Blacks Crossing Photography and Writing: Blog http://blackscrossing.com/blog en-us @ Daryl A. Black blackscrossing@gmail.com (Blacks Crossing Photography and Writing) Mon, 04 Dec 2017 17:51:00 GMT Mon, 04 Dec 2017 17:51:00 GMT http://blackscrossing.com/img/s/v-5/u737315375-o129809688-50.jpg Blacks Crossing Photography and Writing: Blog http://blackscrossing.com/blog 112 120 the work of photography http://blackscrossing.com/blog/2017/12/the-work-of-photography Anyone who has used a camera knows that there is more to photography than releasing the shutter.  The camera itself, developer and printing chemicals, computers, software, printers, and papers have to be made first before the photographer even begins her or his work.  Planning a photo shoot, calculating time and mileage, or doing set ups and studio shots and checking batteries and equipment are the first part of the individual's journey.  After the photographs are made, they are either developed in the darkroom or on the computer, and then printed or formatted for use in publications.  Meaning that, in the long run, the darkroom or computer work may actually take more time than the shoot itself.  If you love photography, none of these stages is really work but an adventure each time you enter the darkroom or sit down at the computer to render photographs.  There are deadlines for publication as well as those that are self-imposed, and pressures when shooting weddings (only one chance to get it right), but it is still fascinating.  An added bonus is that sometimes, as I did this week, you discover something you never knew about a computer program.

All this is to say that during the past week, I didn't shoot much, but devoted my time to photographic development at the computer, working on the sets of prints and greeting cards I am assembling.  Choosing images, making sure their rendering works well with the papers being used, and each print is what I want.   As they say, the best way to start any day of photography is with a good breakfast.  

 

 

And to top it off, one of the great flavors of life, coffee.  

 

I look forward to getting out and doing some architectural and environmental portrait shoots this month, and learning more secrets of development.  Hopefully, you will be able to do the same.

until next Monday,

DB

a passion for the image@

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blackscrossing@gmail.com (Blacks Crossing Photography and Writing) blacks crossing photography bread daryl a. black eggs food kitchens new mexico photography taos http://blackscrossing.com/blog/2017/12/the-work-of-photography Mon, 04 Dec 2017 17:51:04 GMT
Where there is water http://blackscrossing.com/blog/2017/11/where-there-is-water One of the givens is that life on Planet Earth needs water.  And where there is water, there is life.  We have seen this play out on the high mesa time and time again.  When it rains and there are puddles, birds and other wildlife don't bother visiting our water dishes.  But when it is dry and ours are the only water sources for miles, animals gather at all hours of the day and night. The elk, deer, and occasional cows have been ravaging the aspen and assorted plants that are still green because of the extended autumn warmth.  Many different species of birds are here as well, some that you normally would not see.  

Often we hear birds before they make their presence known, but what I think is a hairy woodpecker has been, literally, hanging around lately.  It could be a Downey woodpecker, but I think because of the length of the bill and lack of dark spots on the white tail feathers it is a hairy.  This one had been taking a bath and was very busy fixing its feathers. 

 

Then there are the "bathing beauties."  Members of the thrush family - robins, solitaires, and bluebirds - are almost like ducks in their attraction to and affinity for the water.  A group of western bluebirds flew in, staging in the New Mexico privets before their bath.  Here is a pair - male on the left and female on the right - and a lone male in the next image.

Once again, I am struck by the talent of wildlife photographers and the images they produce.  Mine pale in comparison, but serve more as a record of time and space.  Which, truly, what photography is and photographers do.  And so it continues.

until next Monday,

DB

a passion for the image@

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blackscrossing@gmail.com (Blacks Crossing Photography and Writing) birds blacks crossing photography daryl a. black hairy woodpecker nature new mexico photography taos thrush family western bluebirds wildlife photography woodpeckers http://blackscrossing.com/blog/2017/11/where-there-is-water Mon, 27 Nov 2017 17:00:47 GMT
back to my photographic roots http://blackscrossing.com/blog/2017/11/back-to-my-photographic-roots During the past month, I have been putting together images for sets of prints and cards.  One of the sets will be black and white.  I am calling it Noir/Blanc/Gris, and it has taken me back to my roots in the darkroom, where the only film I developed and printed was black and white.  I loved everything about working in the darkroom, but not having one of my own, travel to and from Santa Fe was a long haul.  It made shooting digital images and rendering them in Lightroom or Photoshop that much more appealing.  It is not quite the same as darkroom work but digital photography has come a long way, and working with images on the computer can be quite satisfying as well.

