Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Sometimes You Get Lucky - The lucky shots of 2014

Butterfly on Flower

Another photographer friend who does the 365 day challenge with me brought up the concept of doing a few blogs on the best of her photographs. This is not a competition because she is a better photographer. But I welcomed the opportunity to look back at the 365 and see if I could pull out 5 or 6. Would you believe 32?

That is a bit many for one blog so I decided to separate them. These are the lucky shots which stood out during the year. They are not a culmination of my skill but of familiarity where I live and my equipment and plain dumb luck.

I am not a tripod sort of photographer. Not enough patience. But I have learned a lot of yoga like bracing moves, I have a new 55-300mm lens which I love, and together with my 23 megapixel camera I am able to get some nice macros at a distance. On the particular day I captured this butterfly on a flower I was about 15 feet away and leaning against a support of a deck so I could take pictures of flowers in a bit of a breeze. I was totally surprised when I got home to find the details were clear enough to see the center of the butterfly's eye. It is rather like the fish that didn't get away this summer.

Hummer taking a break

This was another of those surprise captures. A bit of a chilly morning on a busy feeder day and this tiny, smaller than the average, hummingbird was all fluffed up taking its time getting in line at one of the feeders outside my studio. I grabbed the camera and braced myself against the door jam and took just a couple shots before he got annoyed.

Two Red Tail Hawks on a power pole

And this lucky capture was at the Maxwell National Wildlife refuge. And the two hawks (mother and offspring?) did not stay on this post for long. I had a tripod in the car I was in, but I ended up bracing the camera across the hood. I think hawks look ever so much better on tree limbs but a photographer never looks a gift shot like this in the f-stop. I can go back and look up the specs on this shot. Nikon keeps them all on the image file but when a friend first asked I said, "whatever the camera was set on when I saw the birds."

Darkeyed Junco on Hollyhock stalk

I was in the studio painting this December when I noticed the Juncos and mountain sparrows were going crazy over the suet cakes hanging where the hummingbird feeders had been this summer. They were all on the other side of double pane windows that had been through several storms without being washed. Who am I kidding? I think I last cleaned outside and inside in June. What the heck, the camera was there and with digital you do not pay for film. I was shocked at the clarity of the photographs I took. Sometimes with digital cameras you reach a sweet spot on the focus where even a dirty lens does not register. I have one long lens with a horrid scratch right off the center and it very rarely registers on an image.

Hollyhock in a morning shower

This was the summer of flowers. Taking flower pictures is my sister's forte and not mine but I decided to practice this year. I will be doing another blog of the flowers of this year. But this one was really special because it was gently raining as the sun broke through the trees one morning. I was standing under the deck trying to keep the camera dry. My long lens captured this distant hollyhock against the dark forest. Because of the light and the focal depth I ended up with a black background and dawn illuminated raindrops. Oh, and again braced against the deck pillars to make the low light exposure work.

These are all favorites of mine from the 365 posted photographs this year. Not necessarily the best technical shots but the luckiest in my opinion.  My favorite photograph this year, however, is the one below. I have photographed the buffalo on the Vermejo Park Ranch which runs along the highway a lot. First you are lucky when they are in the field.

The Crown Prince

But lucky part of this photograph was how close the herd was to the fence given that there were several young calves. The cows were so very intent on the great long grass they forgot about us. The calf was very interested indeed, however. It made for a fantastic composition, and without that buffalo are just big furry beeves. Which, I am reminded, can go through from standing still to 40 mph in a very short distance.

Week 52 - 2014 in Images

Day 358
Last week of 2014 in images. Figured I would wrap this one up early. Love that I can do that - schedule my post for later. Like tomorrow.

The week began with this mysterious star or snowflake crack formation in one of my frequently photographed small ponds. I think it is caused by melting and freezing we have had in December. This pond has been iced over one day and completely thawed the next. When it refreezes there seem to be more of these cracks. This one is almost 20 feet across. And yesterday when I was waking by the pond there were about a dozen of these in varying sizes. I have not noticed this phenomenon in other years. Tried to look it up on Google and did you know there are about 100 different names for various types of cracks on ice?

