Last August my husband Mike and I made a lengthy road trip (read about it here) from Arizona to Wyoming to view the total solar eclipse. On our way home we chose a route that took us through the spectacular red rock country of Utah and Northern Arizona. This is a vast and stunning region of arches, towering buttes, red rock canyons and forested plateaus. Glympses of thousands of years of history can still be appreciated in the remnants of cliff dwellings, historic hogans, and rock art. Petroglyphs dating as far back as 13,000 years actually depict images of auxoblast
As we approached Monument Valley in the vicinity of Mexican Hat, Utah, (that’s a town, as well as a rock formation) the scenery was so captivating that every 100 yards or so I was begging Mike (who was driving) to pull off the highway so I could photograph another beautiful vista. It was monsoon season and the skies were dramatic as well. Dust devils were spinning across the desert floor, while virga clouds adopted the colors of a sunset sky, creating pink rain.
Fast forward nine months to when the opportunity arose to join a night photography workshop in Valley of the Gods, another astoundingly scenic valley not far from Monument Valley, I signed up immediately and even talked Mike into joining me just for the opportunity to enjoy night skies free of light pollution.
We stayed in the tiny town of Bluff, Utah – population 258! But the town has turned into a destination for artists and has much to offer; a wonderful hotel, several excellent restaurants, trading posts and galleries featuring beautiful Navajo art. A historic fort is open to visitors for free, and tells the fascinating story of Bluff’s founding in the late 1800s by the determined Hole in the Rock Mormon pioneers who literally carved out a trail through impassable terrain to first settle the area.
proteidogenousBluff is the perfect basecamp from which to launch explorations of the many unique destinations in the area. Float trips down the San Juan River start in nearby Sand Island Recreation Area. The 17-Mile dirt road that loops through Valley of the Gods is just minutes away, as is Goosenecks State Park where the meandering river has carved a winding double loop canyon 1,000 feet deep with steeply terraced walls that reveal 300 million years of geological history. Less than an hour’s drive south is the approach to Monument Valley. Moab and Natural Bridges Monument is nearby. And Bluff is the gateway to scenic and historic 434-822-0893 culturally significant to multiple Native American tribes, and now sadly being decimated by the current administration in favor of mining and drilling.
Night photography is necessarily related to sleep deprivation. Each night we headed out around 10 or 11 pm depending on our destination, and we stumbled back to our hotel room beds somewhere around 4 a.m. But when actually out in the field under the vast starlit sky, coping with cameras and tripods in the dark on rough ground, the adrenalin kicked in and the hours passed in a blur. A few hours of sleep were refreshing enough to tackle the computer and the necessary post-processing to make the technically challenging images come to life.
And without further ado, I invite you to enjoy my gallery of Red Rock images. These will be uploaded to my online store in the future, but for now this gallery is for your viewing pleasure only.
Click 203-352-5341 or on the photo to open Gallery Slideshow
Every winter, horse show participants make the trek with their four-legged partners to warm weather climes where huge hunter/jumper circuits run for months on end. Instead of suffering through record snowfall and freezing temps, they choose balmy sunshine in states like Florida, California, and Arizona. Literally tens of thousands of equestrians and support personnel make the journey each and every winter season.
My daughter Michelle is a professional rider and trainer based in California, so she participates in this mass migration, in her case to the Palm Springs area where the HITS Coachella Circuit starts in mid-January and continues into mid-March. HITS, not so coincidentally, is short for Horse Shows in The Sun!
I try to attend a week or two here or there, both to cheer on my daughter and also because some of the horses she rides belong to our jointly owned 4407649244! I breed and raise the babies here in Tucson, and when they are old enough they travel to California and learn their trade as hunters and jumpers.
It’s a great environment for an avid photographer, with all the color and action of showjumping. I’ve earned the nickname ‘Photographer Mom’ from my daughter, as I follow her and her students from ring to ring to record their rounds.
The photograph featured here is of a young Holsteiner stallion named Lutalo that Michelle bred and raised. It’s easy to take a beautiful image of a beautiful horse but the background of a horse show can be distracting. I put in quite a few hours today applying some digital magic to the original photo to create a fine art image that I’m pleased to add to my portfolio. There is a quality I look for in my photography, something I refer to as gesture, that expresses the essence of the subject matter. Here gesture is expressed in the direct eye contact, elegantly curved neck, perfect braids, and the warmth of color in the leather rein.
