Leaving town.

There are many ways out of Albuquerque, but this is my favorite. If you are going on a road trip you can kind of say goodbye to the city as you leave. Even if you are not, you can pretend.

This is what is left of Route 66 west of Albuquerque. Just a little over the rise in the far center of the photograph is where it meets I-40 and all points west.

There are little bits and pieces and parts of Route 66 that run along I-40, but not enough to really get anywhere. But, that doesn’t mean they aren’t photographable. They are.

There have been a lot of reflective articles lately about photography. There have been a few concerning how it relates to social media. I’ve said on Storyteller that each has their specific place in the branding world, but do they?

I have never gotten even a nibble from anything that I post on Instagram, which is distributed to Facebook. Oh sure, I get a lot of likes. But, you can’t eat likes. I read Twitter mostly for NOLA Twitter and news. I really don’t know most of the local folks who post on Twitter. And, I read news at the source.

So, why do it?

A photographer/writer who I read and like, reckons that we waste 2.5 hours per day on social media. Think about it. That’s 17.5 hours per week, or 70 hours per month, or 840 hours per year.

That’s 35 days.

What could you do with 35 days?

I have to think about it for another ten minutes, but I think I may do that. There are plenty of ways to reach, find, and talk to me.

Or, I can stay around, not post and just read here and there.

We’ll see.

No worries, I’m not going anywhere here, on Storyteller.

Wowie Zowie. Look at the big ball of light. Wouldja? Oh wait, that’s the sun as it blasts its way through the windshield.

Yes, if you leave Albuquerque at around sunset, this is your view.

There are some big businesses outside of the city limit so you have an inbound rush hour of sorts.

The finished picture takes some explanation.

I tried to keep some details in the sun. Yeah, right. But, doing that made the surrounding everything very dark. It also added a lot of contrast which is no problem for me.

Of course, all of that created a lot of shadows and silhouettes. A lot of people don’t like that which is why HDR was invented.

I like shadows and silhouettes. If anything, I want to make them stronger and more defined.

It’s all a matter of personal taste.

For me, this is how it looks and feels if you are leaving Albuquerque around sunset.

Stay safe. Stay mighty. Stay strong. Wear your mask. Wash your hands. Keep your distance. Get your jabs. Look after each other. Be patient.


Reflections of a far land.
Road Trips.

Driving in New Mexico can be tedious if you are on an interstate. Driving on many roads can be lonely. But, not if you are looking for pictures.

As I recall I made a lot of pictures on this long day trip. None of them summed up being out on the road as well as these two do.

Once upon a time, rest stops were far and few between. Stops like Whitings and Cracker Barrel dominated the old days.

Today, most of those are long gone, left behind as ruins in the dirt. They’ve been replaced by modern gas stations, fast food and stores, all in one well lighted building. And, they are boring. Convenient, but boring.

These pictures were made a one of the boring stops. Obviously, I like the reflection more than I do the scene setter, but you need both to understand what you are looking at.

Technically, there’s not much to these pictures. They were made at dusk at a low shutter speed.

They are, after all, picture a day work.

I did very little to them in post production except sharpen them a bit because it was cold and I was shaking without gloves on my hands.

I did what I could. I was going to walk around the store and make more pictures, but I was making people inside a little nervous.

This restop is a good bit from Albuquerque. It sits at a cross roads. Continue west and you eventually come to “The Q.” Take the intersecting highway, drive northwest and you arrive in Santa Fe.

Stay safe. Safe mighty. Stay strong. Wear your mask. Keep your distance. Look after others. Get your jabs.


Interstate 25 northbound.

Travel. What does it mean? How do we do it? Normally it means going to a place other than your home. For some of us it feels like we move when we are done with a location.

We moved to New Mexico after Hurricane Katrina. It was a good move. I always wanted to live there. I was creatively productive.

But, the New Orleans culture kept calling us, so we moved back. Looking back that may have been a mistake.

We are now talking about moving to New Mexico. Yeah, I know you can never go home again. It was never home. Home is Long Beach, California. That state costs too much money. But, it is home.

If we actually do it, we won’t return to Albuquerque. We’ll either move to Santa Fe or Taos. Of course, Taos is really at the end of the road, even though it is beautiful.

4th Street.

Of course, there is the light. It’s is so hard to put into words. It’s just different. It’s one of the biggest reasons that visual artists move there.

The pictures. They were all made in New Mexico at different times. They are all about roads. They are about travel. They are about moving, and moving on. During those days I literally made a picture a day unless I was working on assignment.

