New Mexican Roads

W

owzer! WordPress fixed the things that they broke. I have captions and I don’t have to do a work around just to use columns and paragraphs.

I have other stuff to say, but I’m excited. It’s the little things, you know?

If it seems like I’m publishing a lot of road pictures, you’re right. But, that’s what I did in New Mexico. I traveled around, learning about the state and making pictures. I also learned about the people and enjoyed a lot of wonderful food.

It’s odd. I really like Northern New Mexican food, which is kin to Mexican or Tex-Mex food, but nowhere near the same. I cannot say the same for New Orleans food. The only time that we eat it is when out of town guests come for a visit and they want to sample New Orleans food.

That’s not quite true. I like a restaurant called Mandina’s which is Northern Italian – Creole. It’s not fancy and yet you can see the city’s moves and shakers.

I really like taking guests there because we can tour. We walk up our street to the green streetcars, ride along St. Charles and transfer at Canal Street to the red streetcars. Get off in front of the restaurant.

Our guests love it. They get to ride our famous streetcars, they get to see parts of the city the they might not normally see. They get real locals food. And, if they want, instead of transferring at Canal Street, we can get off and walk around the Quarter.

They wonder, what’s not to like?

My guests learned what’s not to like, one night when we returned home. The lawn was flooded up to our porch. WTF?

Turns out a water main broke in the middle of the street. By the time the city came to repair it, there was a lake that stretched for about two blocks. This happens a lot in the city.

Yeah.

What’s not to like?

T

here’s not very much to talk about from a technical standpoint.

The most important take away, is to think about reworking your pictures every now and then.

As much as I liked the perspective and compression, the picture never really never did it for me.

After tinkering with a few day ago, I finally figured out the problem.

The picture was too light.

I made it on a cold winter day. It didn’t feel that way.

I darkened it, added colors of winter and I like the picture way more than I did.

One more thing about this picture. It doesn’t look like what you think of when you think of New Mexico does it?

When you drive east of the Sandia or Sangre de Christo Mountains, the land starts to flatten out as it makes its way into western Colorado.

It looks like what it is. High plains and farm land as you leave the high desert.

Can you guess which way the mountains are?


In the winter.

We had snow. It melted. We had rain. The water stuck around long enough to freeze. We had snow on top of that.

I ran some errands a few miles from home. I came to this street and thought, “Oh oh.” I had no idea if it was just wet or icy. It was wet turning to ice as the day got colder.

Even though I like to say that I enjoy bad weather, mostly because you can make pictures like this one, driving in it doesn’t make me happy.

Even though it’s been a while, I’m fairly comfortable driving on snow. Ice is another story. You have no control. The car slides whichever way it wants to go unless you have studded tires or chains.

And, then there’s getting trapped in icy and snow conditions. With my car if you turn on the anti skid settings, you cannot drive out of a snow drift or ice. If you turn it off, out you go. I’m sure my friends in northern climes have something to say about this.

I’ll tell you an ice story.

My newspaper career started in Virginia. I was married to a woman who is not my wife now. She was a great reporter. As I understand it, she’s retired now. I have nothing bad to say about her. Not ever.

Anyway.

We spent the weekend in Washington D.C. We were headed home on Sunday racing a big snow storm coming from the East behind us. We got to a really steep drop on I-81. At the bottom were two state trooper cars. One trooper had a flashlight and was slowing everybody down.

No problem.

My wife was driving. She applied the brakes slowly. Nothing. Finally a little grab. She managed to slow down to about 1 mph or so. She really had no control. We were right upon the trooper when he stepped slightly to the side and she hit him. At less than 1 mph.

He wasn’t hurt but he was angry. He got to our and started yelling, when he saw my arm holding her back and a terrified look on our faces. When he saw that his anger faded. He understood what happened. He saw us sliding down the highway.

We talked for a few minutes and he told us to be safe.

As I recall that happened somewhere between Roanoke and Christiansburg, where we lived. My then wife drove home. We brought the luggage in. We were exhausted. We went to bed.

When we awoke there was eight feet of snow on the ground. No way to get out until the snow plows arrived sometime in the afternoon.

We should have just stayed in the District

A friend of mine complimented me on a picture that I made in Southeastern Louisiana that looked something like this one.

No, not the scene. The light.

I told her that it is a very hard picture to make because of the light. I also said that the last time I made a picture like it was in about 1978.

