February 29, 2016 Highway of Legends
Yesterday I submitted my third extended travel feature to The Chronicle-News, all accompanied by my photography. My trip up Colorado's Highway of Legends, which began with this sunrise shot over Trinidad, will be published Friday, March 11. The Chronicle has been opening these features on the front page, then jumping to page 3 which they've cleared of advertising, so the photos and story fill the page. The Friday edition covers the three-day weekend and is the biggest paper of the week so the editor likes to hold my big features for Fridays. Last Friday and next they're running my two-part series on a day trip to Bent's Fort. Highway of Legends will follow that. I'll post some of my favorite Highway of Legends photos here over the next few days. Meantime, I'm already beginning to ponder my next road trips. Life is good.
February 27, 2016 Letting Go
The Winter 2016 issue of Living Peace arrived yesterday with its "Letting Go" theme illustrated by my photographs of Tibetan monks making, and then unmaking, a gorgeous and elaborate sand mandala. Magazine covers are pinnacles of success for photographers and this is only my second so I'm pretty excited. (My first cover was Ranch & Reata's cover feature called "Tim Keller: On Telling Stories with a Camera.")
While this website, my own, draws most of the clients that license my images, I still get quite a few from my old and inactive Flickr account, which I keep online for just that reason. The Flickr photostream brought Living Peace, and also National Geographic Traveler, my highest-paying magazine client to date. (Some corporate clients have paid higher.) Living Peace is published by The Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace, Catholic women dedicated to peace. With a mission like that, and they've been such a delight to work with, I offered them my images without fee. They sent money anyway. The world is filled with good people. (Someone on Humans of New York yesterday said, "I really do think that only a small minority of people are jerks. But they all seem to be on TV.")
My photos of the Tibetan monks making a sand mandala were taken at The Mandala Center in Des Moines, NM, several years ago. I used to hope that my old songs would provide royalties in my later years; instead, my photos, online here and at Flickr, continue to bring new publications, licenses and royalties. I couldn't be happier.
February 10, 2016 Weather Report
I find this image interesting for a couple of reasons. First, it's been running as one of four alternating backgrounds on Yahoo Weather for about a year now, every time anyone dials up the weather for Raton, NM. It's my image taken from my idled Flickr photostream. Yahoo owns Flickr. Wherever I gave permission, it was in one of those pages of small print that you check off and say you've read and agreed. Payment is solely the photo credit in the bottom right corner that links directly to my Flickr photostream. Fair enough. I get a lot of income from clients who find me through that source and they license the use of my photos, including two to a new Taos boutique last week. Yahoo Weather is a widely admired site so it's a good association.
The second reason it's interesting to me is that this is one of my first photos posted anywhere, shot a few days before I received my first great camera, the Nikon D300 in November 2007, and shot on my mother-in-law's little Olympus point-and-shoot. I was so eager to get started with the Nikon that I jumped the gun and shot this along the Union-Colfax county line just south of Capulin, NM. I've still got the same truck. I've had more success with this shot taken with the same camera from the same spot at the same time but turned 45 degrees left (north) toward the village and national monument at Capulin. It's in the 2016 New Mexico True Adventure Guide (see January 20 blog immediately below), at least the fourth time it's been licensed for publication in New Mexico Magazine, the vacation guides, and elsewhere. Lesson: the same success is possible from a $100 point-and-shoot as from my current $6000 Nikon 4.
January 20, 2016 New Mexico...True?
The 2016 New Mexico True Adventure Guide (formerly known as Vacation Guide) arrived last week at state visitor centers, hotels and other places where tourists gather. They're a little late this year and not yet posted online so I've linked the two covers above to New Mexico Magazine's website where the online edition of the Adventure Guide will soon be posted at the bottom of its home page. Like last year, the annual travel guide is published with winter and summer covers, but everything else is identical between the two.
Three of my photos made the cut this year, all in the Northeast section (p107-8), all printed small, and all included here. The mariachis at right were photographed from the wings backstage during a Cinco de Mayo concert at Raton's Shuler Theater. Marcia Hefker and her son Cy Brower were photographed riding their Hindi Arabian horses together outside Des Moines, New Mexico, and misidentified in the guide as "Working cowhands ride near Des Moines" with photographer credit given to Julien McRoberts, although I was properly invoiced and paid for the image.
The photo of Capulin, New Mexico, with its adjacent Capulin Volcano National Monument, was shot days before I received my first Nikon camera, in November 2007, using a tiny Olympus point-and-shoot camera that my mother-in-law had handed down to me and Christina. It goes to show that the photographer, not the camera, determines the photograph. This image has been licensed a half dozen times, including previous vacation guides and New Mexico magazines, making it one of my dozen or so most licensed images.
I'd like to have far more photos in the Adventure Guide--my numbers have gone down over the past 2-3 years (I've had photos in every guide since my first in 2010)--but increasingly tourism photography follows a formula in which tourists are shown enjoying the state's attractions. Not just any tourists, either, but "ideally, 50% or greater of adult subjects should be women 18-44," and so on. "Images should capture authentic 'moments'--never look posed or staged. Direct talent (models) to appear natural and relaxed in the setting." And so on. I've been observing the growing emphasis but didn't realize that it had been codified until I recently received the New Mexico True Photo Shoot Brief, from which I pulled the quotations above. (It's not unique to New Mexico, either. I follow Colorado and Texas magazines, plus Afar and National Geographic Traveler: they all appear to be following the same guidelines.)