That didn’t mean I only took one frame. I worked on a scene until I was done with it, unless it was a drive by or drive through.

It’s a great exercise. You learn a lot about photography. You learn even more about yourself. I suggest that everybody who is a photographer at any level do this exercise for a year. Photograph your world. Your life. You’ll be amazed at the results.

Route 66, Central Avenue, Albuquerque

All of these images were made during my picture a day adventures. Two of the three pictures were accidental and driven by the quality of the light. The third picture, called 4th Street was just learning where a major street ended.

Stay safe. Stay mighty. Wear your mask. Enjoy all the green Jello.


Nature v Central Avenue

I seemed to be focused on a kind of rebirth.

Nature was there. Man builds something. Nature returns. Nature is here. And, so it goes. And, goes and goes.

The base picture was made on Central Avenue, or as you might know it, Old Route 66, in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The light there is astounding. And, it’s even more so around dusk when everything is painted in gold and yellow tones. The layer is trees that I photographed in New Orleans after the little tropical storm called, Cindy. The trees weren’t much by themselves. But, since I’ve been thinking in components I knew that would eventually have some use. I just didn’t know it would be two days after I made the picture.

Once again. A mixture of old and new. I bit of my past. A bit of my present.

To me, there a couple of things that make this picture. The first is pretty obvious. That red highlight which bounced off of the car’s windshield draws your eye to the center of the image. That’s a combination of luck and angles.

The second is much more subtle. There used to be an old school camera shop on Central Avenue. In fact, there were two. When I first arrived from New Orleans I was in heaven. There are none in NOLA. The one in the picture was called Kurt’s Camera. Look just above the car. There is a little neon sign that says, Kodak Film.

That’s the picture.


Nature’s way.

I made this image last night. I showed my neighbor today, before I was ready to show you. The first thing that she was drawn to is that little ghost-like shape near the middle left on the bridge’s trestle. She saw it as a spirit. She called this picture, “Voodoo Bridge.” That’s the title of this post. I don’t have a better idea.

Truth.

I saw this image as an illustration of something that I always say about nature. She never loses. She seeks stasis. Eventually everything goes back to her.

I was further influenced by something I was watching on Amazon Prime about Alexander the Great and his explorations. Apparently, he travelled into the current Afghanistan and Uzbekistan. It’s mostly desert today. But, once upon a time it was green, filled with water. Cities, towns and villages flourished. About 1,000 of them. Today, they are relics. Piles of stone.

My neighbor saw the picture differently. She saw it as something mystical. A little spiritual. And, haunting. In many ways, I like that better.

Which brings me to one of my muses. The late Beatle, John Lennon. Whenever he was asked what his songs meant, he replied, “Whatever you want them to mean.”

There you have it. The artist brings everything to the work. The viewer makes his or her own meaning from it. That is the beauty of it. Many artists don’t like that, especially after they’ve taken the time to make a statement through their art. Too bad. That’s the way it is.

One more thing. A kind of housekeeping note. For as long as I pursue this path I’m not going to talk so much about technique. For me, and many of you, the pictures have become transcendent. Art is art. Besides, if these new works were paintings, I doubt you’d ask me what kind of brush I used. Or, what brand of paint.

Would you?

 


Around the back.

From the inside. A lot of you liked the Aztec Motor Court sign. I thought I would show you what the actual court area looked like. My kinda place. Bed sheets for curtains. Paintings hung on the OUTSIDE of the building. Bits of New Mexico folk art hung just about everywhere.

I’d like to say that because I passed by so frequently that I got to know some of the people who lived here. Even though their art and what-not were left as a reminder, they were fairly transient.

The picture. I said that even though I mostly tinker I do have some intent. I wanted the faux adobe to look sun-baked without being too bright. And, I wanted some details in the shadows. That’s it.


Aztec Motel

Once upon a time.

This place existed. It was one of those old motor courts located on Route 66, or Central Avenue, in Albuquerque. New Mexico. In fact, it was the oldest, being built in 1932. It was one of the five most important historical motor courts on Route 66.

In later years it fell on hard times. It became sort of a group of studio apartments. All sorts of folk artists lived there. You could walk through the courtyard and make hundreds of pictures of all sorts of different things. If the artists got to know you, you could photograph them. I was invited inside a couple of the motel rooms/apartments. It was minimalistic living before that became a thing. Cooking? Outside on all sorts of little barbeques and camp stoves. When I lived in the city, I would pass by about once a month just to see how things had changed. Yes. It was that fluid.

