Sunday, January 31, 2016

Rain - Mag 304

Rooftops Manchester by Adolphe Valette
Visual prompt provided by Magpie Tales

like tears
never ending.

with the rain
down the panes.

from her eyes.

to her feet.


J. Binford-Bell
January 2016

Friday, January 29, 2016

Week Four - 366 Days of Photographs 2016

Day 22
Castaneda Hotel Las Vegas, NM

Last week was still lifes and this week is buildings. Or lives that are still. To me buildings have a life; a youth, middle age, and dotage. I am rather more fond of the last as it is when they seem most full of ghosts and memories and silent lives which passed through their doors. I hate it when a grand old building is let to die or worse yet bulldozed into the ground. I am happy to report that a plan is in the making to restore the Castaneda Hotel this coming summer. I will be making more trips to Las Vegas to record the progress.

Day 23

Grand Avenue runs in front of the train station and the Castaneda Hotel and this once grad house across the street. I would love to have the settee to restore. Once I would have wanted the house. My budget these days is more modest and I will settle for the photographs and the settee.

Day 26
Above is the entire house between its neighbors. I love the garrets and the complex roof line. Houses these days are just so boring. So are settees for that matter.

I wanted at one time to be an architect but when I began my studies and University of New Mexico women were not admitted to the College of Architecture. Probably would not have stayed if I had been because they were into faux adobe at the time. What had attracted me to buildings were the houses in the Prospect area of Kansas City where my mother grew up. This house looks like one Great Uncle Judge lived in. There was a window seat in the garret. I could have lived there.

Day 24

Old buildings also collect junk. The older and more downtrodden the building the more and lower the trash and junk. It seems a sign the building is loved no more. Or that the occupants do not love their lives. I love photographing the junk too. I would love to go through the Castaneda before the renovation starts and photograph the before, but this building is better with the junk.

Day 25
Back alley in Las Vegas, NM

Assemblages of old buildings are also a delight. Not planned and gated communities like we have today but streets which grew up one building or house at a time; each influencing the next. And the backs are always the best. Those days were when there were alleys so the trash collection could happen out of sight of the street. Backs of houses were more utilitarian but carried forth roof lines and colors from the front. I really miss alleys. They served a great community service. The one I lived on in Washington, DC had quite the neighborhood gathering on trash night. Everyone was remodeling their houses and what one row house was taking out another row house seemed to need. Big and informal swap meet on multiple levels.

Day 27
Little church on the way to Montezuma

Sorry I did not get the name of this tiny church. There was now grand dedication plaque like the bigger churches in Las Vegas proper. But the art work set it apart. I wonder if it is as grandly painted inside as out. I was on my way to Montezuma Castle. 

Day 28
Montezuma Castle home of the United World College
The castle was built in 1885 by the Atchinson, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad as a hotel. A rail spur ran guests to the Queen Anne Style Fantasy building and its hot springs. The rails are now gone but the hot springs are still there and open to those who can find them. And the United World College is occupying and maintaining the building. I could not get in to take photographs. And while there are tours given the waiting list goes up through 2017.

BTW, did you know the Atchinson, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad never actually went through a single city in its name at the time it was built. Two of the cities grew up to meet it but Santa Fe only has rail spur from Lamy where the train actually went.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Magpie Tale - What a Spin I am In

Francesca Woodman
Image provided by Magpie Tales

Look right
whirl around
like a top.

Don't stop.


Don't stop


All fall down

J. Binford-Bell
January 2016

Friday, January 22, 2016

Best Still Lifes of 2015

Antique Glass

I was rather lazy about still lifes in 2015. Or it was that I was satisfied with the ones presented to me by stores or homes or plants. Other than adding water drops I did very little physical arranging of my still life subjects in the past year. At least before the photograph was taken. I did a lot of manipulation of colors on the computer. The exceptions to that being the banana leaf and Thicke.

Birth of a Banana Leaf

Thicke arranged a few. I have raised a ham of a cat. If I point the camera inside the house he will inject himself. This was suppose to be a photograph of my basin and counter with makeup. He turned it into a pet photograph but then posed so well and so still he won the day.

Thicke in French Basin

My other form of arrangement was to post process. It is a rearrangement of color and light.

Ghost dancer

Spirit of New Mexico

The truth of the two photographs above hangs somewhere between the two, with image one being closer. The goal of that post process adventure was to make the corner vanish and the deer head to hang in space.