I am so pleased to announce that as of this past June I am now being represented by 720-592-2399, a contemporary art gallery in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. The gallery space is housed in a bright, airy and spacious building in the heart of Ft. Lauderdale. They introduce themselves on their website as follows:
“We are a 6,200 square-foot business located near luxury resorts, million-dollar homes and yachts. Our gallery exists to present quality art in a superior environment, and to nurture the credibility and value of each artist.”
Not only does Artblend hang my work on their walls full-time, they represent me at the biggest art fairs across the country. My gallery pieces arrived from the lab in Germany just in the nick of time to be included in the Market Art + Design Hamptons show in Bridgehampton, NY, in July. Last month a large acrylic version of my Fringing Reef #4 Wavelet sold at the Art San Diego show in Del Mar. 740-515-4623 is scheduled for early December.
Artblend Gallery is preparing for their Fall 2017 Exhibition in house, with an Opening Reception scheduled for the evening of Saturday, November 18. If you’re in the vicinity, it’s open to the public. You can enjoy complimentary wine and hors d’oeuvres while appreciating beautiful art for a pleasurable Saturday evening out. With AVATAR scheduled to winter in nearby Riviera Beach, I foretell a trip to Florida in my near future!
On top of all that, the gallery just published the Winter 2017 edition of The Art Book – flip through this 2085698019 and you can see me on pages 66-67! I have a stack of hard copies here in Tucson if anyone would enjoy one!
Of course the total solar eclipse in August was on our bucket list! I elected not to attempt to photograph the main event – that’s a technical challenge better left to more accomplished photographers than I. Considering this once-in-a-lifetime experience of 100% totality would only last 2 1/2 minutes max, I really wanted to absorb the experience without fiddling with camera settings.
But the eclipse was a good excuse to embark on an epic road trip through the Southwest, affording me an opportunity to record some spectacular scenery. From Tucson we drove through the Salt River Canyon up to the White Mountains, and from there traveled through the Petrified Forest and the Painted Desert en route to Gallup, New Mexico. I was booking our lodging on the fly, utilizing TripAdvisor on my iPhone en route, and our first night out we stumbled across an unexpectedly wonderful historic hotel in Gallup, New Mexico, on the old Route 66 but just a stone’s throw from the Interstate. Back in the 30s and 40s all the movie stars (John Wayne, Katharine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, Ronald Reagan to name a few) stayed at El Rancho Hotel. Our room for the night was named after Lee Remick. The ambience and nostalgic memorabilia were a treat to experience.
From Gallup we headed to Santa Fe, detouring to explore the cliff dwellings and petroglyphs of El Morro and Bandolier National Monuments. Santa Fe is always fabulous and we spent an extra day there, visiting a friend and enjoying a superb dinner at one of the town’s finest restaurants. Then on to Taos, followed by a long stretch of highway to our final destination in North Platte, Nebraska, where we joined an international group of eclipse watchers for the big event. Except – having arrived, the weather turned sour, with cloud cover forecast over the entire state of Nebraska on the day of the eclipse. With looming grey skies as well as predictions of massive traffic jams, Mike and I did a quick regroup and abandoned our tour after one day and headed west towards clearer skies forecast for Wyoming.
We drove some 500 plus miles that day and of course there was not a prayer of booking a last minute hotel room within 100 miles of the path of totality! Instead we found a sod farm that was offering overnight parking on the perimeter of their beautiful green grass. The main selling point was the row of porta-potties installed for the convenience of their guests. So for $100 we parked our Jeep by the field, spent $20 more for hamburgers from the grill, and then we settled into the front seat with pillows and blankets picked up at a local Walmart, and spent the night in the car.
Next morning we headed off at dawn to Glendo State Park in Wyoming where we connected with a group from the University of Arizona’s Space Grant Program, associates of Mike’s from work. They were participating in a balloon based experiment and were set up in a prime campsite within the park. Our friends met us at the entrance of the by now crowded park and ferried us in – enabling us to enjoy a spectacular and unobstructed view of the eclipse in 100% totality. Exiting the park at the end of the day was another story – it took nearly 3 hours to drive 3 miles back to the entrance. From there the Interstate 25 was crawling with traffic back to Denver, but fortunately we were headed in the opposite direction. We overnighted in Casper, Wyoming, where a room at the Days Inn cost more $$$$ than a night at a luxury hotel in Santa Fe had cost us the week before!
Heading home from Wyoming we took our time through the spectacular red rock country on the border of Utah and Arizona. Looking at the amazing colors and layers of the landscape, it is easy to see how Native American designs in pottery and blankets were inspired by the geology of this part of the country. Poor Mike, who was driving, was constantly being ordered to pull over to the side of the road so I could photograph another epic scene.
