Thursday, December 17, 2015

Wild Winter Clouds

During the "monsoon season" out here in New Mexico -- July through September -- when moisture comes flowing up from the Gulf of Mexico or the Pacific Ocean, you can count on seeing really wild clouds.  In many cases, because the air is so dry, most of the moisture doesn't make it to the ground, but the clouds are awesome.

Occasionally we get similar clouds in the winter, and last Monday afternoon/evening (Dec. 14) was one of those times.  The trailing southern edge of a storm that dropped a lot of snow on northern New Mexico and southern Colorado brought swirling clouds, but no snow for us except at the top of the Sandia Mountains.  Here's how it looked.

Early in the afternoon, the sky was fairly clear in the east, and the  Sandias had only a crown of clouds.

3:10 pm

But soon the overcast began to creep in . . .


4:23 pm

and from the west, something big was coming . . .

4:34 pm

4:41 pm

4:44 pm

And over in the east, as the cloud wave passed over, the view was amazing . . .

4:48 pm

4:51 pm

Soon the top of the mountain was shrouded in clouds:

4:57 pm
But no snow for us in the valley.

You can see these images (and more) in a larger format at my photography website, Todos Juntos Photography, by clicking here.


Saturday, November 28, 2015

NW Oregon's Pacific Coast

                                                                                        "Ocean in view!  O! the joy!"

                                                                                                -- William Clark, November 7, 1805

I've been to Oregon a few times, but had never been to see its Pacific coast.  The weekend before Thanksgiving my wife, Linda, was attending a four-day yoga training workshop in Portland, so I went along and on one of the days visited the Oregon coast.

I took U.S. 30 northwest from Portland, following the Columbia River to the coastal town of Astoria, Oregon, which in 1811 became the first permanent U.S. settlement on the Pacific coast.  

Map courtesy of Google Maps

Astoria was named after John Jacob Astor, the New York businessman who controlled the fur trade in the U.S. from the Great Lakes to New England.  Astor intended to control the fur trade in the Northwest by shipping furs to China, where they would be traded for spices and other goods to be shipped west around Cape of Good Hope to New York.

Between Portland and Astoria along the Columbia River are many factories, which I assume are paper mills:

Mt. St. Helens in the upper left

After the fur trade dwindled, Astoria became a center for fishing, fish processing, and lumber.  These industries, too, have faded.  The town now has a thriving arts scene, light manufacturing, and a port of call for Pacific coast cruise ships.  Neighborhoods are built along the side of mountains that rise steeply from the river:

A few Victorian houses remain after fires devastated the town in 1883 and 1922:

Astoria is about 15 miles inland from the Pacific coast, so to reach the ocean I drove another 25 miles southwest to Cannon Beach, Oregon.  Here the mountains meet the sea in a mix of wide beaches and rocky shores:

As you can see from the image above, the high-overcast sky was not great for photography . . . but it was the only time I had, so I worked to make the best of it.  I headed for the beach and its most prominent features, Haystack Rock and the Needles:

These outcroppings of basalt were formed by lava flows 15 to 16 million years ago; over time, erosion has separated them from the mainland.  The "haystack" rock is 235 feet high and it eventually became the focus of my photography for much of the remainder of the day.

On this windy November afternoon I was lucky that the tide was out, so I could walk right out to the rocks.  There were few beach-goers:  a land-sailor . . .

runners . . .

                         couples . . .

                    with dogs . . .

solitary walkers . . .

and a guy who, in the presence of oceanic majesty and peace, just couldn't put away his mobile device . . .

But photographically the "teacups" here were the basalt outcroppings:  The Needles and the Haystack.

The Needles (below) put me in mind of lines from "The Dry Salvages" in T. S. Eliot's Four Quartets:

                                   And the ragged rock in the restless waters,
                                   Waves wash over it, fogs conceal it;
                                   On a halcyon day it is merely a monument,
                                   In navigable weather it is always a seamark
                                   To lay a course by:  but in the sombre season
                                   Or the sudden fury, is what it always was.

The Haystack:

As the sun set, the photographically unfriendly gray overcast began to turn blue . . .

As the light faded, I walked back down the beach to my car for the drive back to Portland and turned for one last hand-held shot . . .

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.


Monday, November 16, 2015


                                                                                        Celeste Aida, forma divina.
                                                                                        Mistico serto di luce e fior,
                                                                                        Del mio pensiero tu sei regina,
                                                                                        Tu di mia vita sei lo splendor.

                                                                                                    -- Aria from Act I, Aida

Twice a year I have the opportunity to shoot publicity stills and photograph a dress rehearsal for productions by Opera Southwest, our local opera company.  Last month, the production was Verdi's opera, Aida, performed for the first time in New Mexico -- somewhat surprising, given the much larger and older Santa Fe Opera just up the road.

Principal singers for the OSW production included Shana Blake Hill as Aida . . .

Kirstin Chavez as Amneris . . .

and Clay Hilley as Radames.

The story is a classic love triangle.  Aida, a slave (and, as it turns out, daughter of the king of Ethiopia), is servant to Amneris, daughter of the king of Egypt.  Both of them are in love with Radames, commander of the Egyptian army, who is sent to defend Egypt against the Ethiopians.  He returns victorious, but then things get complicated.  Tragedy ensues.

The opera premiered in Cairo on December 24, 1871, but Verdi considered its Milan premiere six weeks later to be its real premiere.  Aida was an instant success, and has become one of the most popular and frequently performed operas in the modern repertoire.  It has been performed over 1,100 times by New York's Metropolitan Opera alone.

Though I'm not a big opera fan per se, as a photographer I relish the rush of photographing a live performance.  Aida, as most operas do, offers a wealth of grand spectacle . . .

 powerful emotions . . .

great (but sometimes difficult) lighting . . .

and lots of big, dramatic gestures . . .

   . . . all happening in real time!

Oh, yes, of course there was great singing too.  You can hear a bit of Aida's aria in Act III which I captured after the dress rehearsal when the orchestra and singers were going over specific sections.  Click here, then click on the "play" arrow on the large (somewhat dark) image.  BTW, the fellow standing off to the side of Aida (Blake) in the video is her real-life husband.

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