April 30, 2016 Road Weary
I've spent more than half of April away from home in Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas, staying in motels and an Austin riverside Airbnb while shooting newspaper travel features and my daughter Darcy's wedding (above). I have full-page travel features running in consecutive Weekend Editions of The Chronicle-News for every Friday in April and the first two Fridays in May, each with about ten new photographs and about 1500 words.
I've told the editors that I'm going to slow down now and enjoy the spring, plant a garden and act more like a retired man, at least for a while. I've been too busy to keep up weekly blog posts, but I hope to remedy that in May and June with some photos from my travels, although the web version of my TCN travel features reproduce the photos beautifully--check them out now. Now I'm onward into May. Oh, and we have blizzard and snow outside, New Mexico spring.
April 12, 2016 Climbing an Ant Hill
Following a three-day exploration of southern Colorado's magnificent San Luis Valley, I've been immersed for ten days in processing photos and writing five travel features for the next five Friday Weekend Editions of The Chronicle-News. My plate remains so full that it'll be later in the month before I get some extra time to blog. Meantime, here's a teaser, dozens of people (looking like ants) climbing High Dune at Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve in the San Luis Valley.
March 20, 2016 Sweet Heart of the Rodeo
Christina and I started work on our rodeo queens project in October after her September Chronicle-News Op/Ed piece drew the interest of Western Horseman magazine. Our working title is "Sweet Heart of the Rodeo" and the feature will appear in the magazine's June issue, due out in two months.
It didn't take long for me to see a problem in the photography, which you can see in my January 2 and January 5 blogs. We reported and photographed the feature over the winter, which is snow season in northern New Mexico. Except for the Miss Rodeo America competetion at the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas in December, there were no rodeo queen competitions to photograph. I wasn't surprised when Ross Hecox, the WH editor and a remarkable photographer himself, said he liked the manuscript we submitted but felt the need to supplement the snowy winter photography with a single image that could open the feature, one that screamed "Rodeo Queen!" He wondered whether I could stage one with a rodeo queen in full regalia, waving and smiling at a non-existent crowd that the viewer wouldn't see--because of course the arena and stands would actually be empty in this staged shot taken in March.
I arranged to shoot Janna Mills in the Las Animas County Fairgrounds Arena in Trinidad, Colorado, during her spring break from studies at UNM in Albuquerque. The ground would still be snow-covered where she lives in Eagle Nest. I considered Cimarron's arena via Google Earth, and I walked Raton's arena which was still a mess from last summer's mud bog races. Christina took some iPhone photos of the Trinidad arena for me and it looked great. I went to assess the light and shadow, picking an optimal time--as late in the afternoon as possible but before the shadow of the grandstands reached the arena. I reached the arena manager by phone and got his blessing. We arranged for Janna to trailer her Quarter Horse Beau to Trinidad last week, accompanied by her sister and fellow rodeo queen Ashlee Rose Mills. As the weather forecast shifted, we changed our Wednesday date to Tuesday to avoid possible snow, then on Tuesday we moved it back to Wednesday to avoid 45 mph winds. My goal was to get Ross a variety of shots to choose from--both horizontal and vertical, both moving and stationary, both tight and wide. I ended up sending him eight horizontals and eight verticals.
I have enough experience to realize my failing in the horizontals, but not enough to have thought of it before or during the shoot. I like the top photo, for example, but imagine it as an opening two-page spread: Janna's face would be tucked down into the magazine's fold and staples. Bad planning. A two-page spread is the most dynamic and attractive way to open a feature, but I didn't give the magazine good options for that. Here on the right I've cropped another shot that might work, with Janna on the right page and plenty of room for text on the left and across the top. Beau's nose would be in the fold--not great for a horse magazine--and the arena light fixture crowns Janna's hat. I've had to crop a lot of the original frame, yet it's the best I could find for a two-page spread. Next time, finally experienced enough, I'll shoot some horizontal frames with room for text and the fold.
March 9, 2016 Poetry Out Loud
For four years I had a student competing in New Mexico's state final of the national Poetry Out Loud recitation contest. It was always frustrating for me to refrain from taking photos, not allowed during the competition rounds in Santa Fe's glorious St. Francis Auditorium. Now retired from teaching, I was able to return to the competition this year as its official photographer, with license to shoot!
Michelle Zhou won Sunday's competition in her second year at the state level. Experience helps. A student at Albuquerque's La Cueva High School, Michelle was impressively poised, elegant, and effective. She'll represent New Mexico in Washington, D.C., for the national competition in May, succeeding my student, Rachel Patty, who won the New Mexico competition last year and represented us in Washington. My previous students had placed 3rd, 3rd, and 2nd. With my retirement, unfortunately, Raton High School folded its Poetry Out Loud program and did not send a student to state this year.
