August morning: the smoke from the fires west of us was bad for two days, and it still remains. But, the skies are a little clearer and the temperatures cooler. Autumn is not quite palpable, but is just around the corner. The smoke adds color to the clouds. Most of the male hummingbirds have already left for winter homes. The females and juveniles will be here for a week or two, filling up in preparation for the long trip. This is a beautiful time in New Mexico.
Feeling winter? The weather in Albuquerque is still that beautiful autumn weather those of us who live here love so much. But, a change – hopefully brief – is coming. You know, the cold wind and significant drop in temperature. We know we are very lucky here. Even in the midst of true Winter, we will have sunny and often warm days. But I tend to turn inward in winter. I can feel winter coming.
Others’ Thoughts on Feeling Winter
“October extinguished itself in a rush of howling winds and driving rain and November arrived, cold as frozen iron, with hard frosts every morning and icy drafts that bit at exposed hands and faces.”
~ J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
“But if I was still alive, I’d have a damned fine day despite the rain, despite the depression, think of something you like doing and do it!…As for me, if I was still alive, I’d have a great cup of coffee, a nice breakfast, then I’d take a drive, walk around, smoke a cigar, eye the pretty ladies…hmmm, nice lunch, yes sir! Read a good book and listen to music, maybe hang out with friends, watch some baseball on TV, love good conversation…and maybe end the night with a little romance. You know what I mean? Live, live everyday, every night, then when you get over here on the ghosty side, you’ll say like me, hey, I did pretty damned good. I hardly moped around at all. I enjoyed my precious human life to the full! Yes sir, I sucked the marrow outta them ribs! ~ Jim Stallings, If I Was Still Alive
For me, I have stockpiled what seem like endless photographs I can edit, maybe composite, play with through the cold and dark days of winter. And before Winter truly sets in, I have more photography to get done.
Autumn roses seem especially sweet. Maybe that is because they will soon disappear until Spring. This past spring I had too many distractions and demands to take good care of the roses then. But, the monsoon season was good to my yard. That inspired me to get out and work to get a few things in better shape. I was happily surprised with the roses available to photograph this weekend. Also, I’m playing with a new program, so I feel a bit like a kid with a new set of finger paints. Thank you for indulging me.
We are supposed to get more rain in the middle of the week. I put a few pansies out this weekend, and rain would be good for them as well as for the long-standing roses.
ARS Rose Notes
For my rose friends who read here, the final ARS Guidelines for Judging Rose Photography includes a National Challenge Class that will first be offered at the ARS Spring 2018 Convention. This is a heads-up, because photographing bloom cycles requires some planning. I do think this is a worthy national challenge class.
Monday Morning Thoughts, a Long Digression
I’ve been watching Ken Burns’ The Viet Nam War. Throughout, I have thought about people I’ve known, and where they are in life and in their heads today (for those still alive). Last night was a little different. The episode covered the Tet Offensive to the assassination of Robert Kennedy. That is, Spring 1968, when Martin Luther King was also assassinated. I remember watching Lyndon Johnson’s speech, and many other things that had slipped into the deep recesses of my mind.
I was a student at the University of Chicago in the Spring of 1968. The University is on the south side of Chicago. I had come from a university that might consider tearing down a library if necessary to expand football. The University of Chicago had torn down the football field and was in the process of building a new library. I lived in a 12th floor apartment, that looked south. I could see Rockefeller Chapel, the Museum of Science and Industry, and a tiny glimpse of Lake Michigan. The university had its own bus for students, a bus that continually circled through Hyde Park to shuttle students to and from classes and back home. Most days I had the same bus driver.
Chicago When Martin Luther King Was Assassinated
Martin Luther King was assassinated on a Thursday. Friday morning was calm on the south side of Chicago. By the end of classes Friday afternoon, the tension was palpable. I caught the bus to go home. I was the last person off. The driver, who had gotten to know me over the year, said, “I’m going to drop you off at the door to your building today (instead of about 1/2 block away). Don’t go out tonight. Stay in your apartment.”
That weekend, first of all, and for days, I could look out and see the south side of Chicago burning. As a result, the heavily armed Military, not just police and National Guard, were patrolling the streets. Most of all, I remember looking out and seeing the Army camped on the grounds of the Museum of Science and Industry. Military tents completely covered those grounds. Maybe that is what I have remembered most of all.
I watched the helicopters hover over the meeting between the Blackstone Rangers and police, as they tried to work out a truce.
I have not thought about these things in a long time. What stood out to me from last night’s episode was the Marine, who had fought in Viet Nam, who was ordered to go to one of the cities with civil unrest. He refused an order to go, which essentially ended his military career. He said in essence, “I thought we would be sent for regular police work, protecting buildings, that kind of thing. Then they started issuing the same equipment we had had in Viet Nam: flak jackets, the same bullets, all the same things. I said I was not going.”
