Monday, August 11, 2014

on the road

One of the things that living in a rural area does for you is heighten your senses, including hearing.  Last week, we could tell that August had arrived.  It is a time during which many people with children decide to take a last trip or jaunt along the highways and byways before the beginning of school.  The highway noise confirmed that.  In a way, it is friendly.  Americans relish the freedom to hop in an automobile and take a road trip, and many of you may be doing just that as summer transitions into the commercially rendered "back to school" season.

In late 1999, a group of five or six friends took a road trip along the old Route 66 through New Mexico, Texas, and Oklahoma.  We stopped at nearly every crazy tourist spot.  I found this gas station/early era convenience store of particular visual interest.  At that point I thought, "I will remember where I took this" and did not bother to mark the transparency image below, one of the deadly sins photographers can commit.  I suspect it is in the Texas panhandle.

This is a lineup of classic Chevrolet sedans, circa 1955/56 and a Chevy Nomad, transporting a wedding party to the reception.  I was shooting out the window of another vehicle.  Thanks to Earle Williams and his staff at Williams Classic Chassis Works for the detail and body work on the vehicles.  Added bonus - check out the 2003 gas prices in the Pomona, California area.

Naturally, I could not neglect the desire to hop on a motorcycle and hit the road.

Wherever the road takes you this week, enjoy the ride!

until next Monday,


a passion for the image

Sunday, August 3, 2014

the yellow season

The second clutch of Say's phoebes have fledged and are busy bulking up for their flight south, the hummingbird numbers peaked at 315 this year, and a group of at least one hundred nighthawks circled, gathering insects before an approaching storm.  It was a week of subtle but noticeable changes in the weather.  Yellow began to dot the landscape, in the form of both cultivated flowers and native plants, and I want to share some of the lovely shades with you.

When I was photographing the day lilies, I realized that the inside structure looks decidedly like some of the sandstone slot canyons of the west.  Perhaps a stretch of my imagination but fascinating.

Strange that I never noticed the crenulation of three of the petals prior to this year.  That happens when you pull out the camera and really look.

Growing along the highways of northern New Mexico is a wide variety of wildflowers at this point, including the sunflower.  I love this particular tangle accompanied by some sky drama.

The group below seemed particularly friendly.

until next Monday,


a passion for the image

Monday, July 28, 2014

meet Joe Bacon

One could say that Joe Bacon is all about wool but that would be an oversimplification.  He is an extremely creative weaver, working in the styles and colors of Central and South American traditional native weaving, but above all, he is an artist.  Of life and the world.  He is another person who has agreed to be part of my environmental portraiture project, and our photo shoot last week was lively and wonderful.

Here are just a few of the many images from the afternoon.  The first is a shot of Joe at his loom, working on a new weaving utilizing only unprocessed fleece as the weft.  It was absolutely full of lanolin.

Just for grins, we used the wool in a few more photographs

The image below was shot with a 70-200mm AF-S Nikkor lens.  I absolutely love it because, in addition to providing great mid-range telephoto options, it offers superb "bokeh" for portrait shots.  Ken Rockwell has an excellent online piece explaining bokeh - the way lens elements render out-of-focus points of light.

No doubt you will read more about Joe Bacon in future posts, but I wanted to give you an initial look at the artist and the man.

until next Monday,


a passion for the image

Monday, July 21, 2014

fleeting beauty

Every time we watched the news this week, our hearts sank.  It would be easy to use this blog as a political forum, and at times like these, it seems that would be a more significant and helpful use of cyber space.  The last thing I want to do is be a purveyor of fluff.  But perhaps there is also a desire for beauty, however fleeting.  Thus, the day's blog features beauty that presented itself during the past few days.

I could say the dog ate my homework and that is why the blog is a bit late this morning.  But in actuality, I was chasing the most perfect specimen of swallowtail butterfly I have ever seen around the garden.  Flying from one flower to another, the swallowtail made it challenging for me to photograph the full wing span using my 70-200 mm lens.

With the recent rains, the cushion cacti have exploded into bloom on the mesa.  The blooms only last  a day and I found I had to train my eyes to look across the landscape to see them.  They are everywhere.

In bright sunshine, the blooms are almost like fuchsia on fire.

May every single person on our fragile and endangered planet be able to catch a bit of beauty this week, fleeting or otherwise.

until next Monday,


a passion for the image

Sunday, July 13, 2014

celestial meanderings

Saturday night, there was the first in a sequence of three"supermoons".  Scientists writing for the online publication NASA Science News indicate that "the scientific term for the phenomenon is 'perigee moon.'  Full Moons vary in size because of the oval shape of the Moon's orbit. The Moon follows an elliptical path around Earth with one side ("perigee") about 50,000 km closer than the other ("apogee").  Full Moons that occur on the perigee side of the Moon's orbit seem extra big and bright."

