Thursday, April 30, 2009

Ghost Ranch

Ghost Ranch, a few miles outside of Abiquiu, is a legendary site for paleontologists and artists alike. Indeed, the two professions mingle quite frequently, but not usually in such spectacular surroundings. Georgia O'Keefe lived here for many years before being able to buy her Abiquiu home (which we stopped at but couldn't see without an appointment). Here, too, is where Edwin Colbert made his major discoveries that totalled over a thousand well-preserved specimens of the small Triassic dinosaur Coelophysis (see-low-fy-sis), which is now the state fossil of New Mexico. And yes, O'Keefe and Colbert met.

With that in mind, here are a few photos of our visit today. For those familiar with O'Keefe's paintings, a look at this landscape shows she was not exaggerating much at all.

I shot a roll of black and white with the Mamiya as well. I suppose that sounds odd in this day and age, but I think I'll get some neat images if they turn out.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Pueblo churches of New Mexico

Today we did the grand tour of pueblo churches. One of the most well known of these is El Santuario de Chimayo' (above). I confess I was very surprised by the amount of buildings surrounding the church, which I struggled to keep out of the frame of the pictures. I must of had the classic photographs of the church in mind - which were shot 80 years ago, or more, if memory serves - and did not have the surrounding structures. It is always disconcerting to realize that time doesn't stand still. Nevertheless, it was very interesting playing around with compositions.

I like this particular shot as the arch of the entryway matches the shape of the hills in the background.

These interesting stone arches were in the "back forty" of the Chimayo' church by the stream.

We took the "high road" to Taos and along the way went through Las Trampas where we found the San Jose' de Garcia Church (above). It was not as cluttered as Chimayo' and I was able to get a few nice shots.

Our last stop was the famous St. Francis of Assissi Church in Taos. I've always been enamored by its architectural shape and was very pleased to finally get to shoot it. I got so inspired I broke out the medium format camera and took some black and white images. Hopefully they will turn out.

Finally, I could not leave out one shot of a colorful New Mexico doorway and hanging chili peppers. This was one of the surrounding building to the St. Francis Church in Taos. These look like they've been there many years.

Tomorrow: Abiquiu and Ghost Ranch, the haunts of Georgia O'Keefe.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Lilies for Georgia

A must see venue in Sante Fe, New Mexico, is the Georgia O'Keefe Museum. I've always liked her work, but it wasn't until I saw her actual paintings on our first visit eleven years ago that I became a fan. Tina is attending the Oil Painters of America national convention in Sante Fe this week, so we again visited the museum. Thus fortified, we then we started gallery hopping.
The Verve Gallery had these lilies in their space to compliment their photography show. As we were contemplating the photos on display and in their backstock (Don Kirby has some marvelous work there) Tina decided she wanted some grab-shots of the lilies so she could try her interpretation of O'Keefe's style as practice. After asking permission to take some quickie shots (always important to ask "mother-may-I" in a gallery), I used our old cheapie Canon A-80 PowerShot and took a couple of angles. I liked the results, so here is my homage to the marvelous Ms Georgia.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Break in the Storm - High Sierras

The power of light is a fascinating thing. When we left Yosemite Valley that Memorial weekend morning, the sun was shining. As we headed towards Tioga Pass on HWY 120, the scenery was great and the massing white clouds made for some nice shots. I took lots of photos along the way. By the time we reached this turnout near the crest of the pass, the clouds had become dark. I liked the composition in my viewfinder, but there was no light on the foreground at all, making the image dull. I decided to wait for a break in the clouds, hoping the results would be worth the time. It took almost two hours. Tina fell asleep in the car. When she woke up I was still standing by my camera, afraid to leave for fear the sun would pop out and disappear before I could get back in time to trigger the shutter. By now I was going to get that shot no matter what. The "what" was the fact that I was in shorts and freezing my assets off. Tina said the sight that greeted her was me doing jumping jacks by my tripod to keep warm. I don't remember the jumping jacks, but I do remember it was getting really cold. She pulled some sweatpants from our luggage in the trunk and took them to me. Shortly afterwards the sun indeed peeked out and lit up the foreground and parts of the mountain in the background. Just as I hoped, it made the whole composition much more dynamic. I got my shot. After packing up as fast as I could we scurried for the pass and made the steep descent into Lee Vining, where we overnighted in a local motel. We found out the next morning snow had closed the road an hour or two after we crossed the summit. We barely made it through.

But it was worth it.