That was 49 years ago. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
The first day of autumn in New Mexico is always exciting. Chile roasting and the State Fair are almost over, but the Balloon Fiesta, Marigold Parade, arrival of the cranes and other migratory birds, and gorgeous days with cool, crisp nights are still ahead. This is how the day began:
While I grew Mexican sunflowers many years ago in Arizona, this is the first year I have grown them in New Mexico. I had forgotten how much I liked them. Because I now know, I plan to grow them in subsequent years. In addition, the pollinators like them, too.
Other flowers that bloom well up until frost are cosmos. They come in a wide variety of shapes and colors. Pollinators like cosmos also.
The first day of fall 2017 began beautifully. I was reminded of this quote by Nathaniel Hawthorne:
“I cannot endure to waste anything so precious as autumnal sunshine by staying in the house.”
Sunrise/Sunset: how cliche are such images considered by many who have never seen the fiery skies of the Desert Southwest? Oh, but how much the skies speak to those who know and love them. While it is true the depth of beauty will never been seen in a photograph, sometimes the beauty is so overwhelming that just a hint is satisfying. I quote again D. H. Lawrence’s written description of sunrise in New Mexico:
I think New Mexico was the greatest experience from the outside world that I have ever had. It certainly changed me forever. . . . the moment I saw the brilliant, proud morning shine high up over the deserts of Santa Fe, something stood still in my soul, and I started to attend. . . . In the magnificent fierce morning of New Mexico one sprang awake, a new part of the soul woke up suddenly and the old world gave way to a new.
There are all kinds of beauty in the world, thank God, though ugliness is homogeneous. . . . But for a greatness of beauty I have never experienced anything like New Mexico.
Many of my photographer friends remember the magnificence of the skies of the 2009 monsoon season. Sometimes I wondered if I would ever see a prolonged season quite like that one again. Yesterday was almost like a whole season rolled into one.
Back Yard Sunrise 6:17-6:22am
I start each day looking out to assess the potential for a sunrise I would like to photograph. If any clouds at all are above the Sandia Mountains, I make sure my camera is by the door and with the appropriate lens. On this particular day, I did not expect much. However, I have learned over the years that you never know. When it was barely light I went out to water flowers in containers. And then, I saw the pink begin to show. Do I know I really need to use a tripod? Yes, of course. But that is another story. I grabbed my camera, which was in easy reach, and photographed this sunrise as seen from my back yard in the middle of Albuquerque. The first gif loops three times, for those who do not like constant movement on a blog. The second gif loops continuously, for those who like to watch a little more. This was a fairly long display of color over five minutes.
Front Yard Sunrise 6:25-6:39am
I would have been more than satisfied to start the day with that sunrise from my back yard. Although I can see a small part of the north end of the Sandia Mountains from my front yard, I rarely photograph from there. However, although the basic view is of houses, driveways, and vehicles, the surprise of that sunrise view made me grab my camera!
What more could one expect from the skies that day? I was more than happy with the offerings of sunrise.
But, I live in New Mexico!
Early sunset gave me this sky, looking west:
The day ended with a gently beautiful sunset:
What more could anyone ask from a day of monsoon skies?
Stormy Sunrise: Pink to Orange in Less Than Three Minutes
Stormy sunrise this morning, bringing at least the hope of rain. I did not get rain at my house, but I did enjoy photographing the sky. The gif is made with jpgs straight from the camera with no photo editing other than cropping.
This may not be as impressive as the crepuscular rays at sunset a few nights ago. Nevertheless, as we enter our monsoon season, I am looking forward to seeing – hopefully – many spectacular skies. Some actual rain would also be nice. 🙂
Signs of spring are popping up and out everywhere. Here in the high desert, we could still experience winter, of course. But the days that speak of Spring are so glorious. I like the Ernest Hemingway quote:
“When spring came, even the false spring, there were no problems except where to be happiest.”
This may be false spring, or, given climate change, may be the beginning of real spring. I’m going to enjoy these early signs.
The bright little crocus are one of the earliest, easily spotted, harbingers of Spring.
But, there are numerous, though subtle, signs that Spring is on the way.
Rose ‘Buffalo Gal,” a hybrid rugosa, beginning to leaf out.
This developing birch catkin says, “Spring is on the way.”
Rosemary is known for the flavor it adds to food more than delicate blue flowers, but the flowers are pretty.
A dwarf peach, “Bonanza,” is one of my favorite specimen plants. I was surprised to see this little bud beginning to show just a touch a color. It really is too early, but it does speak to the hope of Spring.
I hope you are enjoying beautiful weather wherever you are.