Day 359

Another feature I became far more aware of this winter was the length and density of shadows on the days around the winter solstice. Stands to reason. The sun is definitely lower in the sky. I took more pictures of shadows this December than ever before. Need to delete some.

Day 360

I also became totally mesmerized by pictures of falling snow. Most interestingly in aspen groves. They become almost abstract studies in textures. The black and white "selfie" below has lots of textures too. It is a selfie because it is my hat, my coat and my scarf.

Day 361

The photo below is of the pond which had the star shaped crack above. It is not totally unthawed as it appears. Some of the blue near the white ice on the right edge is clear ice. But this was right before it refroze and created the star. And not long after it had been totally frozen over and thawed. On the same day I took this photo two other ponds near by were totally frozen over with white ice. Incidentally that google search let me know there is black ice, white ice, clear ice, grey ice . . . the list goes on.

Day 362

All of which reminds me the tale goes the Inuits in Alaska have 103 words for snow.  Someone once told me it is not quite that many. Myth or not I do know locals have a lot of different names for snow. This photo is of a crusty ice which comes from warm day temps and cold nights. The surface becomes hardened and almost breaks when you when you walk on it. Difficult to tell how deep the snow is beneath the crust. My favorite aspect of this snow is it makes for very crisp shadows. Compare this photo with the shadows in above pictures and you will see how the fresher snow makes for softer edges.

Day 363

I took a lot of pictures of birds at my feeders this last week. The miraculous part of this was the photos were with my long lens so I could stay back away from the windows, and through two panes of not clean glass. I remarked to another photographer friend, "Imagine what I could get with clean windows," and he informed me more glare.

Day 364

Yes, that is seven photos but there was one more day in the year. So a bonus photo. In 2015 this weekly blog will post on Wednesdays.

Happy New Year. Hope 2015 is great for us all.

Day 365

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Mustang Mountain

Mustang Mountain
19 x 44 Mixed Media on Canvas

Mustang Mountain was sold before it was begun. That is the wonderful part about a commissioned piece. I really enjoyed doing this painting because it allowed me an opportunity to work on the "flaws" in Meraki Mustang. An artist always sees the flaws. It is why Monet did Chartres Cathedral so many times. The minute the commission was enjoined I ordered the requisite stretcher bars and began working on the sketch.

I have done enough mustang or wild horse paintings by now that I have a cast of characters, as it were, which I get to modify and re-arrange and refine. And as the stretcher bars did not immediately arrive I got to modify more. I was at the end quite pleased with the grouping of the herd. I knew I wanted the sky more the same color as Mystic Mustangs, which the patron also owns, as they will be hanging on the same wall.

Sky poured and legs masked for foreground

Foreground and background and sun floated in, then masking removed.

This part goes relatively fast. A large segment of the painting can be filled in with background colors allowing only for drying time of mask. Now everything goes slower.

Painting in the mustangs

Meraki Mustangs was the inspiration and model for this piece. It was just too large for the buyer. So I knew what color my mustangs were going to be. Well, sort of. There were "tweaks" I wanted to do with that too.

Basic horse colors in

Watercolors are layered. Lightest colors go in first and then details are added with darker colors over the light.

Background behind the mustangs darkened and manes and details filled in

At this point I can pick up the oil sticks and add the desert flora. Colors are still changing somewhat on the mustangs and the background. I want to get depth between the foreground and the mountains. More work also done under the hooves of the mustangs.

 A white wash is added to the mountains to make them recede

I tweaked a couple more things between this stage and the final one at the lead of this blog. Then I put in the signature ravens. The hard part is always knowing when to let go of a work. One of the reasons I can do a progress blog like this is I photograph the process so I can stand back and look at where I am on a computer screen. I find this particularly necessary with bigger canvases such as this one.

I ordered stretcher bars for two paintings this size. Part of the reason for that is insurance. Do not want to be caught with a warped set of bars that has to be sent back when you have a deadline to meet. And this is a great dimension for tricky spaces to fill. I am going to use the spare set for another painting already hatched in my mind.

Below is the new painting installed with the earlier one it was to hang with.