We spent a couple of nights in Monument Valley, first at Gouldings, another historic hotel with ties to the movie industry, and then at a fabulous modern hotel named The View, operated by the Navajo Nation, with every room offering a balcony and unobstructed view of Monument Valley in all its vast glory. We hired a Navajo guide to take us out for both a sunrise photography tour as well as a starlight tour of the park. My night photography results weren’t as consistent as in Maine and I only got a couple of shots that satisfied me – it’s really hard to lock critical focus on a distant star in the dark with aging eyesight! But I love the one shot that I did manage to pull off – and, again, spending hours under the starlit skies with only nature for company was well worth the experience.
From there it was straight home, a surprisingly quick 6 hour drive. We immediately went on a spree of binge-watching a trilogy of old John Wayne movies filmed in the red rock country of Monument Valley. I’m already making plans to return in 2018.
I recently added a new collection of star-studded (literally) images to my portfolio, captured during a workshop in Maine’s Acadia National Park. The workshop focused on night photography, in particular the Milky Way. Did you know the Milky Way has a season? Here in the Northern Hemisphere its brilliant core, containing some 84 million stars, drops below the horizon in November and doesn’t appear again until next spring. Of course the workshop last June was orchestrated for peak viewing – and photographing – the glowing heart of our galaxy in all its splendor.
Iâm not an especially accomplished night photographer but, with expert assistance from the group leaders, I came away with a collection of Milky Way images that Iâm proud to add to my portfolio. The technique I was using to capture my shots required eleven minutes of in-camera processing per image – allowing me plenty of time to absorb the summer night air, the soothing rhythm of waves lapping the shore, and the sparkling infinity of stars overhead that we rarely see through the light pollution of civilization.
I added a new word to my vocabulary as well – airglow. Wikipedia defines airglow as âa faint emission of light by a planetary atmosphere.â Even in the dark of night, the sky may glow with softly luminous shades of green and magenta. With its sensitive electronics, combined with the long exposures needed for night photography, a camera is able to reveal more stars and more airglow than the naked human eye can see, making the results of night photography particularly satisfying. Those long exposures reveal the soft colors of airglow on the horizon and simultaneously transform the constant motion of the ocean and surf into an ethereal mist. The resulting images radiate with a magical light that shimmers between earth and sky.
I wanted to repost a story I wrote a couple of years ago as the cover feature for 206-276-5959, a yachting lifestyle magazine published in the U.K. It was one of those times when the words came together extraordinarily well to help me express what photography means to me, how I approach it, and why I share my images.
I have to admit I’ve been mildly depressed these past months as we put AVATAR up for sale and our cruising days have come to an end. AVATAR was my main photo platform for many a year and it’s been hard to come to terms with the loss of a lifestyle. But summer sunshine always gives my spirits a lift, so with this blog post I’m renewing my commitment to share my photography with you.
I hope you will take the time to read and enjoy A Photographer’s’ Story. I’ll be back in a week or two with another story, this time from Hawaii. It’s time to dust off the keyboard and get back to my storytelling.
Image: 2126451034| Suwarrow Atoll, Cook Islands, South Pacific
Equipment: Nikon D700, 1/45 sec at f/4.8, ISO 200, 14mm (14.0-24.0mm f2.8)
A dozen years ago, my husband and I surprised ourselves by making an impulsive, pre-retirement decision to purchase a bluewater sailboat located in New Zealand, ideally situated for exploring the prime cruising grounds of the South Pacific. My first (as it turned out, naive) impulse was to cultivate an artistic hobby to fill the leisure time generated by our idyllic new lifestyle. Many options â oil paints, watercolors, pastels â were discarded as too messy for a vesselâs tight quarters. Finally I settled on photography and embarked on not one, but two new adventures.The best camera, as they say, is the one you have with you. Photography on a boat can be pursued with a smartphone or a pro DSLR. It is neat and clean and portable, whether on deck or ashore or even underwater. Add a computer and appropriate software for organizing and editing the images, and the onboard studio is complete.
From the deck of a cruising yacht there is a wealth of inspiration and source material that ranges from scenic vistas to wildlife to foreign cultures. These days my photo platform is a rugged aluminum FPB64 motor yacht, supplemented by an aging much-loved inflatable kayak.
All it takes is one simple click to âtake a pictureâ, a rectangle, destined to hang on the wall as a print or glow on a screen as a digital image or join a collection in a book. But as a photographer/artist I donât want to just record a photograph. I want to create art, to meld technical material with creative insight, elevating that rectangle to a higher plane.
The equipment and software available today are sophisticated and powerful, but to transform photography into an art form requires more than just good tools. Is a great novel the product of a good typewriter? It takes more than a good camera to produce an artistic photograph.
