Saturday, October 13, 2018

New Mexico Reunion Photo Expedition - Day 3

[This is the third of a three-part series about a reunion photography tour in New Mexico over the Labor Day weekend.  See previous posts (dated October 7 and October 10) for the first two installments and background.]

After two long days of travel and intense on-location photography, on Day 3 we chilled out during the morning, gathering our physical and psychic resources for a long afternoon drive to a shoot in the badlands of northwest New Mexico.

The sky was full of mixed clouds, and we had no idea what it would be like when we arrived at our destination.  But we had no choice, as this was the last day we could visit this particular location.

When we arrived, the sky looked like this . . .

Not great light, but at least we had some clouds to work with.  And periodically the sun would break through and give us some shadows and texture.

For me, this badlands area is a landscape photographer's dream.  It contains weird piles of fragile, crumbly, light and dark shale and mud laid down 60 to 100 million years ago.  Think of it!  When this material was originally deposited, dinosaurs walked on it and human beings didn't even exist.

The formations are littered with more recent volcanic and conglomerate rocks that were transported to this dry area by erosion and water that no longer flows except in tiny rivulets from the occasional desert showers.

As we walked around the area, clouds were dropping rain, but most of it never reached the ground because the desert air was so devoid of moisture.  This is a common phenomenon out here, and it's called virga.

But to our delight, there was enough rain and sunlight to create partial rainbows, and dramatic shafts of light, so we shot them every way we could.

Eventually, of course, the sun fell below the clouds at the horizon, providing some beautiful crepuscular rays.

In the east, the receding storm clouds caught the last light, and we headed home.

I hope you have enjoyed seeing images from our New Mexico photo expedition.  If you would like to see these images and more in a larger format, please visit my photography website, Todos Juntos Photography, by clicking here.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

New Mexico Reunion Photo Expedition - Day 2

[This is the second of a three-part series on a reunion photography tour in New Mexico over the Labor Day weekend.  See previous post (dated October 7) for the first installment and background.]

Day 2 of our photography expedition began very early.  We left Corrales at 4:30am so we could arrive before sunrise at Plaza Blanca, one of Georgia O'Keeffe's painting locations near Abiquiu, NM.

As you can see from the sunrise image above, we had peek-a-boo light for a while, but the clouds eventually moved out until late in the day.

I have been to Plaza Blanca many times, and have posted images in this blog here and here.  This was the first time, however, that I had visited Plaza Blanca early in the day -- all other visits were mid-day -- so I was hoping for some nice light.  Here are some images made between dawn and about 9:00am.


After a couple of hours the light was growing harsh and we were getting hungry, so we moved on to Rancho de Chimayo for a hearty New Mexican breakfast.

Then we jogged over to the Santuario de Chimayo, a small Roman Catholic church built in 1816 and the destination of nearly 300,000 visitors a year, including 30,000 religious pilgrims during Holy Week.  Legend has it that the "holy dirt" around the church has healing powers.

From Chimayo we headed south toward Santa Fe.  On the way, in the village of Nambe, we spied a cemetery across from a large (and more recently constructed) church, so of course we had to stop and shoot.

Cemeteries in New Mexico may not be as luxurious as the beautifully landscaped and tended cemeteries in more wealthy areas, but they are visited and decorated regularly.

In Santa Fe we stopped to visit the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum (having just that morning visited her stomping grounds near Abiquiu) and the Hotel St. Francis, where we three first met at a photography workshop in the summer of 2007.

From Santa Fe we continued south to Lamy, NM, whose principal claims to fame are (1) being named after the Roman Catholic archbishop Jean-Baptiste Lamy (on whom the central figure in Willa Cather's Death Comes for the Archbishop is based), and (2) serving as the Amtrak station for Santa Fe 18 miles away.

But there's a classic old train station there, as well as some abandoned railroad cars now covered with graffiti.

We hung around waiting for the arrival of Amtrak's Southwest Chief, which runs between Chicago and Los Angeles, that was already two hours overdue, photographing the old railroad cars.

As we waited, the sky began to cloud up for an afternoon rainstorm . . .

Finally, three hours late, the Southwest Chief rolled into Lamy.

Five minutes later, the Chief rolled out, headed for Albuquerque . . .

 . . . and so did we.

COMING UP NEXT POST:  Day 3 - NW New Mexico badlands.

If you would like to see these images and others in a larger format, please visit my photography website, Todos Juntos Photography, by clicking here.