Sunset, snow, mountains: compare this sunset over the Sandia Mountains less than 36 hours after the very fiery sunrise in the previous post.
Late afternoon was cold and very windy. But the image appears calm – at least to me – compared to the fiery sunrise. The weather that morning was relatively calm (on the ground) and warm. I also watched this one as it developed, and had my camera and coat ready. I felt cold only when I was back in the house. This view, like most of those shown here, is from my back yard. 5:30pm. I see an old man with a Pinocchio nose in the cloud. Do you?
I rarely show photographs from the front yard, because the view is of a street of houses, driveways, and parked vehicles. Every now and then, though, I have to try because something special cannot be ignored. This is the same sunset looking east to the Sandias at sunset. This is toward the north end of the Sandias, with the collection of towers. 5:29pm.
This week is one of wind, along with cold compared to the winter we had had so far. But, I am not complaining, because the weather has brought the kind of sunrises and sunsets I love.
2016 Insight New Mexico, organized by LeRoy Perea and held in the Fine Arts Building at EXPO-NM, starts the 2016 photography show year for me. This is a juried show for women photographers in New Mexico. The Opening Reception will be held on Saturday, April 2, and then will be open to the public from April 3 through April 24, 10:00 am – 5:00 pm, daily except closed Mondays. All exhibited images will be available for purchase.
I would like to thank the jurors for including the two images I submitted for the show, “My Fate, by Choice” and “I Choose Both, Free as a Bird,” both from the “Persephone’s Choice: Every Woman’s Dilemma” series.
I would like, once again, to thank Jim Stallings for introducing me to such a compelling myth which served as the inspiration for “Persephone’s Choice: Every Woman’s Dilemma,” the series from which these two images come, and Kelly Angerosa, who provided both beauty and substance in the role of Persephone.
Spring will eventually come. Although it may not seem like it this weekend, with the record-breaking blizzard on the East Coast, warm bright days with green trees and flowers are ahead. Here in New Mexico, the winter, so far, has not been bad, although who knows what will happen over the next couple of months. The increasing daylight hours can already be seen and felt.
In the fall of 2015, when I was introduced to the Persephone myth, I’m sure that I was initially attracted to its explanation of Winter, of which I am not fond and never have been, and its promise of Spring. After all, Persephone is the Greek Goddess of Spring. When she returns to Earth from the Underworld and her obligations as wife of Hades and Queen of the Underworld, she brings with her Spring and its glorious days.
This weekend I encountered an interesting article over at Digital Photography School that talks about photographing with meaning.
There comes a point, or a plateau, as in every photographer’s career (whether you are an intermediate or professional photographer) where you hit a wall. It’s a crisis of self that you are faced with when you have reached a certain point of technical proficiency. Well, basically you hit a plateau because you already know […]
To be perfectly honest, I had not consciously thought about being in the winter of a “crisis of self” in terms of photography. At some level I knew that I was at a plateau and had been for some time, but I did not have time to worry about it because of so many family life crises I had to deal with in the past year and a half. I try to photograph something every day to keep up my skills, and almost every day I learn something new about photography. But, I did not sit down and plan to do something different; I did not think I had time to fit thinking about something like that into my life at the moment.
I’m not really certain exactly how a casual mention of the Persephone myth in an email from friend Jim Stallings set off the photography frenzy that followed, but it did. Within two weeks I had done a short series inspired by it, using my well known subjects of sunflowers and butterflies. Once that was done, however, I began to think of a series involving a model to tell a portion of the Persephone myth. Although I had worked with a model on someone else’s project in the past, and although at one time I did maternity portraiture, I had never hired a model I chose for a conceptual project. I wasn’t even sure how to go about it. But almost, as if by magic, the perfect model appeared. I shocked myself by walking up and asking her if she would be a photographer’s model and, almost as surprisingly, she agreed.
With Persephone, Greek Goddess of Spring and Queen of the Underworld as both a starting point and inspiration, this conceptual photographic series also became an exploration of the meaning of being female with both body and mind. What began as a small personal project for this photographer also became a search for meaning of self, reflecting back on life as a woman, anthropologist, and obstetrician-gynecologist. I didn’t consciously set out “to photograph with meaning,” but it is a series that came to have a lot of meaning to me personally, whether it does to anyone else or not. In the first month of 2016, I surprised myself again by publishing a small Kindle Book. (That added another surprise. While poking around on Amazon, I found a copy of a book, Anthropologists at Home in North America, in which I had published one of my early anthropology papers . That was a bit of shock, and definitely a pleasant reminder.)
I feel like a new spring has arrived for me in my work as a photographer. Today, I cannot say where things will go from here. Kelly Angerosa, my model for Persephone, and I will work together in the spring. I’m looking forward to that next adventure!