The shot below presented itself in the morning hours.  Nothing like a shadow on black steel and an adobe wall to make an interesting black and white image.

The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco is one of the world's most iconic structures.  I took a shot of one of the uprights using Fujichrome Velvia transparency (slide) film while walking across the bridge in 1994, and have always loved it, but never thought in terms of black and white until recently. When I resized the image, I noticed the beautiful art deco elements for the first time.  It is a work of art.

I also reached into the past to create a ghostly black and white rendering of a building on the island of Barbados, probably part of an abandoned sugar plantation.  I almost like the black and white better than the original color image, which, again, was shot on slide film.

 

Finally, a lily I had worked with before but this time rather than toning it, made it strictly black and white.   When I was spending six to eight hours a day in the darkroom and shooting black and white, I felt as if I was almost seeing in black and white.  This exercise is taking me back to those roots. 

Keep exploring...

until next Monday,

DB

a passion for the image@

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blackscrossing@gmail.com (Blacks Crossing Photography and Writing) architecture black and white photography blacks crossing photography daryl a. black flowers golden gate bridge lily nature new mexico photography taos http://blackscrossing.com/blog/2017/11/back-to-my-photographic-roots Sun, 19 Nov 2017 23:57:40 GMT
extended autumn http://blackscrossing.com/blog/2017/11/extended-autumn I can remember many a November in years past when the temperatures were well below zero and snow was flying fast and furiously.  This year, the collective "we" in New Mexico are spoiled.  The weather has been a delight as we experience an extended autumn.  Although it is dry, the relative warmth keeps me from thinking that winter is in the wings, waiting to pounce.  In preparation for today's blog, I walked around, camera on my shoulder and a plate of pumpkins and squash in my hands, photographing the contents in a variety of settings over a four hour period.  And during that time period, I returned to locations I liked simply because the light was changing, and the afternoon breezes altered my approach.  Photography of this sort is similar to a combination of plein air painting, and still life studies.  It serves the purpose of stimulating the artist's creative juices, requiring him or her to work in different ways and in different environments.  That is why you see the results of these sessions from time to time in my blogs.  Every shoot is an adventure.

At our house, wool is always available, and with its texture and patina, it makes a nice backdrop.  Below is a natural white Navajo-Churro wool.

   

 

Squash, jalapeño pepper, and wheat grass on Fred's Rug 254 in the style of Chiefs Blankets.

 

 

The image below was shot in mid-afternoon, which, at this time of year, produces a nice, low light with interesting shadows.

 

I found a couple of what I call "juicy" details while checking for focus in several of the images.  The ridges in the pepper mimic the larger ones in the squash.

 

This is a shadow on one of the squashes.  It was a complete and total surprise.

until next Monday,

DB

a passion for the image@

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blackscrossing@gmail.com (Blacks Crossing Photography and Writing) blacks crossing photography daryl a. black harvest nature new mexico photography pumpkins taos vegetables http://blackscrossing.com/blog/2017/11/extended-autumn Sun, 12 Nov 2017 22:50:45 GMT
Sawmill District details http://blackscrossing.com/blog/2017/11/sawmill-district-details As promised last week, I continue to blog today with images from the Sawmill District in Albuquerque.  My penchant for geometrics was definitely piqued by the architectural elements of a number of different buildings, particularly those designed to obscure mechanical areas.  In the two photographs below, the concrete blocks appear to do exactly that.  Together with contrasting colors, the forms play with the morning light.

 

Although it was built, if my memory serves me correctly, in the late 1960s, the Hotel Albuquerque (formerly the Sheraton Old Town Inn) has quite the striking edifice.  At that time, it housed dignitaries and heads of state from all over the world.

It's new sibling, the Hotel Chaco, about which I wrote last week, has its own rhythm created by windows and sandstone.

 

Many different elements are highlighted in the Albuquerque Museum (aM).  Here is a building corner with glass, and again, sandstone.

 

The outside of the museum blends sculpture garden and park.