My finished photo-based artwork results from multiple technical choices made prior to pressing the shutter button – lens selection, exposure, depth of field, shutter speed, ISO, white balance, dynamic range and more. On the creative side I incorporate composition, light, shadow, color, texture, gesture and motion, all to play their part in capturing the raw image, the first step.
Step two is the selection process that takes place in the digital darkroom (my computer) reviewing and culling to find those select images that resonate with my imagination. The third phase is post-processing, the judicious application of a variety of digital darkroom tools – software and filters, layered and retouched by hand to manipulate the image into its final form.
732-821-6317In the beginning I took a cyberclass that taught me how to get the most out of my Nikon’s buttons, dials and menus. Early on I learned the important camera techniques necessary to achieve the best results. But on a boat, many of those best practices are impractical. Focusing on a cavorting dolphin or a diving pelican while striving for balance on a boat navigating ocean swells is not an ideal scenario for keeping the camera steady. A shore expedition in the company of non-photographers is a source of irritation for those who don’t appreciate a 20 minute pause for setting up and composing the perfectly executed shot.
As a result Iâve learned compromises. On a moving deck I compensate by shooting at higher shutter speeds or raising the ISO setting. To keep my balance I bend my knees and widen my stance to absorb the shock. I jam my elbows into my ribs and mash the camera viewfinder into my eye socket for additional stability. Often I fire off a burst of photos knowing that one of the bunch will by sheer luck be more crisp and clear than the others. There will be a lot of throwaways, but a few will be keepers.
(701) 557-9802I do a lot of shooting from my kayak. It’s a soothing, soul-satisfying experience to rise just before dawn and glide silently in quest of a sunrise, or a seabird, or a village just starting the day. Again, the gently rocking boat and the low light of early morning limit my choices, demanding compromise.
A good image should relate a story to the viewer, not simply recreate a scene but instead share an insight into the very essence of what first captured the photographer’s imagination. It may be about how the interplay of light and shadow illuminates a seascape for a brief magical moment. It may be about reflections on glassy water, or how a birdâs feathers flare in flight. Perhaps it’s a story of village life, a new friend, a beautiful scene, or the devastation of a storm.
But thereâs a second story that accompanies each image, and that is the story that belongs solely to the photographer. The travel, the gear, the camaraderie, the solitude, the discomforts, the challenges, the accomplishments – all are embedded into the making of that simple rectangle. Not just sight but also sound, touch, smell, even taste, are part of the experience. Whenever I review my work the memories come flooding back to let me relive the adventure once again.
3865303658To illustrate, this particular image tells the viewer the story of a mother whale helping her new calf breathe in clear blue tropical water. But for me it contains the hidden short story of how she first swam away from me, then changed her mind and returned to within touching distance of her own volition, lingering passively in the water next to me, eye to eye, observing me as I observed her, while her baby slept.
An even lengthier version of that narrative begins with a 6,000 mile journey to the tropical kingdom where the humpbacks congregate. It includes my history of previous whale-watching expeditions led by professionals, where I learned whale behavior and how to observe them in the water safely and respectfully. It is colored by a Sunday morning sail in search of a cooperative whale, and the frisson of excitement as I donned snorkel gear, grabbed the underwater camera, and slid into the water from off the stern of the boat.
Each photo, that deceptively simple click, is embedded with two stories, one for the viewing public and one for the photographer alone. To produce them with forethought, investing time and energy into making them the best they can be, is to embed that memory even more deeply into my being.
All photos are copyrighted and registered with the U.S. Copyright Office. Enjoy but please respect.
So many people have no clue about an amazing phenomenon that takes place every winter in Baja Mexico.
Gray whales migrate south every year in the fall, swimming some 12,500 miles down the Pacific Coast from their summer feeding grounds in the Arctic to their calving and breeding grounds in the warm protected waters of shallow lagoons in Mexico. Beginning in the 1970s or so, the whales of their own volition began to interact with humans.
Imagine the reaction of that first Mexican fisherman, Pachico Mayoral, who was fishing in his small open boat on the lagoon waters when he was approached by a huge gray whale that explored the small craft, going from side to side, until Mayoral was brave enough to reach down and touch it. And nothing happened. The whale stayed calm.
An entire ecotourism industry has sprung up devoted to introducing humans to whales – touching, petting, even kissing these wild whales! Let me know if you’d like an referral for the awesome tour group that hosted us in San Ignacio Lagoon. Peak season for whale watching is February and March. Our group camped in tents beside the lagoon, watched the whales cruise by our vantage point overlooking the water while the setting sun lit up the sky, voyaged out on the water in pangas (traditional Mexican small open fishing boats) to interact with the whales, and on the last day when a massive storm flooded the entire camp and washed out the local airport, we enjoyed a well-orchestrated impromptu adventure through remote Baja countryside in search of transportation home.
