Monday, December 31, 2012

A new year

A pot of pinto beans is simmering, snow is falling, and a new year is poised to open. What represents the new, rebirth, life, or opportunity more than water, in whatever form it takes.  It is unmatched in  persistent strength and unerring dedication to its course.

The acequia system in northern New Mexico is centuries old but is alive and well, providing the life blood for farmers both large and small.  A branch of this system runs through Casa Gallina in Taos.  Owner Richard Spera says that regardless how much ice builds on the surface during the winter, the acequia water always flows beneath it. Double clicking will enable you to see the ice detail.

Even icicles eventually change form and release waster to the earth.

So as the curtain is raised on 2013, may the water of life nourish and inspire us to respect, cherish, and nurture all that is Planet Earth.

until next year,


a passion for the image

Monday, December 24, 2012

Building doors

It is Christmas Eve.  A day when many of the world's children await a visit from Santa Claus or St. Nikolas, and have images of Santa working feverishly in his shop, preparing gifts, and packing the sleigh.

Many men and women are builders and woodworkers.  Some, like William Bufkin of Taos, are extremely skilled at what they do. Buf allowed me to hang around his shop last week and photograph him while he was working on doors for a home remodel.  He began by visually sizing up planks of western red cedar, seeing how the grains and textures might work together and complement each other.

In the image below, the trueness of the plank is checked.

Buf blows the sawdust away following with each pass of the saw.

Planeing the plank

Thanks, Buf!

until next Monday,


a passion for the image

Monday, December 17, 2012

Winter white

To the joy of just about everyone, winter finally arrived in New Mexico this week, with either snow or rain falling statewide.  A great thing, indeed, for a parched landscape.  This Friday, 21 December, is the Solstice and official opening of the season.

I offer a toast, then, to winter, Solstice, and the gradual lengthening of days on Earth, assuming the Maya simply ran out of room on their calendar.

Nature graced us with an incredible hoar frost this morning, the crystals of which were quite profound and stunning.  To make the images larger, click twice on each one.

until next Monday,


a passion for the image

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Bird photography kindergarten

Wildlife photographers are incredible.  I have always admired them and their abilities, regardless of filming location.

The wildlife shots I am able to wrangle generally are a matter of trying to place myself in the right place at the right time, and luck.

So this week, I decided to take a new piece of equipment in hand and make an attempt to photograph scrubs jays in flight.  Knowing something about jays, from observation and from having read the story by Mark Twain about the blue jay and the acorn, they respond almost immediately to anything that vaguely resembles food.  Matter of fact, some of the first photographs I shot appeared to have huge smudges of white and yellow in them.  A closer look revealed bird seed flying out of their bills as they departed the feeder.  Jays pack so much food in during each trip to the feeder that some seed is bound to be lost in flight.

But back to the photography.   Like a fledgling bird, experimenting with and then trying to perfect the specifics of flight, I am a fledgling photographer when it comes to photographing birds in flight.  I began "bird photography kindergarten" this weekend.  What I really wanted was to photograph the backlit curved flair of the wings.  Perhaps it is due to the long tail feathers, but the jay feather configuration seems much more dramatic than that of other birds of similar size.  As you can see in the photographs below (made during six different shooting periods), each landing is divided into parts, with its own critical and intricate moves.

Patience and the ability to sit on the ground (or wherever) is certainly helpful.  Good hearing, to determine the difference in the heft and frequently of wing beats among the assorted species of birds in residence is essential.  And timing is crucial.  I began by focusing the camera, holding it and waiting for a bird to appear in the viewfinder.  Eventually, I realized I needed to anticipate the direction or place from which the birds would be flying, look in the viewfinder with one eye and scan the landscape with the other.

It is quite obvious I have yet to wear the kindergarten mortar board.  The results are not as acute or focused, nor what I would hope to eventually achieve with a heavier lens and handheld camera.  But it is a start!

until next Monday,


a passion for the image

Monday, November 26, 2012

What are you lookin' at?