 

As the shift from autumn to winter begins, and animals and birds change locations, many photographic opportunities await.  I hope you are able to take advantage of the richness these alterations provide.

until next Monday,

DB

a passion for the image@

 

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blackscrossing@gmail.com (Blacks Crossing Photography and Writing) albuquerque albuquerque museum architecture blacks crossing photography daryl a. black hotel albuquerque hotel chaco new mexico photography repetition rhythm sawmill district taos http://blackscrossing.com/blog/2017/11/sawmill-district-details Sun, 05 Nov 2017 16:45:25 GMT
Sawmill District revival http://blackscrossing.com/blog/2017/10/sawmill-district-revival Something is afoot in New Mexico's largest city.  My old stomping grounds, Albuquerque, is frequently in the news because of crime, and on the political front due to a troubled mass-transit system, but there is a revival going on in the Sawmill District.  We have seen it in detail during the past several years while staying at the Hotel Albuquerque during the Albuquerque Tango Festival. A very large building seemed to rise from a dirt lot east of the hotel.  The first year, we wondered.  The second year, we walked over to it and realized it was becoming the Hotel Chaco.  We also explored the small businesses and work/live lofts and homes to the north and east of the construction, courtesy of the Sawmill Community Land Trust.  Now, the old Paxton Lumber is poised to become the Sawmill Market, a 25,000 square foot food and market hall, which, if the architectural renderings are true to form, will somewhat mimic detailing of the Hotel Chaco.  Which is where today's blog takes us.

Stepping into the Hotel Chaco for the first time, several things immediately impressed me.  The design is geometric, dramatic, and stunning.  The project is a product of the architectural firm M. Arthur Gensler, Jr. and Associates, Inc. Some might feel it is a bit stark, with detailing coming from its namesake, Chaco Culture National Historical Park.  But it works, incredibly well.  From the sandstone-lined doorways, openings, and light wells to Native American artwork, seemingly nothing was left to chance.  Great intention and care have been given to the building, inside and out, from the entrance to the gift shop, featuring the work of Patricia Michaels' Waterlily fashions, along with the work of other Native American Artists.  

 

The oculus in the hotel lobby, shown below, was designed by Santa Clara artist Tammy Garcia.

 

The south entrance features a ramada or pergola, with wood and Corten steel, creating a latilla and viga ceiling effect.

 

Huge advertising photographs for the Level 5 restaurant cover the south and east windows, where future shops will be, adding to the aesthetic.  Steel cable is strung between the uprights along the outside sidewalks, one of the many examples of transitions from thick to thin and chunky to delicate that hallmark the hotel design.  Acknowledgement of the areas's industrial roots is demonstrated in the building materials and large steel architectural elements.  Liberal use of more traditional stone and plaster blend with the metal to make a winning combination.

 

The topper on the Hotel Chaco cake is the Level 5 Rooftop Restaurant and Lounge.  Once again, no detail has been left to chance.  From the slabs of wood that serve as bar table tops to the sheet and angle steel legs and supports, this is form and function at its best.  Something seemingly simple like the tableware adds interest and texture.

Another element of Level 5 is the creative use of indoor and outdoor space. Most of the window-doors slide open to the outside, and in warm weather, people can wander in and out of the restaurant to get a better view of the city. Gas fireplaces dot the area, a modern-day ode to gathering around the fire. While we were having breakfast, a couple was finishing their coffee outside by one of the fireplaces.   Ottomans accompanying the outdoor furniture have the look of huge stones, but are actually made of fiberglass.   In the west wall, openings provide a framed view of west Albuquerque.

 

We actually went to the restaurant because we had heard good things about it from friends who had gone to lunch there the day before.  It exceeded our wildest expectations.  The hotel partnered with Chef Mark Miller of Coyote Cafe and Red Sage fame, and he is the mind behind the menu offerings.  When we told our server Soly that the Sage Scrambled Egg Tartine sounded good, she said "It is like Thanksgiving dinner for breakfast."  The creation combined scrambled eggs, aged cheddar, a spicy tomato jam containing lots of fascinating ingredients, assorted locally-sourced, in-season greens, and seeds and nuts piled on top of a huge slab of sourdough whole wheat bread.  A steak knife is brought to the table for cutting into the crusty mix.  It was unlike anything we have had.  The yummy sounds kept pouring forth.

 

This brief tour of Hotel Chaco would not be complete without mentioning the attention to service that is found in each and every part of the Heritage Hotel Group.  As I mentioned, Soly was our server at breakfast, and service is her middle name.  She was amazing.  Here she is, shining like her namesake.

