Monday, January 27, 2014

Year of the Horse

The Year of the Horse is a good year, as the horse kicks out the Year of the Snake, with all its tragedies, conflicts, and complications.  This Friday, 31 January, the Year of the Horse begins.

In addition to champagne and other assorted beverages, a good portion of tea will be consumed.  Athough we prepare ours using a Japanese metal tea pot, there is nothing like a good cup of tea from a well-seasoned pot on a windy day in winter.

From left to right a sampling of Silver Needle Jasmine from Lincang, Yunnan, China, Irish Breakfast Tea, and Jade Song Oolong

Kung Hei Fat Choy!

until next Monday,


a passion for the image

Monday, January 20, 2014

water crisis

There is good news and bad news from the western United States this morning.  For American football fans, particularly those following the Broncos and the Seahawks, the Superbowl will feature two teams from the west.  Not being a fan myself, I don't know how long it has been since that has happened, but surely there is much joy in both Denver and Seattle today.  While all the celebrations and recaps continue, the water situation in most parts of the west is becoming increasingly dire.  Several friends made trips to California in the past month and they have never seen it that brown and dry.  For coastal parts of the state, this is the time of year when the landscape could be described as looking like Ireland, filled with Kelly green grass and lovely, lush oaks dotting the hills.  Although you cannot convince climate change naysayers, particularly those in the midwest and East who have just been through an extremely wet and very cold period, that the conditions are part of climate change, but they are.  Governor Jerry Brown declared a water emergency this week, and aerial photographs of the snowpack and normal conditions speak the truth.  This is going to be a tough year.  Am I the only one thinking about moving water from extremely wet areas to the dry areas?  Oil and natural gas are shipped by pipeline, why not water?  Of course, that really is not the answer.

The irony and good news in all of this is that one part of California is not in drought - the Mojave Desert.  Of course, all things are relative and it is a desert, but landscape photographers may want to have their cameras in hand for photographing the deserts of California and Arizona because 2014 may well be a stellar year for wildflowers.  It is a guessing game, but here are a few shots from years past to whet your appetites!  They are third generation - from slides to prints to scan - but still provide some visual warmth and juice.

until next Monday,


a passion for the image

Sunday, January 12, 2014

playing with my food

It all started this week while my head was still pondering historic family photographs.  That project will appear in my blog periodically, but other photographic work pops up out of the shadows like gophers on a warm day in winter.

For example, we drove to Arroyo Seco to see the current location of Weaving Southwest and deliver two of Fred's rugs.  Talking with owner Teresa Loveless about product photography lead to a discussion about color and achieving close to true color without the benefit of studio lighting and backdrops.  Which naturally lead to my shooting several shades of purple and blue fiber under different conditions and using available backdrops.  Which, believe it or not, lead to playing with my food.  Because, photography is all about the light, whether the subject is wool or cauliflower.

Digital cameras have numerous settings for the wide variety of artificial light available today but using a particular setting assumes that only one type of bulb is being used.  Otherwise, you pretty much have to experiment and take lots of test shots, or make a wild-eyed, hairy-rumped guess and deal with the consequences later.

Back to cauliflower.  It was a fun ride photographing the humble vegetable, in all its alien weirdness.  The head looks like a brain with phantom leaves protruding from it, and the cross section has the appearance of some creature from the depths of the ocean or what we think of as deep space.

The image below was made outside with the benefit of southern, eastern, and northern light, and computer filtered.

This is the sort of thing used to frighten small children in haunted houses and during monster movies!

But the finished product - a curried cauliflower soup -  is divine!

until next Monday,


a passion for the image


Monday, January 6, 2014


It is a new year, packed with potential.  Opportunities abound, and, if you are like me, you want to dive right into the pool of possibilities.  Given the substance of my I Ching prediction for the year, I will first do some serious photographic housekeeping.

Fred and I brought a tub full of genealogy material and photographs from his family back from our October trip. Dating from the late 1700s to the 1980s, the material is endlessly fascinating, holding revelations and mysteries.  Some of the photographs are unmarked, short of the trademarks from the photography studios in Edinburgh, Scotland, where they were made.  Given the myriad of studio names, there must have been one on every street corner.  In all the photographs, I have found only two that were made in the same studio.  Even more intriguing is that fact that some of these same studios remain in operation today, being run by a fourth generation!

Many of the prints, despite being over one hundred years old and not kept under ideal conditions, are remarkably well preserved.  Yellow, yes, but the originals probably contained lots of silver and were very well fixed in the darkroom.  The image below is one of the oldest of the group, and was also one that was without identification.  We now know these were great, great grandparents.

Great aunt Kate

Great grandfather Andrew

None of these people were wealthy - char women, coachmen, cabinet makers - but to a person, they dressed in their best, and purchased the services of a studio photographer to document who they were at the time.  Pondering all of this, it must have been a true cultural revolution, bringing photographs to the masses who were theretofore unable to have professional oils painted or drawings made.  Today, smart phones have replaced the corner photo studio, which is wonderful.  But therein also lies a problem.  Data is collected and shed with the click of a button, leaving people as a series of 0s and 1s, and worse yet, unidentified.  Metadata is grand but will the format be readable after the next technological evolution?

Thus, I open the year with a reminder to myself and everyone that digital images should be made into prints on archival paper with archival inks, the prints given clear identification to include full name, place and date it was made, and placed in archival sleeves.  Perhaps not all, but many in future generations will seek information about who they are from their past.  Will it be there?

My thanks to Larry Jones, photographic historian and collector, and Donna Coates, archivist, for giving me a swift kick to begin the process of identifying and organizing photographs -  historic and recent. 

until next Monday,


a passion for the image