The 11-year-old poetry recitation competition is sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts, The Poetry Foundation and, in our state, by New Mexico Arts.
First runner-up Sunday was Oceana Vasquez, above left, of Albuquerque's Public Academy for Performing Arts, while second runner-up was Verona Gomez, above right, of Oñate High School in Las Cruces. The next morning's NMA press release included my photo of the three girls excitedly congratulating each other at the awards ceremony. I contributed 42 photographs to New Mexico Arts for its various publications, including a beautiful color book documenting each year's contest. Among the incidental photos, I like this one of Deming High School's Luc Perrault lost in his cell phone between rounds.
My four years at the event as a teacher/coach gave me advantages in shooting this event, as did my eight years shooting concerts and plays at Raton's Shuler Theater. With one year under my belt as the official photographer in Santa Fe, I feel better qualified than ever to shoot next year's event. You can bet that I'll again be bidding for the job. Meantime, congratulations to all the kids that competed Sunday--it was a great show.
March 3, 2016 Elevation
The drive from Trinidad to Stonewall meanders gently uphill toward the headwaters of the Purgatoire River and, at 32 miles, comprises exactly half the distance to La Veta on Colorado State Highway 12 -- the Highway of Legends. The second half of the drive, the next 32 miles to La Veta, climbs far more seriously, crossing the Cuchara Summit at 10,000 feet elevation before descending to the village of Cuchara and town of La Veta. Landscape photography at the higher elevations can get pretty dramatic.
Monument Lake, left, is just up the mountain from Stonewall and Bar NI Ranch. Covered with ice and quiet when I was there, Monument Lake is a popular fishing and camping site in the summer, when a restaurant serves hungry visitors. The Spanish Peaks stand prominently to the north of the lake. As the Highway of Legends nears La Veta, it passes the red rock formations known as the Devil's Stairsteps, top, and at that point the Spanish Peaks are much closer, just west of the highway and Devil's Stairsteps.
North of Monument Lake but before the Cuchara Pass, North Lake is a state wildlife area and another popular fishing spot, although both lakes were empty of people when I was there on a Wednesday morning in late winter. The rising sun had no effect on the ice covering both lakes, but it provided a nice counterpoint in balance with the white lake in this photo, right, of North Lake. Soon the ice will melt and I'll return for a second set of photos that I expect to look entirely different than these.
March 2, 2016 Up River
Arising early, pulling out of my driveway before dawn with only coffee and camera for company, my photo trip up the Purgatoire River along Colorado's Highway of Legends from Trinidad to La Veta was great fun and as successful as I'd hoped based on all I'd seen in tourism guides. My 1500-word Chronicle-News feature is set to run March 11; meantime, I'm sharing some of the photos here and at my arts blog.
I loved the barn between Cuchara and La Veta with its colorful sign proclaiming "Bright and Early Coffee: Something to Crow About," accompanied by a much smaller sign that said "Miniature Donkeys For Sale - By Appointment Only." Earlier I was photographing the abandoned church at Weston, framing in Fisher's Peak in the distant background, when pigeons alighted around the belfry and cross. I fired a series of continuous shots and later chose the one above, despite the fact that Fisher's Peak didn't make it into the frame. Alas.
San Isidro-St. Francis Catholic Church is backed by snow-capped mountains above. Out front a sign reads "Sun. Mass 10:00 a.m. Confessions before mass. Vigil, Tercio, Stonewall, Monument Lake." In the fourth image above, rows of old coke ovens catch the afternoon light across the highway from Cokedale, a nicely maintained village of 160 people. (As always here, click any image to enlarge it.) Finally, Ringo's Super Trading Post in Segundo looks far better here in my photograph than it does along the highway--that happens a lot in photography!--but the store drew plenty of energy-company men in the morning on their way to the gas fields in their big company pickups. I plan to post a few more images soon; meantime, I'm already looking forward to my next trip up the river along the Highway of Legends. There are limitless great photographs still there for the taking.
March 1, 2016 Highway of Legends
My photo trip up Colorado's State Highway 12 from Trinidad to La Veta and back--The Highway of Legends--produced two categories of photographs: images reflecting (though not actually picturing) people--churches, stores--and images of nature, which is often breathtakingly beautiful up there. This scene is a good example, taken on the Purgatoire River where it runs through the Bar NI Ranch on the north end of Stonewall, with the namesake rock walls catching afternoon sunlight. My travel feature, set for publication in The Chronicle-News Friday, March 11, discusses the lack of signage to identify the river, and the river's confusing path south to Trinidad before turning back north to its destination, the Arkansas River. It really takes the long way around. Years ago I'd followed it north from Trinidad so I was uncertain of its identity along the Highway of Legends as it wound southward. Same river. Great name, great history, great beauty, the Purgatoire River.
February 29, 2016 A New Day
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.