If you participated in the advertising hypathon that has become grey Thursday, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday, you probably wanted to say to someone you encountered "Hey, what are you lookin' at?"

In photography, that look of surprise from human or beast frequently is just that.  A look of astonishment from your subject.  Here are three of my favorites.

I hope you have the time to enjoy the season, and that it will be full of good surprise moments!

until next Monday,


a passion for the image

Sunday, November 18, 2012


Not being a real fan of the genre, I lack a true sense of understanding of self-portraiture.  There are photographers and artists I know who do self-portraiture as a form of expression, and they do it almost exclusively and quite beautifully.  Personally, it is much more satisfying to find and photograph the endless number of fascinating faces in the world.

If and when I do a self-portrait, it tends to be of an extremity, such as a hand or foot or leg, or of clothing I wear.  In line with that, here is a glimpse into what I wore at the Albuquerque Tango Festival the first weekend in November.

The first photograph was made by my husband, using an iPhone, in low hotel light, and full of grain.  Although cell phones generally have a pretty decent number of megapixels these days, you can certainly tell the difference between this and the shot below it.

Well-lit with multi-directional natural light, the shine of the heel's surface and patina of the red leather  strap are quite tangible.

That is about it as far as self-portraiture is concerned from this photographer.  Kudos to Luella Roberts ( for making the beautiful gloves.

until next Monday,


a passion for the image

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Still life with fruit

The blog (the BLOB?) has returned after a weekend off, full of tango, that opened the month of November.

An ever-evolving and burgeoning body of work known as "still life" fills the artspace, and my blog is no exception.  I love photographing food, raw or prepared, and thus, you will once again be subjected to it in today's posting.

In New Mexico, where late frosts in spring and early frosts in the fall wreak havoc with fruit growers, a great fruit year that includes tons and tons of apricots and peaches seems to occur only every seven or eight years.   Those who have apples and pears have better luck, with good crops every two or three years.  2012 was one of the years where the crops overlapped, and everyone seemed to have more fruit than they needed.

The photograph below is courtesy of Victoria's apples.  The pears are from the Santa Fe Farmers' Market.

Although pomegranates are being grown in southern New Mexico, these probably came from a more distant location, still eminently photographable.

We are having a taste of winter, with a high yesterday of 29 and low temperature early this morning of -1.  Downhill skiers and boarders are salivating!  I will continue to eye the fruit!

until next Monday,


a passion for the image

Monday, October 29, 2012

Thinking Abiquiu

A Renaissance woman with whom my husband and I have spoken for several years at the Wool Festival in Taos, recently emailed and asked if she could paint one of my photographs.  "Naturally, I was flattered!"  (Thanks to Jennifer Jason Leigh portraying Amy Archer in The Hudsucker Proxy for that wonderful piece of dialogue.)

But the email correspondence made me flash on the beauty that is the Abiquiu area and why so many artists and photographers have been attracted to it over the years.  Season, light, and shadows can morph the geology from a lunar landscape to a circus of color in minutes

Here's to you, Deborah, and all the artists - past, present, and future - who have or will embrace the area in their work!

until next Monday,


a passion for the image

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Sky drama

Ask anyone from almost anywhere around the world, and he or she will probably say that autumn is the most beautiful of seasons.  It certainly has been a stunner here in the southern Rockies, and despite the fact that trees in the mountains have shed their leaves, calm days with high temperatures in the 50s and 60s have totally spoiled me.  We could use the moisture but it is gorgeous.

Even in early autumn, occasional rains and storms can light up the sky.  Here are a few samples of the southwestern sky before nightfall in late September.

And, just for grins, a particularly dramatic image from earlier in the year.

until next week,


a passion for the image

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Hunting season

Regardless of whether your feelings about hunting are in the line of "Run, Bambi, run!", or you revel in the thrill and skill necessary for a successful hunt, there is no doubt this is hunting season.  Deer, elk, bear, and cougar are the animals being hunted at this time of year in our area, and hunters with massive amounts of equipment, including all terrain vehicles (ATVs), numerous coolers for packing the meat, as well as campers, tents, and stoves line the highways.  Each hunter has his or her favorite hunting spot within units designated by the state Department of Game and Fish.