Our thanks to her and everyone at the Hotel Chaco and Hotel Albuquerque for anchoring the Sawmill District and making it an extraordinary place.

until next Monday

DB

a passion for the image@

 

 

 

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blackscrossing@gmail.com (Blacks Crossing Photography and Writing) albuquerque's sawmill district architecture ashley cloutman-martin blacks crossing photography daryl a. black hotel chaco julie cloutman level 5 restaurant mark miller new mexico patricia michaels patricia michaels waterlily fashions photography tammy garcia taos http://blackscrossing.com/blog/2017/10/sawmill-district-revival Mon, 30 Oct 2017 19:23:48 GMT
bravo! http://blackscrossing.com/blog/2017/10/bravo On all counts, we are experiencing an extraordinary autumn in northern New Mexico.  The aspen were stunning and long lasting, the scrub oak are still presenting themselves in shades of orange, rust and red, and the cottonwoods take ones breath away.  Lining streams and rivers, they are the brightest and most profound I have seen in some years, presenting a broad palette of colors, sometimes on one tree.  Photographers and painters plant themselves along the highways to the ski areas and rivers.   This is where painters can use their artistic license to the fullest extent, eliminating power lines, fence posts, and other human-made signage which might detract from their work.  As a photographer, I have to remind myself to be careful how I shoot because I basically don't believe in spending massive development hours removing distracting items from an image.  The time-tested wisdom of shooting the best photograph you can in the beginning holds true in every case.  Regardless, it is always worth getting out and shooting the amazing landscape.  Here are a few shots of the brilliance.

 

Even a tree such as the one here, with dead branches, carries living ones with leaves in assorted stages of transition. 

 

With me, there is also the challenge and adventure of making alterations in color and saturation, as demonstrated below.

 

Bravo and kudos to nature during this golden season!

until next Monday,

DB

a passion for the image@

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blackscrossing@gmail.com (Blacks Crossing Photography and Writing) autumn blacks crossing photography cottonwoods daryl a. black gold nature new mexico photography taos trees yellow http://blackscrossing.com/blog/2017/10/bravo Mon, 23 Oct 2017 16:31:52 GMT
the over and under of weaving http://blackscrossing.com/blog/2017/10/the-over-and-under-of-weaving During the Wool Festival last weekend, answering four basic questions about weaving consumed a good portion of Fred's time in his booth.  So I thought it might be good to shoot the process for the purpose of explanation.  

The first was "On what kind of loom do you weave?"  He weaves on a Rio Grande walking loom.  Fred's particular loom has a wealth of character, as it lived in a woman's greenhouse for some time before it came to him.  Being made of pine, it was a little warped and required adjustment in the form of rebar, screws and additional pieces of wood.  Below is a photograph of him standing on the treadles of loom.  He can use up to four treadles but since he is doing weft-based Spanish style weaving, he only uses two.

The second question:  Do you make these pieces?  Answer to that is a simple and absolute "Yes."  Here are a few shots of the process of weaving a rifle scabbard.

 

The third question:  "Do you dye your own wool?"  Although we experimented one winter day years ago and dyed a pound of lovely spring aspen green, the woman who dyes the Navajo-Churro wool that Fred uses is the legendary Connie Taylor.  She is the National Registrar for Navajo-Churro sheep in the United States, and if anyone owns a rug woven by Fred, 99.5% of the wool has been dyed by Connie.  Some of it also came from her flock.  The colors shown in the scabbard below are Ganado and teal, along with undyed, natural brown-black.

 

 

After the weaving is complete, Fred rolls it off the weaving surface of the loom, as shown below, and cuts the piece, leaving enough warp for fringe.

You can see that he knots the fringe to keep the weaving together.  There are 368 fringe strands and 92 knots on the finished piece.

 

The completed scabbards #38 and 39.  The client, who has been extremely supportive of Fred's work since his first Wool Festival, ordered two more of this style to match another he purchased last year.