Sunday, October 7, 2018

New Mexico Reunion Photo Expedition - Day 1

This is the first installment of a three-part series of posts about a delightful reunion with two long-time friends from New England for a photography tour of iconic New Mexico landscapes over the Labor Day weekend.

Jan, Rich, and I met at a National Geographic photography workshop in Santa Fe in 2007.  (Jan and Rich are not related or married to each other.)

Afterward we collaborated on  various day-trip photo expeditions around New England until I moved to New Mexico in 2012.  

I kept urging them to come out, but life and schedules didn’t work in our favor until this year.

They arrived Saturday afternoon, Sept. 1, and after getting settled, as a “warm up” exercise we went to photograph a portion of the cottonwood forest along the Rio Grande near my house in Corrales.

The light in the forest was intermittent, so we made the best of it.  Close-ups of dead cottonwoods provided interesting textures . . .

while the occasional direct sunlight created pockets of opportunity.

After about 90 minutes, we called it a day, since they had left the East Coast very early in the morning (even earlier on Mountain Time), and we were heading out before dawn the next day.

COMING UP NEXT POST:  Day 2 - Northern New Mexico icons:  Georgia O'Keeffe's Plaza Blanca; Santuario de Chimayo; Nambe cemetery; Lamy train station.

If you would like to see these images and others in a larger format, please visit my photography website, Todos Juntos Photography, by clicking here.


Thursday, August 2, 2018

Monsoon Mammatus Clouds

It's "monsoon season" here in New Mexico, when we get a lot of weird clouds and occasionally some rain and/or hail.

Tuesday evening (7/31), right before sunset, was one of those times.  We knew something was up when we looked out our window and saw everything bathed in yellow light, which was being reflected off the underside of the storm cloud.

The most interesting feature of this storm system were the mammatus clouds.  

Composed primarily of ice, they are formed by cold air sinking down to form the udder-like pockets in opposition to the warm air rising by convection.  While they look weird and foreboding, they aren't the heart of the storm . . . and they can appear around, before, or even after severe weather.  You can read more about these clouds by clicking here.

In Tuesday night's case, the mammatus clouds preceded the rain and hail.  We got about 1/4" of rain and about 5 minutes of marble-sized hail . . . and a 90-minute power outage.

Here are a few more pics of the clouds as the evening sun was eventually blocked by clouds in the west.

Otherworldly, eh?

If you would like to see these images in a larger format, please visit my photography website, Todos Juntos Photography, by clicking here.


Monday, July 30, 2018

Wide-Angle View

A few days ago, I went with one of my photo buddies, Alan, out to the badlands of northwest New Mexico to shoot the rising full moon as we have done for the past couple of months.

This time, however, we were greeted by a rainbow and clouds in the east . . .

. . . as well as a large bank of clouds near the horizon in the west, so we were fairly certain we weren't going to see the moonrise this month.  Maybe next month . . .

But the sun was still above the clouds in the west, so we shot what we could in the 90 minutes before we lost our light.

Fortunately, I had a "Plan B."  Alan had bought a new mirrorless camera and lenses, and offered to sell me his 10-18mm wide-angle lens, which wouldn't work on his new camera but would fit mine.  He brought it on the trip, so I put it on my camera and began shooting.

Well, that was enormous fun!

A wide-angle lens allows you to get closer to a subject while still including more of the surrounding area . . . like this:

(I was about six inches away from the tip of this piece of wood.)

Yes, the lens introduces some distortion, which becomes noticeable if there are straight or perpendicular lines in the scene.  But for wide scenes without straight lines, a wide-angle lens is just the ticket.

I had never used a super-wide-angle lens.  My workhorse lens only goes down to 18mm.  That is sufficient for most purposes, but having a 10mm focal length lens gave me a whole new way of shooting things.

And the features in the badlands were perfect subjects:

(That's Alan off there in the distance.)

You might notice that in the center of this image there's an interesting little hoodoo (about 3-4 feet tall) and a couple of dead plants below it:

This subject intrigued me, so I moved in very close, knowing the wide-angle lens would let me capture it all.  Bingo!

Again, I was about 6 inches from the plants, and the hoodoo was about 4 feet further away.  I had to get down low so that the hoodoo was against the sky instead of against the ground.  But it was worth the effort, thanks to the wide-angle lens.

If you would like to see these images in a larger format, please visit my photography website, Todos Juntos Photography, by clicking here.