It turns out I was wrong.

I made this picture about 12 for 13 years ago.

It has the same quality of cold, silvery backlighting that makes the road sort of shine and drops the edges into a bit of shadow.

Oh okay. I’ve been at this a long time. I’ve been at this since about 1972. Next year makes 50 years.

You can’t expect me to remember everything.

If you ever come to light that looks like this, stop your car, get out of it and make a few pictures. That’s all there is to it.

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


In the wind.

You’d think this is one of my layered pictures. It’s not. I just happened to line myself up with multiple bare trees. I did make a bunch of exposures because I didn’t believe it myself.

A painter followed me here in WordPressland. I followed her back. Her work is good as it is, but she seems to want to define art and artists. She thinks that she isn’t artist because she never had formal training. And, a few other things.

Musical Miss would say that she thinks too much. And, to just do the art. After all, the only way to get good at something is to keep doing it.

Ansel Adams said that your first 10,000 pictures are your worst ones. That seems to be true of almost anything that can happen fairly rapidly.

During that long time of what amounts practice you learn a few things. The two most important are learning not to think. And, to learn your gear so well that it as an extension of yourself.

There was a book called something like Zen and the Art of Archery. It illustrates both ideas.

A young student wants to learn to shoot with a bow and arrow. The master tells him to shoot at a target. The student does this for years. He never hits the target.

He tells the master that he can’t do it. The master asks him to try it one more time. The student pulls an arrow out of the quiver, mounts it on the bow without a thought.

He hits the target in the center. Amazed, he tries again and again, all with the same result.

That’s how you get good at anything.

Practice. Practice. Practice.

Seeing is a technique that I rarely talk about. I should because it is as important as any editing trick.

There are a couple of ways to look at it.

The first is to set out to make pictures. Your senses are on high alert. You see because you force yourself to see.

I do that all the time. Photographing for clients, photographing for myself at events like second lines.

I also have learned over many years to keep my eyes open. When I walk the all seeing dog I’m not out looking for something in particular.

I just look here, there and everywhere. I don’t stare at anything. I just look.

I’m not sure how to teach you to do this except to start by going on an intentional photo walk with your eyes wide open. Once again, practice, practice, practice.

Stay safe. Stay mighty. Be patient. Enjoy all the seeing.


The surly bonds of earth.

No time for my project in the last couple of days so I’ll show you some of the pictures that I’ve been making on simple walks, some with the all seeing dog and some by myself.

After all, we all need a little solitude.

Besides, the all seeing dog is starting to show her age. She walks fine, but sometimes she cuts her own walk short. But, on other days she walks until I want to turn back. Lately, that doesn’t happen much mostly because my little procedure seems to have worked pretty well that I don’t hurt.

Now, that’s something.

I have no expectation that the back work would turn out so well. I have a check appointment with my pain specialist next Monday. I think we’ll both agree that it was a success. Neither of us know how long it will last, nor do we know if my inflamed parts might heal. I’m feeling pretty positive.

That, in itself, is a big change.

Next step, much longer walks because I am pretty out of shape barely walking or walking a sniffing around dog’s pace.

That is also a big change.

Stay safe. Stay mighty. You are experts by now so you know the rest. Enjoy all the softness.

One more thing. Don’t be a Neanderthal like the governor of Texas.

Making changes. Since I closed the left column with change, let’s just take it forward.

I’m talking about changing technique.

I used to desire that every part of the picture be as sharp as possible even though in my film days I liked pictures to be filled with motion and blur.

That was because of the early digital revolution when we thought that everything had to be tack sharp.

I got tired of it and so did my clients. Anybody with a digital camera or phone can make sharp pictures. What would be the fun in me doing that?

So.

I keep experimenting with different applications. One of my current approaches is to soften the sky so the subject pops out of the photograph,

This image is an example of that.

Two things remain sharp. The power pole, and the contrails 35,000 feet above. That is an added benefit. I’m not exactly sure that even saw that when I made the picture.


All the color you can see.

My kind of photograph. Lots of big, bold, bright color. I didn’t actually see quite as much color when I stopped to press the button, but I did see the tree reflection. That’s what caught my attention.

You know me. I’m of the opinion that anything can be a picture. Not in all light. Or, at all times of day. You have to be patient. Or, have an all seeing dog. She knows all. Even though she see monochromatically, she can see how the light and shadows fall.