I am certain Fred would be happy to answer any questions you might have about his work.  Thanks to everyone who is in any way involved in the process from feeding the sheep to shearing to carding to spinning and dyeing the wool, and to those who purchase his work.

until next Monday,

DB

a passion for the image@

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blackscrossing@gmail.com (Blacks Crossing Photography and Writing) blacks crossing photography connie taylor daryl a. black fred black navajo-churro wool new mexico photography rio grande walking loom taos weaving http://blackscrossing.com/blog/2017/10/the-over-and-under-of-weaving Mon, 16 Oct 2017 00:09:20 GMT
Wool Festival in review http://blackscrossing.com/blog/2017/10/wool-festival-in-review This weekend was the Taos Wool Festival held in Kit Carson Park.  From the Friday wind that sent the top of our EZ Up tent flying when we were setting up, to the gorgeous, sunny autumn weather on Saturday and Sunday, it was a busy and wonderfully social event.

Teamwork is the key during the festival, and my job is to help Fred during the event in any way I can.  So my primary mission was definitely not photography. These are grab shots and just a very brief representation of the "booth" and some of the animals in the park.

 

 

 

I suspect the caged rabbits were going through their own traumas will all the people oohing and aahing, trying to get their attention.  It would be interesting to know what this one was thinking.

 

These vicuñas were absolutely adorable.  About the size of a seven year old, children and adults alike love their sweetness.

 

 

Fred and I would like to thank the many people who stopped by to say hello and wish us luck.  Bill and Sue, Barbara and Jerry, and Victoria came from Santa Fe and we appreciate them making that long drive.  Buf, Steve, Terry, Geraint, Steve V., Gail and Earle, Andrea, Melissa and Steve, Janet, Paule and Maury, Elida and Alfie, Klara and Jivan with their wee one, Richard and Matt, Paul and Helen, and others "the day after the weekend fog" keeps me from remembering, brightened our days.  We appreciate your presence.  And many thanks to the people who bought rugs and rifle scabbards, and those also who came to see Fred's work and admire it from afar.  

 

until next Monday,

DB

a passion for the image@

 

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blackscrossing@gmail.com (Blacks Crossing Photography and Writing) big sage artisans blacks crossing photography daryl a. black fred black new mexico photography taos taos wool festival vicuñas weaving wool wool festival http://blackscrossing.com/blog/2017/10/wool-festival-in-review Mon, 09 Oct 2017 16:26:50 GMT
return to the aspen http://blackscrossing.com/blog/2017/10/back-to-the-aspen The weather was perfect this week for another aspen viewing drive, courtesy of U. S. Highway 64 in northern New Mexico.  As is frequently the case, the aspen and scrub oak trees were in varying stages of yellow, red, and orange, displaying more color than the week before, given two morning low temperatures of 32 and 30.  The mountain peaks east of Taos, near Truchas, and east of Santa Fe are all sporting snow.  If the recent rains don't bring down the leaves, there will be even more color next week.  You can see the veins of gold piercing the mountains.

Photographing aspen involves several elements.  A decision has to be made whether the light and weather will "cooperate" with the shooting schedule you establish.  Because the quality of light is a bit more forgiving in autumn than in summer, you can sometimes tweak the rule about shooting between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.  Particularly when you are working with overcast or partly cloudy skies. One of my favorite aspen shots I titled "Aspen Rain Shadows", made on 6 October, 2004 at 9:33 a.m.  A combination of rain, hail, and snow had just fallen, leaving the aspen bark wet on the side where the moisture struck the trees. I include it here again, just as a demonstration. of what can be done given adverse weather conditions, patience, and luck.

  aspen rain shadowsaspen rain shadowsKONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

 

The next element of photographing aspen is totally up to the photographer.  What am I looking for in the photograph?  Frequently, I don't have a clue.  Do I want trunks or snags?  What do I want?  That is the joy of human spontaneity in combination with nature.

 

Details, a scenic shot, or both?  

 

The choices you make vary depending on conditions and timing.  I look, I see, I adjust, I shoot.  Then I turn around, look to the side, look down or up,  or lie on the ground and find the subject matter, dust off my bum and try again.

All of it is good and part of the continuing photographic education process.