Broken Black Pot

The Broken Black Pot is entirely an exercise in rearrangement of colors. The pot is no longer black except in the title of the piece. I like that irony. 

Still Life with Silk Flowers

And in the Still Life with Silk Flowers I rearranged me. I duck walked around the railing, bench and pot until I got just the right juxtaposition of the three with the corner of the wall behind. Then I twisted the pot a bit and swept the flowers into the sun. The black and white version shows the strong lines of the composition.

Bird on a branch

I encourage the reader to go to the blog before this one - Week Three of 2016 - and see the difference in the two approaches to still life photography in my work.

Week Three - 2016 in Photographs - A Week of Still Lifes

Day 16

 The weather was awful and it was wonderful to have an excuse to work inside with the camera.  Painters popularized still lifes in the days before cameras. The story is they could not afford models so they assembled things on a table and painted away. Art lessons frequently involve the painting of various objects. It is a great way to practice shading and shadows and how to give a three dimensional object volume on a two dimensional surface. 

It is also a good exercise for a photographer because you have control over light and ergo shadow. And you have control of content. What photographer has not wanted the straggler in an elk cattle herd to move just a bit to the left or hold that position until the sun comes out from behind the cloud.

This week includes two types of still lifes or three if you count the Alternate Day 17. A still life is by definition the depiction of inanimate subject matter, most, typically a small grouping of objects. Still life photography, more so than other types of photography, such as landscape or portraiture, gives the photographer more leeway in the arrangement of design elements within the composition. I divide still lifes by whether I picked the arrangement or I found the arrangement which may have only needed a tweak or two. Day 16 fits into the latter category. I only moved a slightly out of place grass piece or two and waited for the light to be right.

Day 15

Day 15 is an arrangement completely of my making. I chose the objects, assembled the platform and draped the cloth and positioned the objects. And even turned the platform a bit to take total advantage of the ambient light in the studio. The result had a very paintery feel so I used a post processing filter which simulated brush strokes.

Day 21 was just there. It had been just there for weeks. The snow a bit less. I just stepped out of my truck with camera in hand and snapped the picture. I just, after weeks of parking my car there, finally realized the artistic quality of two logs buried in snow to the right level.

Day 21

I have always thought there is a bit of accidental luck to photography. It can be so much being in the right place at just the right time. And it seems that hold true for still lifes also. Take the two photographs below. You may recognize some of the same objects as are in the photograph Day 15. Just a the addition of a cut crystal vase and another ornament. All artistically rearranged. Then my cat, Thicke stuck his head in.

Day 17 Alternate

Day 17

I, of course, was in a panic that he would rearrange things. But not such a panic that I didn't depress the shutter button. He was so very still checking out his reflection in the silver plate I maintain he was another inanimate object. BTW he broke nothing. These two still lifes looked great in black and white, which is unique to photography or etchings.

If you know you are going to be treating a still life photograph as black and white or even sepia you do not have to be careful about the colors of the objects you use. But frankly I think that is much of the fun especially with reflective objects which will pick up the colors around them. And playing around with the colors as well as the shapes and weight of the objects adds another dimension of complexity to the process.

Day 18

 If you are new to still life photography you might want to begin with a few easy pieces like Day 18 above. My friend Terry Atkin Rowe is a master of this sort of still life. I frankly love the complex; an arrangement you can stare at for hours and constantly find something new in it. This is the way I don't declutter my studio. It is future art.

Day 19
 So I might begin with a few objects, some of which were already there like the vase and the brass platter and the ceramic bowl (containing vinegar to freshen the room). Then to fill space I add a couple of things. Then a few more like the chunk of driftwood from the Colorado River. Then below the decorative balls. And change the light by putting cardboard behind the screen. And pull in a couple more candles.

Day 20

To come up with these seven photographs I took maybe a hundred. There are others which I can rework with software. Day 20 has writing showing on the cardboard. I could crop it out or clone it out or see if another digital image of this arrangement does not show it. Even after you take the picture there is arranging which can be done.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Week Two - 2016 in Photographs

Day Ten

Next week will be still life photography. But his week had me wondering about the term still life. Life in the mountains of New Mexico seems quite still in the golden hours surrounding sunup. Nothing much is moving except maybe the clouds and a bird here on there. And the colder the winter morning the more still it is.

So I looked up the term still life: A still life (plural still lifes) is a work of art depicting mostly inanimate subject matter, typically commonplace objects which may be either natural (food, flowers, dead animals, plants, pocks, or shells) or man-made (drinking glasses, books vases, jewelry, coins, pipes, and so on), per Wiki.