Some photographers "major" in night photography - whether photographing man-made phenomenon or the sky - they do a majority of shooting at night.  I am not that kind of person and, as a general rule, don't do much night photography.  Thus, I am here to say I am lacking dramatic moon shots.  But the entire idea of celestial events made me think about our reaction to them as opposed to those of the people who came before us, including the ancestral Pueblo peoples at Chaco Culture National Historical Park in northwestern New Mexico.

The supermoons that occurred in the period when Chaco was occupied - 850 and 1250 A. D. - were no doubt noticed, given the image below.  It is said to be a petroglyph of the super nova of 1054.  I dare say Chacoans were probably more aware of their surroundings than many in our tech-laden world.  

According to the National Park Service, the complexity and size of the buildings at Chaco are a testament to the "organization and engineering abilities" of the people who lived there.  The photograph below is of the back wall of Pueblo Bonito

Window at Talus House

The next "supermoon" will be on August 10.  Given the fact that Chaco has been designated as an official International Dark Sky Park, perhaps it would be a good idea to visit this amazing place next month.

until next Monday,


a passion for the image

Monday, July 7, 2014

following the bloom

There is so much happening in the garden and landscape right now that I hope you will indulge me in one more blog featuring flowers.  Despite the year's relative lack of precipitation, which to date is just above three inches, some of it fell at the perfect time for wildflowers to take note and make a grand appearance.  Along with the blue flax, gaillardia seeds were part of a wildflower mix used to recover areas along New Mexico highways.

The gaillardia are making quite the splash and butterflies have taken notice.

The spits and spats of rain that have fallen also helped the garden flowers, such as this bloom on a clematis vine.

Although the blue flax is on the wane, there are still some jewels in the mix.

until next Monday,


a passion for the image

Monday, June 30, 2014

bee's eye view

Years ago, a nurseryman in Santa Fe said jokingly that I was a penstemanaic, a person who loves penstemons.  And yes, I do love this group of plants that are part of the figwort family.  Paintbrush also belongs to this family, as do a wide variety of wild and now somewhat domesticated flowers.  Rocky Mountain penstemon is a deep blue-ish purple but when these plants occupy space with other species, their colors cover a broad spectrum, including fuchsia.  Recently, I found this one in the shade of a wisteria.  Given the brilliant colors of most penstemons, this almost qualifies as albino.

Here is a Rocky Mountain penstemon, up close and personal.

This genus of the flower world is gorgeous and beguiling, particularly to pollinators.  You can see why the flowers below, from a stalk of Penstemon palmerii, are particularly interesting to bumblebees.  They can fit their entire bodies inside "bumblebee garages", writhe wildly and come out entirely covered with pollen.  Here is a bee's eye view.

The flowing stripes on the palmerii petals is another example of nature's inspiration for abstract art.

From a pure photography standpoint, shooting this week presented some interesting challenges.  The wind blew a lot, moving the flowers every which way, but worse yet, when the wind wasn't blowing the no-seeums discovered me very quickly and began taking their fill of my blood.  Luckily, that part of the natural cycle ends when the monsoon begins.  

until next Monday,


a passion for the image

Saturday, June 21, 2014

The Weaver's Dilemma

Talk to any artisan who weaves - whether the end product is apparel or rugs - and the one thing that is absolutely the bane of his or her existence is the process of warping the loom.  To a person, each would probably pay vast sums of money to have the loom warped and ready for the creative side of the process.  Thus, when a weaver warps the loom, it is warped for a number of pieces at once, eliminating the need to warp after every piece.  In my husband, Fred's case, he warps for roughly five rugs and a rifle scabbard or smaller piece.

Facing the loom and starting on the right hand side, Fred ties 184 individual strands of warp, 4 at a time, to the existing short lengths left after the last rug was removed, and measures from that point to a single point at the other end of the house, 42 feet away.  With the the warp just touching the side of the bed, it forms a catenary curve, making each length exactly the same.  They are already threaded through the heddles and reed, but are now strung the length of the house.  At this point, Fred carefully lays each strand on the floor of the house (and the loom) creating a "river" of wool.

Many weavers use a tool called a "warping board", but Fred finds his current system somewhat easier.  He is definitely accustomed to it after having warped his loom about 47 times, enough for the 277 pieces, mostly rugs, that he has produced in the last eleven years.