 

This week, Fred and I will be preparing for the Taos Wool Festival on Saturday, 7 October from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and 8 October, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Kit Carson Park (Big Sage Artians Booth 6). Something furry may walk in front of my camera lens.  Who knows?

until next Monday,

DB

a passion for the image@

 

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blackscrossing@gmail.com (Blacks Crossing Photography and Writing) aspen autumn big sage artisans blacks crossing photography daryl a. black fred black nature new mexico photography taos taos wool festival trees http://blackscrossing.com/blog/2017/10/back-to-the-aspen Sun, 01 Oct 2017 17:47:34 GMT
autumn has arrived http://blackscrossing.com/blog/2017/9/autumn-has-arrived Driving on U. S. Highway 64 west from Tres Piedras to Tierra Amarilla is a pilgrimage for us, one we make at least twice during the autumn months.  It is one of the great drives in the western United States.  When the aspen are having a good year (whether that is determined by moisture, temperature, or infestation of bag worms, I do not know), they are spectacular.  During our trip this week, I would guess that 80% of the trees had not even begun to sport their fall colors, but there were a few that had already turned in an eye-popping way, such as these at Hopewell Lake.

Because of the sky and light, the tree trunks looked particularly white and clear.  Here is a shot of some aspen "legs", which are such good subjects for black and white photography.

 

Ostensibly, the drive is full of aspen color, which I really wanted to photograph.  But the sky was diverting my attention.  Standing mountain waves are fairly common in New Mexico, but the eastern sky on Tuesday held one of the largest and most dramatic formations I have ever seen here.  It lasted much of the entire day, altering only slightly in shape.  Definitely not part of a summer sky, telling us autumn was definitely in the air.  Here is a sampling of the waves.

 

At this time of year in the high country, livestock trailers dot the highways, as cattle are being herded and loaded for their trip to warmer winter feeding grounds.  The last hay cutting of the season is also in progress.  Rolls of hay sit in the fields, drying in the sun.  Even though every movement made by human and machine is for a purpose, I have always thought the hay rolls and geometrics left by the cutters in the field are beautiful.  

until next Monday,

DB

a passion for the image@

 

 

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blackscrossing@gmail.com (Blacks Crossing Photography and Writing) new mexico aspen autumn blacks crossing photography clouds daryl a. black hay hay rolls highway 64 mountain waves photography standing mountain waves taos trees http://blackscrossing.com/blog/2017/9/autumn-has-arrived Sun, 24 Sep 2017 20:59:35 GMT
last and first of the season http://blackscrossing.com/blog/2017/9/last-and-first-of-the-season Friday, 22 September, is the autumnal equinox, a time when the light is changing faster than any time during the year, other than at the vernal equinox in March. Tomorrow, the daylight will be shorter by 2 minutes and 17 seconds at the Valverde recording station in Taos, according to the Weather Underground website. As the weekend approaches, low temperatures will be in the 30s (it was 39 here this morning).  That fact, combined with mice happily dining on our abundant tomato crop, encouraged me to pull the tomatoes off the plants and put them into a paper bag to ripen.  This method actually works quite well, and I would rather do that than donate them to the rodent population.  In a way, these tomatoes are not only the last of the season, but also the first we get to eat when they methodically change to a nice reddish-orange color.  Even in their green phase, tomatoes are photogenic.

And what, indeed, would Monday be without a closeup?

I hope that you have time to revel in harvest season, and the gift of lovely, early autumn light that nature brings to photographers and artists of all stripes.

until next Monday,

DB

a passion for the image@

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blackscrossing@gmail.com (Blacks Crossing Photography and Writing) blacks crossing photography daryl a. black gardens nature new mexico photography taos tomatoes vegetables weather underground http://blackscrossing.com/blog/2017/9/last-and-first-of-the-season Mon, 18 Sep 2017 16:33:24 GMT
not precisely as prescribed http://blackscrossing.com/blog/2017/9/not-precisely-as-prescribed Hurricane Irma dominated the 24/7 news cycle for much of the week and certainly this weekend, as the hurricane dragged its enormous form over many islands in the Atlantic and Caribbean before approaching the Florida Keys and settling over the entirety of Florida.  Since the life of the storm is still not complete, the damage to people, property, and the environment won't be determined for some time, but one thing is now known, Irma did not behave precisely as prescribed.

In our benign patch of Taos County, the Sunday generally set aside for assembling a Monday blog did not go precisely as prescribed either, in a most interesting way.  For those of you who may not know, our primary tool for cooking is a wood burning cookstove.  A cast iron Waterford from Ireland, the black beast serves most of our cooking needs.  Every stove and fireplace has a stove pipe that goes through the roof, to carry the smoke outside and away from the house.  On top of the pipe is a cap.  Last year, after numerous bird incursions into our parlor stove, we replaced it with a cap that has small mesh screen beneath it, discouraging birds from being enticed into this seemingly secure space.