Then, I read that it was being torn down.

Because.

It needed about a million dollars worth of work to bring it up to code. It wasn’t worth it. So the motel was demolished in 2011. The sign was deemed historical, so it remained. Until 2015, when it was moved supposedly to be restored under a Route 66 cost share grant because the sign, itself, was deemed historical. As of 2015, nobody knows where the sign went.

The newly cleared land? Well, it’s now something really important. A parking lot, in a section of town where nobody needs one.

You know what Joni Mitchell said about that many years ago. “They paved paradise and put in a parking lot.”

The picture. Oh, I made it probably in 2011. Just about the time the motor court was torn down and just before I left for the swampy climes of New Orleans. After all, who needed my dry alligator skin, when I could have real alligators?

I tinkered with the image again. As usual. Because somebody I know is going to ask. First, I bleached the picture. Then I brought the color saturation down. Then, I brought the red up slightly. I added a rust-like filter. I added a folded gray paper filter. Then, I re-desaturated it and added a little corner darkness.

If you want to know why I did all these things, ask me. There really is a thought process behind it. It isn’t about just adding filters to make a bad picture worse. I see that all the time on Instagram. Always remember, and never forget, it starts with the subject itself, And, as buddy of mine says, “if you want better pictures stand in front of better stuff.” He single-handedly turned a little town in Kansas into an arts mecca.

 

 


The Road and Route 66

Once, as I was entering the small Route 66 town of Seligman, Arizona, I stumbled upon this old Air Stream trailer on the eastern edge of town. At first, I thought it was abandoned. But, as I started making pictures I realized two things. It wasn’t abandoned. And, it was functioning as an artist studio. Those square objects in the window are actually canvases in various states of completion. The artist wasn’t there or I would have asked to see his or her work. And, step inside.

Seligman. And me. The little town is a touchstone to my own history. When we were young, our parents liked to go to the Southwest. Often, they didn’t have enough time for a really leisurely road trip, so we’d leave after normal work hours on a Friday, drive all night and stop in Seligman. That became a day long rest stop because you could explore from there.

In those days, the little town wasn’t the tourist attraction it is today. Most buildings were abandoned and boarded up. There was a little motel and a restaurant called the Copper Kettle. My memory is not that great. I know this because it is still there today, some fifty years later. It was marginal then, and it is marginal today. Vegetables were, and are, an unknown to them. The best they could do was either glazed carrots or creamed spinach. From a can. But, they served great country breakfasts. They still do. Go there for breakfast. Go to another town for lunch.

Today, as small as it is — you can see all of it in about five minutes if you are in a hurry — the town is booming. It seems to be the depository for all things Route 66 in that general region. Old cars. Old signs. Old gas pumps. If you like the kind of rolling junk iron cars you can find in Cuba, you can find them in Seligman. Without the humidity. If you like road food like burned hamburgers, cheap hot dogs and soggy french fries — yep — you can find it in Seligman. If you are trying to photograph Route 66, like I was at the time, you can probably do most of it in Seligman and just tell your client you drove 1,200 or 1,500 miles.

I didn’t do that. I’m kind of OCD about that stuff.

The picture. Well you know. More of my playing around. The Air Stream is actually in really good shape. Even its tires were properly inflated, which is one of the first things to go in the dry desert heat.

One more thing. I usually do these kind of road trips in the spring or fall. The light is better and it’s not so hot. But, for the full Route 66 experience I suggest you do it in the dead of summer. When, even with an air-conditioned car, you stick to the seats.


Finally.
Finally.

Driving all night.

If you are coming from the west on I-40, this is where you stop. For a day breaks breakfast. Then you go on your way. You may continue east. To Texas. And beyond. Or, you may turn north on I-25 and stop in Santa Fe, or continue further on state roads to Taos. Or, stay on I -25 to Denver. Or you could head south. To Las Cruces or El Paso. Right on the United States – Mexico border.

These particular Garcia’s is located on Central Avenue. Route 66. There’s a couple of them. My favorite is on 4th Street. It’s just not traveling convenient. Especially is it is just a rest stop. Or, food break.

All sounds pretty romantic, doesn’t it? It is. Just writing those names excites me. Just thinking about breakfast at Garcia’s excites me even more. If the waiter or waitress asks, “Red or green,” just say “Christmas.” If you’ve been there, you know what I’m talking about. If not, you’ll learn quickly.

The picture. Kind of the usual. F8, or something like that, and be there. Let moving subjects have a little motion blur. Clean up the color just a bit.