In fact, she stood right in front of this car. Well, SUV. She moved when she saw what I was doing.

I should be somewhere in the picture, but I can’t find myself. Maybe you can.

The big news of the day is that I get my CoVid-19 vaccination today. The hospital scheduled me for my second injection as well.

I don’t think much is going to change for me in how I address the virus. I’ll still social distance. I’ll still mask. I’ll still growl at the person who stands too close to me in the grocery. Or, has his mask way down over his nose.

If I don’t speak for me, who will?

Stay safe. Stay mighty. You know exactly what to do. Enjoying all the seeing.

Seeing and looking are two different items in sort of a continuum. You can look and see nothing. I know a lot of people like that, including me sometimes.

Or, you can look and see. That’s a very different thing. It’s what enables me to see this car and the tree reflections. It enables me to feel the picture.

I think making a photograph is mostly by feel, rather than intellectual or mechanical.

For sure, you have to understand your gear and you have to understand who and what you are as a photographer. But, that’s not directly involved when you actually make the picture. It hovers in the background.

Of course, you have to have another kind of vision when you are developing and editing the picture.

If you do, you might make something with which you are happy.


All the color in one place.

Color. That always makes me smile especially as we cruise into the weekend. I need a little color. I’m guessing that you might too.

Besides color, I need music. Not the usual stuff we listen to around here. I need a playlist that Spotify assembled. It’s called, “Echoes of the Canyon.” It’s about that time.

That time in California when all things seemed possible. The time when I was young, fresh and maybe a bit naive.

It sure seemed fun back then.

The Canyon refers to Laurel Canyon. During the 1960s and early 1970s music flowed from there. I could name names, but there are so many. Bands were formed there. Music was written there. Music was made there. The stories are lost in the haze.

I’ll tell you this. As the set list plays I have tears in my eyes. Tears of joy. The ones that are good and welcome because my memory of the music and the time are sweet.

I find myself wondering just how the hell we got to this place in history. What happened to our hopes and dreams? Who stole them?

Two more things.

I’m about to start trouble. Or, I’ll be ignored. There is a professor called Dr. Nina Asary. She’s Iranian. She’s American. She a women’s rights activist. She is very highly thought of. For some reason she pops up on my Instagram feed. We don’t follow each other. She’s had a set of portraits made that she uses often. She never smiles. I realize her work is weighty. But still. I’m going to message her and ask if it wasn’t time to let somebody else carry her armor. We say that a lot around here when the serious grumpies come.

In the pandemic age. I put my name on a number of lists for vaccinations. The first one to come through is my hospital. They scheduled me for Saturday. Then, another provider called, and another called. I could have three injections between Saturday on Monday.

That’s how it works sometimes.

Down here in the swamp, spring is upon us. Yes, I know there are a few more days of winter. In the north winter will last a little longer. Well, a lot longer.

We did have a setback when the deep cold arrived. The Japonica blooms were killed. They are back.

All of the ferns were killed as well. They are brown and dead. They must be cut back to the earth. They’ll grow back in a while.

This picture is about the coming spring. The spring that is upon us today.

It’s a couple of layered pictures. The color is enhanced. For sure, there is a lot of work done in post production.

This picture makes me smile just as the music is…

Stay safe. Stay mighty. You know what to do. You know exactly what to do. Enjoy all the color and all of the music. Everyday.

Just as I close, Joni Mitchell is playing — what else — “Ladies of the Canyon.”


All the water in the sky.

Here I go again. Driving and making pictures. You know how I do it so I won’t go there. I will head over to intensity.

I talk about not taking the picture, instead letting the picture take you. I discuss the zen of photography. I talk about practicing until you don’t think about what you are doing.

That’s all true.

Yet, there is another quality that is every bit as important.

Intensity.

When I work I’m intense. When I work it’s about the picture. Nothing else. I’m laser focused. I see everywhere and nowhere. At the same time.

This picture is an example. I knew that there were no cars around me. I knew what was happening in front of me. I knew that water was starting to accumulate on the windshield. I knew how fast I was traveling. And, in what lane I was in.

All that data was rolling around the best computer of all time. The human brain.

This picture is simple to make. The intensity doesn’t last for more than a few seconds. But, let me work for more than a few hours and I’m toast. I’m exhausted. Generally, when I get home I need a nap.