As it happens, there has never been a bird entry under the cap of our wood burning cookstove, probably because at night, it is usually hot from the evening's dinner fire. The one night we chose not to build a dinner fire in the stove this week, an opportunist entered the scene.  In the early pre-dawn hours, we heard something on the roof.  The noise could have been from the metal gutter, or on top of either stove cap.  Scratching on metal.  This is not a particularly unusual part of rural life.  Animals happily live around us.  So we went back to sleep.  A couple of hours later, scratch, scratch.  Back to sleep. After sunrise, scratch scratch.  We get out of bed, listen, and the sound is indeed coming from the kitchen, which means the wood burning cookstove. On the surface of the cookstove where the stove pipe goes into the body of the stove itself, there is an iron plate that can removed to clean inside the space and up the pipe. As we slowly removed that plate, we looked inside and saw what appeared to be fist-sized ball.  "What the heck is that?"  Got the flashlight and here were two yellow eyes staring back.  An owl. A sweetheart.  Something that would basically occupy our morning.  Here is a photograph of it sitting in the opening at the point of entry of the stove pipe.

Two decisions were made immediately.  The first, of course, was that we had to get this lovely creature out safely before we cooked dinner, and second, I had to get my camera.  Given the circumstances, this was not exactly my finest moment as a photographer, and the photographs will win no awards, but the point was to document.

Owls, as sweet as they seem, are definitely birds of prey and have beaks and talons for that purpose.  Even this juvenile had a very sharp beak and awesome talons, so we knew that shoving a hand in there to get the bird was definitely out of the question.  It was already making snapping noises with its beak like dolphin sonar or perhaps a stress-induced response, but we weren't going to take chances.  Fred built a rectangular cage out of hardware cloth that we used for the garden raised beds so that we would encourage "Hoot" to crawl into the cage.  That "encouragement" included a flat stick and a piece of cardboard to cover the hole so the owl could not drop down into the stove.   It would be all over if that happened.  And that owl was putting all its might and weight into keeping Fred from getting under it and behind it with the metal tool with which we clean the stove.  It was not happy with us in the least, but eventually with Fred's tenacity and both of our isometrics, we were able to encourage the owl into the cage.    

Then, with another bit of genius that do-it-yourselfers would have appreciated, I took a dust pan and shoved it behind the owl to keep it from going back down the stove pipe and into the abyss.  Fred put on hefty gloves, picking up the cage while I held the dust pan over the opening, and escorted the owl outside.  It was temporarily dazed and blinded by the light, but very quickly flew away. Using both Sibley's and Peterson's western bird guides, we came to the conclusion that this was a young western screech owl.  It had both "ears" and "whiskers" and yellow eyes, or we would have thought it a flammulated owl. We'll keep researching. 

until next Monday,

DB

a passion for the image@

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blackscrossing@gmail.com (Blacks Crossing Photography and Writing) birds blacks crossing photography daryl a. black nature new mexico owls photography taos western screech owl http://blackscrossing.com/blog/2017/9/not-precisely-as-prescribed Mon, 11 Sep 2017 16:16:06 GMT
head in the clouds http://blackscrossing.com/blog/2017/9/head-in-the-clouds During this week of devastation on the Gulf Coast of Texas from Hurricane Harvey, and fires in the western United States, the air in New Mexico was rendered into an odd haze that has obscured almost all the surrounding mountains.  The atmosphere wasn't precisely smoke filled, nor did it contain massive amounts of moisture from Harvey or Lidia off of Baja in the Gulf of California.  But is was like a light blanket over the land.  On occasion, nature flung off the covers and produced some beautiful uplifts.  Once again, my eyes and head turned upward and inward into the clouds.

  

The color of the photograph below was adjusted for effect.

 

I hope you are able to take some time off your work on this Labor Day, to spend with friends and family.

until next week,

DB

a passion for the image@

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blackscrossing@gmail.com (Blacks Crossing Photography and Writing) blacks crossing photography clouds cumulus clouds daryl a. black nature new mexico photography sky taos http://blackscrossing.com/blog/2017/9/head-in-the-clouds Sun, 03 Sep 2017 20:46:51 GMT
odds and ends http://blackscrossing.com/blog/2017/8/odds-and-ends Today's blog takes a page from Fred's weaving.  Every year before the Taos Wool Festival, which this year is 7 and 8 October in Kit Carson Park, he weaves a rug from the surplus small amounts of wool left from larger rugs, and uses them to weave a one-of-a-kind piece.  Ever popular because of the myriad colors and the way Fred puts them together, Rug # 304 is his most recent year in review.  Here it is, in case you did not see it on Facebook.