I'm the opposite sort of photographer, unfortunately: When I see people in my frame, my inclination is to wait until they move out of it. To keep my numbers up in the vacation guides and New Mexico Magazine, I basically need to wait for people and ask them to pose for me, or bring my own models, preferably women aged 18-44. So, I'll keep these guidelines in mind and meet them where I can (such as this shot last month for NM Magazine), but otherwise I'll just do what I do and my business will go in whatever direction my work takes me. There are going to be lots of photographers who do tourism better than I do.
Square peg, round hole. Fortunately, there are plenty of other places to fit, and finding them is fun.
January 5, 2016 Super Sisters
Following last week's sojourn to the top of Sugarite Canyon to interview and photograph Trinidad Roundup Rodeo queens Anne Sporleder and Micheli Walton (immediately below, January 2), Christina and I spent Sunday afternoon in Eagle Nest interviewing and photographing sisters Jana (in blue jacket) and Ashlee Rose Mills for our Western Horseman collaboration. In contrast to the relatively young and inexperienced Anne and Micheli, the Mills sisters have each devoted many years to developing themselves through ambitious rodeo queen achievements.
Ashlee's long list of rodeo sashes and crowns (and buckles and saddles) culminated in her reign as Miss Rodeo New Mexico, representing our state at the weeklong 2013 Miss Rodeo America pageant in Las Vegas, NV. Now halfway through law school at UNM, she moonlights as Eagle Nest's elected municipal court judge, where her powers extend to fining you $500 or tossing you in the county jail up to 90 days. Six years older than Jana, you'd think we found Ashlee the more impressive of the sisters, but Jana's equally talented, ambitious, and impressive. Christina and I left Eagle Nest immensely inspired by both sisters.
A big horse trailer outside the Mills home says 2015 New Mexico State Fair Queen -- that came with Jana's most recent rodeo crown. So did the saddle (top left)--both sisters have won more saddles and buckles than they were able to count during our interview. Jana's currently gearing up to compete in June for the Miss Rodeo New Mexico title, with an eye on the 2017 Miss Rodeo America pageant in Las Vegas. Meantime, she's studying education at UNM so she can be an elementary school teacher on her way to becoming New Mexico's Secretary of Education. That's sounds like a pipe dream from a little girl, but from this young woman, it's a concrete plan.
Both sisters know how to set high goals and then put in the work to reach them. Christina and I look forward to sharing more about them in our Western Horseman feature, then watching them to see what's next, and next, and next.
January 2, 2016 A Different Breed of Queen
I've been preparing photographs for a Western Horseman feature later this year on rodeo queen programs, inspired by a great Op/Ed piece by my wife, Christina Boyce, in The Chronicle-News last September. We spent Wednesday afternoon at Sugarite Canyon Ranch interviewing and photographing Anne Sporleder (above left) and Micheli Walton for our first-ever husband-wife magazine collaboration. Big fun!
Anne and Micheli are this year's senior and junior Trinidad Roundup Rodeo queens. Our WH feature, expanding Christina's piece to a national scope, will examine the nature of rodeo queen programs, especially the (sometimes negative) stereotypes versus the admirable reality. These programs have been compared to Eagle Scout programs for building impressive skills and maturity. But the queen programs are drawing fewer and fewer participants: Anne and Micheli "competed" unopposed for their crowns--no one else entered the six-county competition; thus Christina's Op/Ed title: "Tough Enough to Compete."
Micheli is the fifth generation of Waltons to ranch high atop Sugarite Canyon, so far above New Mexico's best state park that the ranch is north across the Colorado state line. The Waltons live in Colorado but have to go through New Mexico to get home. At 8000 feet in late December, it's hard to imagine a prettier site for photographing the girls with their horses. We got a wealth of strong images, some of which I'm posting here and have contributed to The Chronicle-News with a feature about the girls and our afternoon photo shoot. Christina and I will spend tomorrow afternoon in Eagle Nest interviewing and photographing Jana and Ashlee Rose Mills, sisters and past rodeo queens, for our WH feature.
Melissa and Bob Walton were gracious hosts and have encouraged us to return to Sugarite Canyon Ranch for more photos and fun in all seasons. I'm having new Cooper tires put on our 1995 4WD Ford F-250 tomorrow afternoon so I can go high up their snow-packed roads without the trouble I had last week. (Three years of city living has ruined me!) Meantime, I found another Walton who had no trouble getting to the top of the mountain. I love this picture of seven-year-old Chance Walton shoveling snow from the top of the snow mound. Click to enlarge the photo and you'll see that Chance is wearing a two-way radio on his belt, showing that he's an invaluable ranch hand. I like the picture enough that I submitted it separately to The Chronicle-News for a stand-alone photo next week.
2016 is already off to a great start. Happy new year!