Mystic Mustangs on right and Mustang Mountain on left

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Week 51 - 2014 in Images

Day 351

Next to last week of the year which will end with eight photos. Took camera out this morning and did not take a single photo. Going to have to get on the ball or at least the shutter. Need to probably take it someplace special. It needs a trip of its own.  Perhaps tomorrow. The ice should be very nice on Coyote Creek.

Day 352
I delivered my commissioned painting yesterday to the proud new owners. In my opinion they have two of my best mixed media paintings, a photograph, and an early prize winning watercolor. So a word from my sponsor.

Mustang Mountain
19 x 44 Mixed Media on Canvas
My involvement with painting may be the reason I have been catch as catch can on my photography. Thinking in 2015 I may give myself weekly assignments to keep me on my toes.

Day 353

Winter weather did make its appearance this last week and with it some new takes on the landscape. And a new SLR selfie through the melting snow on a window. I was admonished recently for not taking my camera to Taos on a shopping trip with a new friend. I frankly could see no reason to do so because I do not take pictures of people beyond the odd selfie and the dark silhouette in the bottom picture. And unless I am with another photographer I am strange company with my camera. I think non-photographers do not understand that. But perhaps one of my assignments in the coming year should be candid photos of people.

Day 354

After all I used to not take photographs of flowers until I assigned them to myself this summer. The snowy weather also added to this photo by adding texture to the studio window behind it.

Day 355

And the snow on the window added to the depth of this mirror reflection on Big Blue.

Day 356

And I took this picture of the first ever Angel Fire Community Christmas tree lighting. I did not want to cary a tripod so I got to use a couple gymnastic moves to stead the camera for this shot. The person in the foreground was just happenstance.

Day 357

Hope you and yours are having a great holiday season. 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Week 50 - 2014 in Images

Day 344

Been in the studio painting all week and I believe that "colors" my photography or at least pushes it into a more creative realm of subject matter and colors and treatment. And I sometimes feel guilty about that and make a drastic swing back to more conventional photography, which is where the week ended.

But when the week began I was more like Alice through the looking glass trying to lose myself (or find myself) in mirrors and colors. I really am fond of the mirrors in the opening photograph. A hang over from my creative selfie adventures of last week. And the light on the fruits and vegetables below made them look like glass even before I applied an enamel filter in post processing.

Day 345

Day 346

Old trucks, mirrors of old trucks and the shiny chrome of old trucks are almost a staple of my photography portfolio. But I have only painted one old truck. And it was horses I was painting this week. These three pictures are the same old truck. And the one below is the color version of the black and white I previously posted. Trucks, like elephants, have so many different looks and angles. They are just more colorful.

Day 347

Until I had moved around to catch its profile I had no idea how long the nose of this International Truck was. It was almost an echo of the mountain range it stood before.

Day 348

I sometime wonder ho many pictures I have taken of Old Mike/Wheeler Peak. It is a stunning range when snow capped, and New Mexico provides the perfect blue sky, but I like it best with a bit of rock showing and clouds trying to shroud it. To me the photo below with the peaks just catching the sun coming up is a perfect shot of the Sangre de Cristo mountains inside the Enchanted Circle.

Day 349

The last photograph of the week is more mundane I suppose. And I will be honest I took this photo of the service station exhibit at the Eagle Nest Museum basically because I was surprised all the services provided were correctly spelled. I am told it is the original sign ergo predates spell check and teaching for the test.

Day 350

Two more weeks left in this year and there are no photos in Week 51 folder yet. I am still painting in the studio and creating another sketch in my mind so there is hope for the last two weeks of photography.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Week 49 - 2014 in Photos

Day 337

As the days of 2014 dwindle down to a precious few the question of whether to do 365 Day Photographic challenge for 2015 arises. It has its fans, gives me an excuse for a post every single day on my Facebook Studio Page, and provides a calendar of photographic files. But maybe for me as an artist, the most important is the photographic journal aspects. This weekly posts chronicle where I am in my exploration of the photographic process and dry darkroom skills.

Like many an artist and photographer I do revisit certain subjects like shadows and reflections in an effort to capture it better. This year over last I have probably done less photo manipulation than last year. This is strange is as my photographer friends seem to be doing more. They are going crazy with layers and painting programs and I find myself falling back on the basics. Lots more black and white, and reduction of saturation. More playing around with tone and contrast. Love how that cam out with this stand of aspen I have photographed again and again.