Personally, I prefer hunting with my camera.  Below are two photographs I shot one morning of a mule deer.

The elk herds tend to gather later in the winter.  This shot was recently exhibited in the Taos Select section of the Taos Fall Art Festival.

until next Monday,


a passion for the image

Monday, October 8, 2012

Wooly weekend

My weekend was spent surrounded by fiber, which was very good because it was a chilly but beautiful one in Kit Carson Park.  For everyone involved in the 29th annual Wool Festival in Taos, life revolves around the animals and fibers they produce.  Sheep fleeces represent the largest part, but alpaca, llama, and rabbit also provide lustrous additions to the mix.  The vendors are incredibly dedicated to their animals, and to the exactness of the arts and crafts they produce. 

My husband, Fred, a real Renaissance Man, who has been both an architect and commercial airline pilot, is a weaver of Rio Grande and architectural style rugs.  He uses 100% Navajo churro wool from Connie Taylor, the national registrar for churro sheep in the United States.  She hand-dyes all the wool in the most amazing palette of colors.

When Fred is working on a rug, using a Rio Grande style walking loom, he generally does a combination of one color lines, shooting a shuttle across the width of the loom.  When tapestry is used to create a specific shape, it requires feeding pieces of wool under every other strand of warp (the vertical strands you see on the loom below that become the fringe at the end of the rug).  This process is reversed going the opposite direction after the using the beater bar to tightly pack the previous run of wool.

Here is a photograph of Fred and his loom with a rug in progress.  The turquoise designs at the end of the rug are considered tapestry.

One of his Frank Lloyd Wright/Charles Rennie Mackintosh-inspired pieces that was on display at the Taos Fall Arts Festival.

until next Monday


a passion for the image

Monday, October 1, 2012

Colors of autumn

Blogs sometimes are delayed when the writer/photographer is in drift mode, taking photographs.  I have been shooting the autumn, which in our end of the Rocky Mountains this year is spectacular.  So my duty for today is to lay color at eye level for your viewing.

Bizarre as it may seem, this little creature caught my eye near Taos Ski Valley.  Insects are absolutely not my area of expertise, but this one has distinctive identifiers called "lashes".  As far as I can tell, it is the caterpillar stage of a tussock moth of some sort.

No identifier on this one.  Just a splash of color.

And what would autumn in the Rockies be without an aspen or two?

until next Monday,


a passion for the image

Sunday, September 23, 2012

A Tale of Two Flowers

Members of the Solanaceae or nightshade family are very familiar New World plants that, over the centuries, spread like wildfire to every point on the globe, thanks to the human need to explore and move. Tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, eggplants, and tobacco are all part of this broad family, as are several hallucinogens and toxins, including Atropa belladonna or deadly nightshade.

Nightshades are grown all over New Mexico as crops (where would we be without chile?), but there are at least eight that I know of growing in disturbed or sandy soil, along roadsides and in fields.  One of them, sacred Datura (Datura innoxia), has large, impressive trumpet-like flowers.  The Datura below was exceptionally well-watered at Los Poblanos Historic Inn.  The pale lavender edges and "teeth" on the edges are distinctive characteristics of the datura flower.

Incongruous as it seems, the plant that produces such large, showy flowers, grows in the same area as Artemisia tridentata, or big sagebrush.  Most people see big sage after the sage green leaves have been rolled into smudge sticks.  But as a member of Asteraceae or sunflower family, it, too, has blossoms.  Unless the monsoon season is good, however, one might not even see the clusters of brilliant yellow-green blossoms that cascade and pop with pollen.

Two completely different plants, growing in what most gardeners consider unsuitable or junky soil but producing such stunning results.  

until next Monday,


a passion for the image

Sunday, September 16, 2012


In art schools and salons, and in conversations among artists, "process" is frequently a topic of conversation and discussion.