So it would seem the fence posts with morning frost apply in Day Eight. Other definitions I found imply an arrangement over which the artist or photographer has some control and can rearrange. That would definitely apply to the photographs I will be presenting each day on Binford-Bell Studio this week. And showcasing on a blog next week.

Day Eight

I wanted to inject the consideration of still life into today's blog because it was with me the week I took these photos; the lingering question of is this still enough. And so it had an effect even though I was out and about with the camera instead of in a studio out of the wind and cold arranging things.

But doesn't the photographer arrange things even if they are not movable. We walk back and forth sighting through the view finder. We stand taller or squat down or zoom in and out. And even with clouds (which are animate) we wait for the right moment when the sun is illuminating the edges or a whiter puff drifts across a darker cloud. Though if the temps are in the single digits we wait less.

Day 13

But if photographs with clouds are not still lifes the photograph below of the Crown of Thorns blooms in my studio is a still life. I had dropped my camera off the desk moments before I took Day Nine. It was a test to see if the lens (less the shattered filter), and camera still functioned. And it is always good to do such tests on still (or inanimate) objects. Lens and camera passed though it took more than one test to assure me of that.

Day Nine

Clouds are definitely animate especially with a weather system moving in. The photo of dawn below I got to stand in the doorway of my studio on the heated door mat, so I got to wait a bit more for just the right degree of sunlight illuminating the clouds.

Day 11

And on Day 12 I was waiting for the rapidly moving clouds to expose more of the top of Touch Me Not. But I ended up settling for a clouded top because the clouds behind me let the sun peak through and highlight spots on the mountain. So sunlight is animate.

Day 12

Which means that shadows are also animate. And I found that sunlight in the studio and shadows which were cast by it played a huge part in my still life creations. Raising the question of just how still is life ever?

Day 14

BTW Touch Me Not is inanimate. Unless there is an earthquake.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Favorite Landscapes of 2015

Off Forest Road 76

Note I said Favorite and not best in the title of this blog reviewing my photographs of 2015. I said favorite because these were all taken at favorite spots in my neighborhood. Places I have gone often and stopped to take yet another picture of. It was not the only picture I took of a mountain or road or group of trees and I doubt it will be my last of these scenes. In the year past I think they were also featured more than once in a different light or a different season. These are just my favorite.

Dancing Cat Mountain

It has another name, but the folk of Black Lake call it Dancing Cat because of the shape of the avalanche valley when filled with snow. I think of it as more my mountain than Wheeler or Old Mike because it overlooks Black Lake. This was a perfect day for this photograph. The snow, the light, the clouds, and the shadows combined for a great snap.

Wheeler and friends from Black Lake

As I have mentioned in photographic blogs before the aim in getting a photograph of the highest mountain in New Mexico is to do it without roads and signs and fences. And this photograph has all of those things. And yet, of all the photographs of the Sangre de Cristos this year this is my favorite. I think the road and the sign and the fence give a sense of distance and perspective not evident in photographs of just the mountain range. The clouds helped too.

La Veta in Colorado
 I have mentioned I live close to the Colorado border. I think this range of mountains is about 26 miles from where I stood on US 64 near Cold Beer Bar. I had gone to the Maxwell Wildlife Refuge 20 mines further south and had to pull over on a rise before Hwy 64 so I could attempt to capture the spring snow on the far mountains. And the clouds. New Mexico, and Colorado are know for their blue skies but it is so often the clouds which make the landscape.

At the foot of Wheeler

On this particular day I had pulled off to the shoulder every minute or so in attempt to capture a peak at the mountain behind this foothill. Ultimately it because about this foothill and the shadows cast upon it as the clouds rose. And the light on the aspen grove on the top.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Churches - 2015 in Review

Church tower in Las Vegas, New Mexico

 I love the lines of complex architecture. And the best examples of that are in old churches. To me one of the worst things the fundamentalists did was turn the church into a plain box. In the wonderful cathedral days of the middle ages the church was suppose to raise you up from your humble existence and lead you to aspire to heaven. Flying buttresses, fan vaults, bell towers and Gothic windows of stained glass was the language they used.

Las Vegas, New Mexico has some grand old churches with complex roof lines, towers and windows. But even the simple churches of the old settlement days aspired to a loftier goal. On Johnson Mesa near Raton, New Mexico is a simple rock church. I had the privilege of going inside this building and finding the Gothic arch windows of plain glass captured an amazing sense of spiritual light. The photos below have inspired two paintings. Once future paintings were the only reason I took photographs.