Day 338

Old trucks are also a frequent theme in my photographic explorations, but they are also a canvas for post processing and lots of color. But even they can be reduced to black and white and reveal wonderful form and textures when processed in such a way.

I am going to take the liberty of stepping out of the usual format for these blogs of "by the numbers." The week divided into frequent subjects and a new exploration. So frequent subjects first. 

Day 343

Window reflections, aspens and their shadows and old trucks, and then probably the oldest subject in a blog post of photography - snow capped mountains.

Day 342

When I first began this blogventure photography was the tool by which I presented my paintings. And I got a comment on one such blog about the snow capped mountains in my paintings. "New Mexico does not have snow capped mountains." It was spring but spring after a heavy winter so I grabbed my camera and put together a collection of photos of snow capped mountains. And so began the then occasional photographic blog. This is Wheeler or Old Mike (one hides behind the other depending where you stand) peeking through the clouds after a heavy snow on the high peaks. I have a handful of select spots guaranteed to give a good view of the heart of the Sangre de Cristos. This was a new spot. Like Monte Verde Lake in the foreground.

Now on to the new photographic adventure: Seeking the creative SLR selfie. There are rules. No tripod. Like all the iphone selfies out there the SLR camera has to be held. If you put the camera on a tripod and shoot remotely or with a timer it is a self portrait and not a selfie. Rule two - it should say something about you beyond your face. Admittedly most iphone selfies do not adhere to this rule. But I think they should. There ought to be something besides stupid face which gives a sense of personality or place.

Day 339

The collage selfie involves not actually in that photograph taking your own picture. This is a 3D collage or still life which includes a photograph of me. All the objects in the selfie also say something about me. I used to make masks, I love to explore in various media, and I love eclectic containers for brushes and pencils.

Day 340

The reflective Selfie. Probably the easiest way to take an SLR selfie involves a reflective surface. In this case mirrors. I have this tiny little half bath down stairs which I have decorated with mirrors. So this is not merely a picture of me but of my things.

Day 341

And the above selfie goes back to pictures of me. I am in this collage of refrigerator magnet photos four times in various stages of my life. And my friends are here too. I was rather surprised when looking at this one carefully how many of these friends are now beyond this realm. But that too says something about my journey.

But so do all the photographs I take. I could argue all my photographs are selfies whether or not I am in them literally.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Week 48 - 2014 in Images

Day 330

Warning: The photographs in this blog may make you feel cold. When snow begins to melt wonderful ice formations appear. Two of my photographs this week reflect that. And then to warm myself up I threw in something colorful. Day 330 is ice melting on the outside of a window and condensation on the inside. The dual pane glass gives depth to this partnership.

And the waterfall below is unmelted snow, running water, and freezing falls. I made this photo black and white to take the rock colors out of the equation. The photograph is suppose to be about water in its many forms.

Day 331

Some of you may have seen the color version of the turkeys below on Binford's Back Country Photography. I decided to play around with it in black and white because of the shadows on the snow and the shapes of the aspens and turkeys in the shadows. It has an artistic flair the color one does not. So often photographs of birds and animals become just that. No matter how good the photo is in realistic color it is still in the realm of National Geographic and they always win. By making this black and white it becomes more of an artistic statement.

Day 332

Where I live the dawns are magical most days. The cameras sit right beside my computer and are easy to grab in case the opportunity to record a better than dawn arises. The one below was spectacular.

Day 333

And with salmon colored poppies and purple hollyhocks past, I have moved to recording studio flowers. My butterfly Amaryllis blooms each year about this time to appease me.

Day 334

Back to snow and ice. And black and white. Aspen forests in a snow storm must be black and white.

Day 335

This historic stream channel persists to amaze me. Fresh spring water flows through it regardless of the temperature of the air around it. And throughout our extended drought here in New Mexico it continues to flow. I wanted to get a closer photo of the lacy ice patterns but wading through the 18 inches of snow beat me. I did catch the water in mid fall.

Day 336
Now for a hot cup of coffee to warm up.