The process of doing specific things is viewed very differently within any group.  Some cherish the process or journey as a crucial part of the goal while others see it as frustrating, painful, and not nearly fast enough.  I have had this philosophical discussion with many photographers, writers, and those involved in myriad physical endeavors.  The feelings of most seem to fall somewhere in the middle.

I was thinking about this while making bread yesterday and it led me to a photographic study of the subject.  Just as I make a pretty good loaf of bread, but perhaps not approved by Le Cordon Bleu, my photographs of that loaf are decent but can always go farther and improve.  So the process of baking and the process of photography hold many similarities.  Since this loaf of bread is only being shared with you visually, the recipe is included here so that you can begin your own process or journey in bread making.

dough ready to rise

kneading the dough

finished and sliced loaf

crumb texture and cheese details

I use a traditional bread recipe, adding about a cup of Jarlsberg cheese chunks, and substituting 1-2 cups of whole wheat pastry flour for some of the regular flour.  Letting the dough rise twice in the bowl and once in the loaf pans makes the bread texture that much better.

For two loaves, use the following recipe:

2 packages instant dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1 3/4 cups warm water
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons good olive oil
1 to 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup Jarlsberg cheese, cut into chunks
4-5 cups unbleached white flour

Dissolve yeast in 1/2 cup of warm water and let stand for five minutes.  Mix in the remaining water, sugar, salt, and olive oil.  Add the whole wheat pastry flour, cheese, and unbleached white flour, cup by cup, until the dough becomes difficult to mix.  Flour a clean surface and begin to knead the bread, this usually takes about 10 minutes, or until the dough is no longer sticky.  At this point, you can usually poke a finger in it and the indentation with disappear.   This process is mesmerizing in the same way taking and processing photographs is.  Let the dough rise until double in size, punch it down, and let it rise again.  Oil and flour 4" x 8" or 5" x 9" loaf pans.  Shape the loaves and let them rise one more time.  When doubled, bake these wonders at 425 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until golden.  

I promise that I won't be channeling Julia Child in my next blog!

until next Monday,


a passion for the image

Monday, September 10, 2012

studies in squash

Anyone who has lived in New Mexico (and I suspect the southern Rocky Mountains as well) for a decade or more, and is interested in gardening, knows that the years during which fruit and vegetables really thrive can be infrequent.  Usually an early or late frost, wind, not enough moisture, too much moisture, pests, or any number of things can keep the fruit and veggie harvest to a minimum.  But this year, anyone who has planted any kind of fruit tree or assorted vegetables is having a banner year.  Trees are loaded with fruit.  And of course, one of the three legacy New Mexico crops - squash - is doing quite well.  When people have good squash crops, beware!  It seems to me that if you close your eyes for five minutes, you will have twenty more, and some will be two feet long.  People can't even give them away!  I love the piece of advice passed around at this time of year "You know, you should always lock your cars at night because if you don't, they will be full of squash."

Thanks to Susie and Bogie, we had a number of more exotic squashes to add to our zucchini collection, including a pattypan squash.  Continuing my habit of photographing living things that people give us, here are a few studies.

Such wonderful and complex simplicity nature gives us!

until next Monday,


a passion for the image

Monday, September 3, 2012

Over the rainbow

Today is Labor Day, a day set aside originally to celebrate the strength and ingenuity of workers and unions.  Other than the fact that it is the last three day weekend of the summer holiday season, it is often not given a second thought.  While both political parties tout candidates who supposedly identify with "the worker", companies and banks are seemingly in the process of eliminating the unions and working class ideals that made this holiday possible.  To a good many people, dreams of a better future for their children are way over the rainbow.

But as long as we can look to the sky and see the beauty of a rainbow during or after rain, we continue to dream.

For a wonderful interpretation of an actual strike at the Empire Zinc Mine in New Mexico, watch the 1954 film Salt of the Earth.

until next Monday,


a passion for the image