Tina recently completed an oil painting based on this image. She will post it soon on her blog

Friday, April 24, 2009

Into the Light

For the first few years, whenever the B-2 was displayed at Edwards AFB, it was always positioned inside a hangar. This made getting "nice" photos (e.g. sun-side portrait shots) of the airplane challenging. In 1993 Air Vehicle 4 (AV-4, 82-1069 for those into serial numbers) was parked in 1600, which is the big hangar just across from the Edwards tower. It had east-facing doors which were left open throughout the day so people arriving from the lake bed and east ramp parking areas would be encouraged to come and look at the aircraft and displays inside before exiting out the open south-facing doors to the main show area. The only time the sun would reach this part of the hangar was in the early morning. It made for some very dramatic lighting and enlivened what would have been a very dull shot.

The stripes on the leading edge of the wings were for icing tests. The aircraft was also used as the weapons evaluation test bird. Once it's duties in the Combined Test Force (CTF) were complete the airplane was christened "Spirit of Indiana" and sent to the 509th Bomb Wing at Whiteman AFB, Missouri. Interestingly, AV-4 had two other names while at CTF: Fatal Attraction and Christine - after the haunted car in Stephen King's novel of the same name. Apparently it had a mind of its own.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Spirit Over Nebraska

Of course, I can't go too long without highlighting a Northrop - now Northrop Grumman - product. Like the Lockheed Blackbirds, the B-2 Spirit is an iconic aircraft. Flying wings have that appeal. While Jack Northrop wasn't the only man obsessed with all-wing designs, he and his company were certainly the most identified with them in the United States. Just as the earlier XB-35 and YB-49 aircraft were controversial and graceful, so too is the B-2. But while the earlier wings were cut up and discarded while still in the flight test phase, the B-2 made it into limited production and has proved itself in combat.

This shot was taken in 1997 during the U.S. Air Force's 50th anniversary airshow celebration at Nellis AFB near Las Vegas, NV. The Spirit of Nebraska (all B-2s have individual Spirit names) was on static display with the mountains and runways behind it. I noticed that if I pulled back instead of concentrating on getting close ups of the B-2 on the ground or of the aircraft flying by I could capture both in the same frame. I have several different aircraft passing over the Spirit of Nebraska, but this is one of the neatest: a Spirit over Nebraska.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Yosemite Valley - Inspiration Point

There are places that truly inspire the soul in this world. Yosemite Valley is one such place for me. The sheer granite walls and towering geological features never fail to elicit within me an awe toward the powerful forces of Nature with a capital "N". Certainly Inspiration Point is a visual high point in this place of photographic wonders. No one standing there today with a camera at the ready can forget the iconic images of Ansel Adams. Yet Adams isn't the first nor the last person to attempt to capture the essence of Yosemite on film. So how could I resist?

Inspiration Point is spectacular in color, especially when weather crowds the valley with clouds and shadows. I caught this view on one visit and was quite pleased with it.

The drama of light is amazing. It is just as amazing, if not more so, in black and white. This was a different visit.

Both images took a bit of luck and several hours of waiting. Fortunately the clouds were properly majestic and the light magnificent. I like them both; but the black and white is special to me. It is my "Adams" moment. And while no one will forsake him for me, I can at least feel that I have felt the same rush he must have experienced when capturing for posterity that one grand, fleeting instance in this timeless place.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Frozen Blackbird

The Lockheed Blackbirds have always held a fascination for me. They are one of the truly iconic American aircraft ever built. This A-12 (CIA single-seat version) is at Blackbird Park at the Palmdale Airport, Palmdale, CA. This was an early morning shot and very cold, as you can tell by the frost on the airplane. While the color image was very striking (the inlet cover is red), the black and white version is my favorite. It just exudes classic cool, both physically and otherwise. Just like the airplane itself.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Pacific Beach Sunset - California Central Coast

I shot the image above several years ago. It was the end of a long day with a lot of hazy, yucky weather coming down from Carmel along HWY 1. We reached this spot below Pacific Beach. It's near the last bend before getting to Gorda, where you can no longer see the multiple headlands looking North. Tina suggested we stop as she thought something interesting might develop. It did, producing one of the best sunset pictures I've managed to capture. Tina was so inspired by it that she's done two oil paintings based on this image. You can see them by visiting her blog at Yes, that is a shameless plug. But well worth the visit.

Friday, April 17, 2009


I thought I'd start with some airplane photos as my first real post. I shot these during the media event for the F-35 AA-1 proving visit to Edwards Air Force Base in October 2008. This was for the Northrop Grumman ISWR Engineering department's in-house publication The Leading Edge. The photos have been cleared for public release.


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