184 strands of warp, all 42 feet in length, is roughly 1.5 miles of warp.  That is what Fred loads onto the Rio Grande walking loom each time he warps.  The tough and "toothy" characteristics of Navajo-Churro wool makes it ideal for weaving rugs but the weaver's dilemma of warping is even more pronounced.  Each strand of the wool clings to any other piece in its proximity like Velcro.  The strands curl back and around themselves like pig tails.  Tying the strands is a very precise and exacting task, and the consistency of churro almost removes fingerprints!

My role in this?  I am the burro, holding half of the strands in each hand (forming equilateral triangles, as Fred likes to say) after they have been wrapped around my waist.  My job is to try to keep a steady tension on the warp while Fred winds the warp, amidst squeaks and pops, onto the warp-beam.  This is about the level of my expertise when it comes to weaving, since the geometry/geography gene is definitely not dominant in my makeup!  But what beautiful designs can be created by artists, like Fred,  who are lucky enough to possess it.  Here is his most recent rug #232, now living in Tyler, Texas.

Thanks to Connie Taylor, Julie and Ashley at Taos Fiber Arts, the folks at Tierra Wools and at Weaving Southwest, for giving and supporting Fred's love for weaving.

until next Monday,


a passion for the image

Monday, June 16, 2014

one Earth

There are so many things indicating we live in a closed planetary system, on one Earth.  Frequently people on one side of the planet will feel the effects of something happening thousands of miles away.  One spring several years ago, it was constantly dusty all over New Mexico and much of the brown dense dust was from western Africa.  On some moister than normal mornings, we frequently catch smells from large urban areas such as Houston or Los Angeles, depending on the direction of the wind. Last night, we smelled smoke.  Looking west, there was obviously a fire burning somewhere.  It is in the Four Corners area, near Assayii Lake and the community of Crystal on the Navajo Nation.

Wind is the key, isn't it?  I am uncertain as to whether scientists and researchers have the complete picture as to why, when, and where winds behave in the way they do, but they are getting close.  The springs winds that are almost constant in New Mexico contribute to the turnover of layers in any given lake, rejuvenating and mixing nutrients.

Why we are having winds into the heart of June is a question for the meteorologists, but the fact that cold fronts similar to those occurring in winter, are still effecting our weather in New Mexico.  And thus the wind is with us.  Normally, it is fairly calm in summer, with the exception of winds associated with thunderstorms.  I think it is safe to say that what we think of as "normal" is rapidly changing.  Into what, is the question.

This self-portrait shows how I both looked and felt on a similar windy day at Great Sand Dunes.

The horizantal grasses below are much more flexible than I am, holding on to their own in a much different way.

until next week,


a passion for the image

Monday, June 9, 2014


For much of the United States (and the world for that matter) last week was a wild ride, not only politically, but when it comes to weather.  Some areas had soaking and flooding rains as well as tornadoes and waterspouts, while others had scorching heat and relentless dust.  We had spits and spurts of rain, lightning and thunder.  The wind was our constant friend.  Despite it all, the lettuce and spinach in the raised beds are content and growing, and the tomatoes are doing their best, even with the low of 37 degrees Fahrenheit this morning.

This morning's blog is a reflection of the need to seek gentleness in nature.  I find these three images particularly easy on the eyes and soul.  The first is a shot of columbines near Taos Ski Valley.

I never tire of viewing grass collecting dew.

water lily at Sunrise Springs, south of Santa Fe

until next Monday,


a passion for the image

Monday, June 2, 2014

environmental portraiture

In 1994, I began the task of photographing people around New Mexico, initially as an environmental portraiture photography course project.  As I worked, it became quite obvious the images were taking on lives of their own, contributing to a body of work which eventually became A Place Like No Other:  people of an enchanted land, published in 2002.

In the beginning, I approached people I knew.  It was a much less painful way to give myself a firm kick in the rear to get started while I got my thoughts and objectives organized.  At that point, a leap of faith was required and I began contacting people who I thought would be good subjects, keeping my fingers crossed that each would be willing to work with a photographer who had no real reputation.  Quite a number of my scenics had been published in New Mexico Magazine, the Albuquerque Journal, the Territory Ahead catalog and Organic Gardening, but a full-blown Ansel Adams-Annie Leibovitz reputation doesn't necessarily follow that work.  It was a terrifying proposition.  But strange things started happening.  Every person I contacted (of roughly 150 people I photographed) with the exception of one, not only agreed to be part of the project, but offered other people they felt absolutely "needed" to be photographed.

Eli Brown, of Fairview and La Villita, New Mexico, was my first subject/victim.  He was a sweetheart and was extremely patient with me, while I worked around him with my 35mm Minolta.  Here is a scan of the photograph I chose for the book.

When I decided to embark on this type of environmental portraiture project again,  I chose a person with whom I knew I would be comfortable, and in turn was comfortable in front of a camera.  Bless his heart, Richard Spera agreed, and last week, we had a truly lovely session, in and out of overcast skies, at his guest house complex, Casa Gallina.

