitation.

So, Buenos Aires and Mendoza stay on my wish list but have been downgraded from probable to possible. With that kind of inflation civil unrest is likely.

You could make the case that I’ve lived one real adventure, a trek in the Everest region of Nepal in 1992. To me the word “adventure” suggests an event of considerable effort or risk. The objective of my '92 trip was to climb 20,226 foot Island Peak. A retinal hemorrhage at 18,208 feet on Kala Patar scuttled that goal but at least it was a real adventure by my definition.

Attempting to climb Maine’s 5,269 Mount Katahdin in winter was another true adventure that ended in a soaked sleeping bag. I made every rookie mistake a fool like me could make, namely a bivy sack over a down sleeping bag in a tent. I almost froze in my own sweat. I’ve never been so cold and tired. But at least we did it and lived to tell about. That was the 90s, also.

A 2006 hut to hut ski tour in the Austrian and Italian Alps also qualifies as an adventure however brief. We summited Mount Similaun and enjoyed a glorious descent through fresh powder to the hut, a cold brew and down to Vent, Austria. It may have been my favorite experience ever though my balky back was already barking. Now the pitiful thing is on life support.

Every other alleged adventure has been on the soft side so I hesitate to call them adventures at all. I suppose the ones to follow will be have to be soft. What, where and when these will happen are in the day dreaming stage as always, but one will happen 2024. I swear to me.

Unfortunately, I have no images to depict Nepal, Island Peak or Katahdin. They are all on slides and my Epson scanner is kaput. So, in lieu of photographs of adventures past I’ll leave you with one lousy shot of Mount Similaun from the Similaun hut. Those arcs in the snow are our tracks from the peak. God, it was amazing! 

Sunday, January 07, 2024

Twelve Wonders of Wonderland

Into the Clouds, Rio Grande del Norte National Monument

Blanket of Snow, San Francisco de Asis Ranchos de Taos, NM

Taos Tipis, Llano Quemado, NM

Canal y Hielo, Martinez Hacienda, Taos, NM

When snow falls in El Norte a quiet mystery cloaks the land and a white blanket clings to all it touches. Clouds billow in the western sky bringing grandeur to the piñon, juniper and sage desert at 7,000 feet. When we wake up to fresh snow we have a bounty of nearby locations to revel in silent white. Taos Junction, the Rio Grande Gorge, the Taos Plateau, the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument, and the towering Sangre de Cristos are our backyard. And Spanish Colonial masterpieces like the Martinez Hacienda and iconic Ranchos Church are a stone’s throw from Casa Immel.

Alpha Cloud, Ranchos de Taos, NM

Ruedas Turquesas, Ranchos de Taos, NM

Adobe at Ranchos Plaza, Ranchos de Taos, NM

Brush Strokes, La Morada de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, Taos, NM

As I began this tale, I had the title Wonderland in mind. Then I considered Blanket of Snow and Adobe and Snow before arriving back at Wonderland which allows more breadth. In my article for the upcoming Shadow and Light I wrote that “I won’t know where I’ll a hang my hat till I’ve written more words and contemplated candidates for this leaner story.” By leaner I meant more focused. The hell with that. I continued, “Sometimes the words lead me where they want me to go.” Such was the case with Wonderland.

Inky Shadows, Valles Caldera, NM

Long Shadow, US 64 between Tres Piedras and Tierra Amarilla, NM

Dots and Dashes, Ranchos Church, Ranchos de Taos, NM

Here lies Bernardo Salazar, Valdez, NM

These are the images that will likely be part of Wonderland. It’s more than I usually post and for sure more than you need or want to see. But you’ve suffered through too many weeks of sorting contenders and deserve to see the 12 survivors. Publisher Tim Anderson typically uses ten images. Here are twelve.