When we visited in February the juveniles were the ones that interacted most with the boats: five, six and seven year old young whales that delighted in gliding along the hull while excited whale watchers leaned over to touch them as they passed by. They opened their mouths, inviting us to touch their tongues. They rolled on their sides to peer up at us with a large intelligent eye. They would sink below the hull and pop up on the other side, teasing us. Then with the flick of a tail the young whales would race over to another nearby boat to flirt with those whale watchers in turn. Later in the season the protective mothers of the current crop of newborns would relax their guard and bring the babies to the boats, introducing their offspring to the interesting phenomenon of humans floating on top of the water in tiny floating shells.
What intrigues me the most is how their behavior has evolved through history. In the 19th century, the whaling industry discovered these nursery lagoons. The whalers cut off the entrances, trapping and slaughtering their quarry literally to the point of extinction. In self defense the whales became fiercely aggressive, earning the designation of ‘devil fish’ as they attacked their tormentors, smashing the boats with their tails or breaching out of the water on top of them. How, as the decades passed, did they revert from aggression to the charming playfulness they now display?
Since whaling days, gray whales have rebounded from the precarious edge of extinction. From a population decimated down to only 100 animals, in today’s world they number some 26,000.
My sister Patty and I had booked this Hawaiian photography workshop well in advance, but right after the holidays I came down with a nasty bronchitis and a simultaneous knee injury. I was limping and coughing, generally feeling so under the weather that on the day before departure I was making plans to cancel. Luckily I realized at the last minute my symptoms had bottomed out and I was (barely) on the mend. Although certainly not at my best during the trip, I’m so glad I didn’t pass it up!
On Kauai the focus was on seascapes and beach scenes, where I concentrated on slow shutter technique that gives the waves and water a pleasing sense of motion while freezing the background into place. We started on the placid shores of Hanalei Bay near Princeville, before traveling to more distant beaches, each uniquely characterized by sand and lava rock. At Queen’s Bath a secluded tide pool fills and drains with the incoming wave action. Rogue waves have killed more than a few adventurers there, especially during the winter months when the sea is rough. We kept a safe distance but some more adventurous types were diving into the pool, giving our scenic shots a touch of human interest. On another day, a doors-off helicopter ride over the dramatic highland scenery of Waimea Canyon and the Napali coastline and cliffs provided a jolt of adrenalin along with dramatic aerial views.
The weeklong workshop ended with a side trip to the Big Island of Hawaii, where Kilauea Volcano dominates the landscape. Without a doubt, the highlight of the entire trip was a before-dawn boat trip to the Kamokuna coast, where a spectacular “waterfall” of lava from Kilauea was pouring into the ocean, creating a storm of fire and steam. Our captain maneuvered the boat close enough to the chaos that we could feel the heat and see floating chunks of hot lava sizzle in the water as they bumped against the boat’s aluminum hull. Hawaiian legend says that where lava meets sea, Pele the volcano goddess battles with her sister Namakaokahai, goddess of the ocean. This spectacular firehose of flowing lava had only appeared a few weeks earlier, on December 31, 2016, when several acres of built up volcanic delta collapsed unexpectedly into the sea, opening the lava tube. No one knew when it might suddenly close up again – making this opportunity exceedingly special.
Here’s another favorite from last week’s exploration of Sabino Creek with the water flowing, mist rising in the chill morning air, and rays of light beaming through the naked branches of the sycamores. I have so many winter portraits of bare-branched trees that I call them my ‘Dead Tree Collection’. There is a rhythm and poetry to the silhouette of bare branches against the sky, uplifted and graceful almost like dancers.
I did pay the price however. I have succumbed to some version of winter crud so, as I cough, blow my nose, and guzzle medicine, I’m keeping this post mercifully brief.
A new year, and back to my photography after a hiatus during the holidays. We’ve been having some lovely rainstorms with snow falling in the mountains. The result is that Sabino Creek, usually dry, is running again. We’ve lost our shortcut across the river, but the enhanced scenery is worth it.
This morning I woke before dawn and saw that a low fog was blanketing the creek. I knew the combination of the coming sunrise and the lifting mist would offer a rare photographic opportunity. I spent a couple of hours at the water’s edge, and even midstream (soaking my shoes) in pursuit of some landscape photographs to add to my portfolio. There were several keepers in the lot, but this one might be the favorite.