Many thanks to both of these gents for their willingness to work with me.  If you have thoughts about people who should be photographed, please email.  I am starting a new list!

until next Monday,


a passion for the image

Monday, May 26, 2014


Today is Memorial Day in the United States of America, a day originally named Decoration Day, set aside to remember those who died in the American Civil War.  We now remember all who died in conflict - declared or undeclared, foreign or domestic.  Men from four different conflicts are shown here.

The first is most likely my great, great grandfather who served in the Union Army during the Civil War.  This scan of a tin type was similar to many that were shot by the burgeoning legions of photographers.

Frederick Rockingham was Fred's grandfather and part of the 62nd C. A. C. (Coast Artillery Corps) during World War I.  He served in France in 1918 near the end of the war.

Although this photograph was taken outside Jefferson Barracks in St. Louis, Missouri, during World War II, Alan Dale Douglas, my father, was later stationed in Deming, New Mexico, where he was an air traffic controller for the Army Air Corps.

The last in this series is a photograph of a rather less-scrubbed group of lads in the Helicopter Combat Squadron 5 (HC-5), Chauvenet Detachment, South China Sea, 1972, Vietnam Era.  My guess would be that, unlike the people in the first three images, most of these men are still among the living.  Does the crew chief on the far right look familiar?

until next Monday,


a passion for the image

Monday, May 19, 2014

return to the dance floor

This morning, I return to the dance floor at Old Martina's Hall in Ranchos de Taos where I photographed beautiful Paloma Villa Lobos in April.  Her focus and enjoyment of Argentine tango are evident in these photographs.  She has a look that cannot be duplicated.  The first image is of Paloma with her father, Steve.

Paloma is dancing with my husband, Fred, in this shot.  The walls and interiors at Old Martina's are perfect backdrops, and courtesy of east, west, and south windows, the light is always interesting and almost perfect.

E. M. Malixi of Taos Tango, takes his turn with Paloma at the milonga or tango dance.

Thanks Paloma, Steve, Fred, and Mike!

until next Monday,


a passion for the image

Monday, May 12, 2014


12 May 2014.   The calendar on the wall displays a photograph of lush, green lady ferns beside a stream in Banning State Park, Minnesota.  But here on the mesa, there is snow on the windows and the sky is bleak.  Snow in May is not without precedent.  Friends of ours from Colorado claim that the most terrifying drive of their 70+ years was when they left our house some years ago, again in May, making their way over U. S. Highway 64 from Tres Piedras to Tierra Amarilla.  The road is narrow, and drop offs occasionally are not for the faint of heart.  In blinding snow, hold on for dear life.  As they did.  The good news about snow in May and fire season, is that moisture of any kind is welcome, and the high winds have diminished, even if temporarily.

Given that backdrop, I turn to photographs in bright sunshine - layers of earth.  Not being a geologist, I cannot tell you the depths nor the ages of the layers, but instead use the photographs as a demonstration of visual beauty and interest.

The first is of a series of dunes at Great Sand Dunes National Park and Reserve in southern Colorado.  The light and dunes constantly change, providing endless photographic possibilities.  I love the way clouds alter the look of the dunes.

Echo Amphitheatre near Abiquiu has distinct geological layers that are stunning in color and shape.

Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument contains passageways through the layers of sandstone, waiting to be discovered.

until next Monday,


a passion for the image

Monday, May 5, 2014

Kings of Bling

The first of May - May Day - was Thursday.  In many parts of the world it is considered Labor Day or International Workers' Day, a day celebrating the value of workers, their contributions, and the memories of those who have perished on the job.  There were parades but also riots and far too many deaths from the African continent to the broader Middle East and the Ukraine.

Nature somehow overcomes human violence and destruction in any way it can.  And thus, spring continued to emerge this week in the northern hemisphere.  In addition to two different types of hummingbirds that have already arrived here - the black chinned and broadtail - the evening and black-headed grosbeaks revealed their presence almost like clockwork.  And the King of Bling of the mesa - the western tanager - made his seasonal debut.  Such a stunning color combination is almost like a painter's palette.  If I am very good, patient, and diligent, some photographs of these flamboyant and wonderful dressers may appear in a future blog.

Until then, the painter's palette and the weaver's yarn will need to suffice.  Here is painter Steve Baumann's, ready to be applied to one of his most recent pieces of the Grand Canyon.

This is a selection of churro wool, dyed by Connie Taylor, Bayeta Classic Sheep and Wool, for use in rugs by weaver Fred Black.

It is hard to beat the color of this poppy courtesy of nature.

until next Monday,


a passion for the image