Piano in Church at Johnson Mesa, New Mexico

I am currently working on a painting inspired by the photograph above. And I recently sold the painting below which was inspired by the photograph below it. Paintings allow the artist to take a certain license with the photographic image. To me the light and sense of light was the key to both the photographs and the paintings.

Empty Pew

Empty Pew, Johnson Mesa, New Mexico

I do not know if I ever take a photograph of a church without thinking I may once day render it in paint. But thus far it is only the simplest of religious buildings I have attempted. I wanted at one time to be an architect but when I was in college women were not allowed in architecture. Did not stop me from doing complex drawings of buildings. Now I just do photographs of them. Hoping to transcend the engineer rendering aspects. 

Bell Tower of the Methodist church, Las Vegas, NM

The Methodist Church in Las Vegas lures me back with its complex lines. I began by cursing the trees and buildings around it which prevent unobstructed views and ended up being enthralled with the bare branches and shadows against the brick. I tell myself I want to go back and take pictures when their are leaves on the trees but I would probably hate it. One of those trips where you look through the view finder a lot and never snap a picture.

Transept Window, Methodist Church 

And it is to be noted the photograph above is not about the window but the shadows of the trees. I may paint this one. It tickles the back of my creative mind a lot. And the black and white view of the back of the bell tower also lingers in my mind as a possible painting. But it would be done in wild colors.

Wild colors like those I brought out in the photograph below. I took this photograph in 2014 bit revisited it this year because it had been neglected in a huge upload to my computer.

Door to Ranchos Mission, Taos, NM

Need to visit more churches in 2016. And paint more of them.

Friday, January 8, 2016

2015 - Best of the Urban Images

The Plaza Hotel in Las Vegas, New Mexico

I went through 52 weeks of photographic blogs from 2015 to pick out some of my best photos. Best, at least in my humble opinion, so maybe favorite is a better term. This year I tried to sort them into categories more for me than anyone else. The categories were based on 2014 actually. That year had a lot of still life photographs but in 2015 it was a smaller segment. While there are enough urban photographs for a couple blogs. And way more landscapes.

Urban photography requires a field trip because I do not live in an urban area. In the past years Trinidad, Colorado and Raton, New Mexico have figured high in my field trips. This year it was Las Vegas, New Mexico mainly. And largely because they were filming Longmire there. But it is a great old town which is reviving itself.

But I even made one trip into Taos for something other than groceries. I get rather jaundiced about Taos. Most of the "old buildings" in the tourist town date only as far back as the 1930's but pretend to be far older.

On Bent Street in Taos, New Mexico

And as I looked back at my Taos photographs they were not so much pictures of a town as they were photographs of shadows. Stucco walls do make a perfect canvas for strong morning shadows.

While my photographs of Las Vegas are more architectural in nature. And in addition to those featured in this blog Las Vegas buildings will make an appearance in the best of black and white images for 2015. Las Vegas also has some great churches which will be featured in another best of 2015 blog.

Door on Highland University Campus, Las Vegas, New Mexico

The challenge for me with the urban landscape is coming up with a unique way to capture it. There is concentrating on the details like the beautiful door way above with the highly reflective glass giving back detail of the building across from it and behind me. Or there is picking an unique angle.

Architectural lines will bend if you are up close with a wide angle lens. And you can use that to your benefit by putting the whole building on a tilt as in the photograph below. The opening photograph was done from a distance with a long lens and cropped to minimize the curvature of the parallel lines. 

On the Plaza in Las Vegas, New Mexico

I belong to a photography group where the assignment has been shapes. There are a lot of shapes in Las Vegas architecture but have not found a kite shape yet. Rectangles, triangles, rhombus, trapezoid but no kites.

Highland University Campus, Las Vegas, New Mexico.

It is also a lot of fun to play with post processing and the urban landscape. And of course the shadows on the walls from trees. Modern architecture does not have as many interesting architectural elements as the old. And ergo not as many shadows.

I did feel obligated to put at least one photograph from my nearest town, Angel Fire. It is of the strip mall era and few buildings which are not condos go above one floor. But I managed to snap this umbrella shot of Angel Fired Pizza's balcony  with colorful umbrellas.

Balcony detail in Angel Fire, New Mexico

Need to schedule more field trips for 2016.