This all sounds terrible doesn’t it? It’s not. It’s refreshing. It’s knowing that I left it all on the field.

That’s satisfying.

This place is strange. The main road dips under a railroad bridge and a cloverleaf.

It is so strange that it has a water measurement gauge. Yes. This place floods.

If the weather changes quickly and a big storm blows through it’s best not to drive on this road.

The picture was made in the usual way. A drive by shooting.

The overall weather made the picture. The light was right. The clouds were bluish – gray. The rust on the railroad bridge popped right out. The cement sort of glowed.

There was very little post production. Mostly, I darkened and added contrast to the image.

Stay safe. Stay mighty. You all know the rest. Enjoy every flood.


The region of storms. And, kings.

The rain came down. Then the temperature dropped. Finally, we are turning a corner into pleasantness. At least, for now. The passing of winter to spring is always interesting in the swamp.

May you have an interesting life is one of the most harshest of Chinese curses. I think most people are like dogs. We like routine. That’s what’s been so hard living in the pandemic era. Routines are blown. Lifestyles are blown.

We’ve lost a lot. Everything is changing. Nothing is normal, or at least what we used to call normal. I’ve discussed that a couple of times. The new normal is a chance for us to do better. At least I hope that it is.

I have a better sense of hope, even though you can’t eat it, as Neil Young says.

But, with the change of presidents and governing administrations issues are being dealt with in an efficient manner. I just wish the other side would stop lying. The New Green Deal, which is only an idea, did not shut down power in Texas. Nor, did it blow out all kinds of water pipes.

I don’t see the gain in saying such nonsense. Eventually, the truth comes out. Especially these days when you don’t have the last president creating chaos everyday just to see his name out there. That noise is just about gone.

Yeah. He’s gonna run again. After four years of healthy change even his base is not going to be interested. Yeah. He’s going to start a new social media. Just like his steaks, wine, and university.

He’ll be so buried in legal issues that he’ll spend the rest of his life trying to suck money out of the last true believers to pay his legal fees that he’ll never raise his head again.

Now, that’s hope.

See where the picture of the rainy street lead me.

Now, that’s imagination.

drive by shootings. No. Not those kind. The kind where I make photographs from a moving car.

I’ve discussed this enough in the past that you know I don’t take silly chances. I’m not going to get hurt, nor am I going to hurt you.

Look at the picture. Not a car close enough to see me.

The real trick to this picture and the other picture from a couple of days ago is to find a color palette that makes sense for the subject.

The next trick is to be able to duplicate it in such a way that you can make subtle changes to suit the picture.

Once you’ve figured that out the rest is easy.

To be sure, the subject really should dictate the color palette. I don’t think bright, sunny scene would look great using this one.

Stay safe. You know the rest. Enjoy every color palette.


Seeing above.

Seeing. Sometimes you just have to be patient until the subject evolves and matches your intent. That could take a lot of time or just a few minutes.

Patience matters. I have a friend who says that her superpower is patience. She also said that it took her a long time to get there.

For me, a good picture is either the result of photographers luck, an all seeing dog or sitting and waiting.

This picture was born out of sitting and waiting. I sat by the pool looking at the tree thinking if only I had a better background. I could see clouds moving at a fairly brisk pace so I waited.

It wasn’t long before the clouds appeared in the frame, so I made a few pictures.

Then I continued to sit there free from the daily noise. I was hiding in plain site. I hid for a good long while. There are days when that kind of self care is important.

Unfortunately, like many other words and phrases, self care has become a buzzword. It’s become almost meaningless, because there really are no defined words.

Other words go through the same sort of dilution. Many of them are supposed to be business terms.

Did you ever notice that?

Stay safe. You know what to do. Sit under all the trees.

Looking up. First, no the photograph is not upside down. I was sitting under the tree. I was looking up.

Second, aside from a little sharpening and adding a border, the original image is as you see it.

Some people make a big deal out of not using filters. I don’t know why. Use whatever it takes to make the picture as you saw it.

Even Saint Ansel Adams did that in the darkroom. He created an entire system to make prints the way he saw them. He called it the Zone System.

There are plenty of books on this subject. While it looks complicated at first, it is really very simple.

Expose the negative. Develop the negative to enhance the exposure. Print the negative, manipulating it as needed.

The takeaway is that the picture rarely comes out of the camera the way you want it to look.

That’s the story.