Because I am out with my camera a lot, there are usually shots, not particularly of one theme or subject matter, that sometimes make a whole in a weird sort of way.  As the light changes and people in the high country of New Mexico start to sense the feeling of autumn in the air, lots of photographic possibilities present themselves.  The gold in flowers, green in chiles, and different creatures in the garden.  All of these images were made this month.

 

Sunflowers line the highways...

 

...Shishito peppers grilled and salted, ready to nibble...

...tomatoes, basil, and cheese from the Farmers' Market...

...and fresh from the garden, a praying mantis keeping a sharp eye out on this photographer

until next Monday,

DB

a passion for the image@

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blackscrossing@gmail.com (Blacks Crossing Photography and Writing) blacks crossing photography daryl a. black food insects nature new mexico photography praying mantis shishito peppers taos http://blackscrossing.com/blog/2017/8/odds-and-ends Mon, 28 Aug 2017 16:05:01 GMT
capturing the unexpected http://blackscrossing.com/blog/2017/8/capturing-the-unexpected One of the things a photographer in the field learns early on is that not everything will be as one expects, and frequently, it is not.  You travel - by foot or mechanical means - to one place, with a specific plan.  You have carefully thought about the weather and environmental conditions, the time of day and light, the equipment you need, and yet, somehow, elements end up being different.  And frequently, that can be a really good thing.  I try to tell myself to be open to whatever presents itself and capture the unexpected.

People who live in the western United States, particularly mountainous areas, are familiar with the capricious nature of the weather.  Sunday's forecast wasn't too dramatic.  Not much of a chance of rain, but when the ominous, dark clouds started brewing to the east near Taos, it certainly looked like we were going to have rain.  It came in suddenly and with violent wind and driving rain. I went out onto the portal to savor the event, and to check the hummingbirds to see if they were out.  Some, as there usually are, were busy hanging on to the feeders, some were bathing in the spray.  But a small hummingbird was perched on top of an aspen branch, just sitting.  I moved slowly, wondering if I could get my camera in time to catch it.  Almost going into stasis, this bird was not going to move into the storm but instead stayed in the relative shelter of the roof eaves.  It was something I did not expect, and I darted upstairs to grab my camera with 70-200 mm lens, went outside, and the bird was still there. Using the in-camera flash, I got off about 10 shots, downloaded them into Lightroom, came back to the portal where the bird was still in its same place. This time, I was a little more prepared and managed to shoot more.  It was a treat.

Fred and I have poured over our bird books - two editions of Peterson's and one of Sibley's, and we still cannot determine what type of hummingbird it is. The givens are that this is a male and a juvenile, but being wet, it was difficult to determine the species.  It is either a black chinned or broadtailed.

 

 

The white stripes to the right of the bird are drops of rain.

 

 

This guy is starting to nap!

 

I hope that during your photographic sojourns this week, whether they involve the solar eclipse or not, offer the unexpected!

until next Monday,

DB

a passion for the image@

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blackscrossing@gmail.com (Blacks Crossing Photography and Writing) birds blacks crossing photography daryl a. black hummingbirds nature new mexico photography taos http://blackscrossing.com/blog/2017/8/capturing-the-unexpected Mon, 21 Aug 2017 15:09:53 GMT
playing with your food, again? http://blackscrossing.com/blog/2017/8/playing-with-your-food-again Talking with friends recently, the subject of harvest season in New Mexico arose.  It almost always means one thing - the smell of roasting green chile.  I did not grow any this year, and have yet to procure some, but you will soon see photographs, no dobut, in this blog.  Since I have been in the garden, picking assorted lettuce from the raised bed every other day, and once a week, picking basil for pesto, the world of vegetables has been part of my subconscious as well as my photography.

I plant a variety of lettuce, both for different flavors and textures, and there are usually volunteers from past years that pop up.  Very generous of them!

 

Fresh squeezed orange juice is always a treat.  At a May brunch, Cristina brought orange juice she had hand-squeezed.  Being the filmmaker and artist that she is, she suggested we do a setup with the juice and the woven napkins we were using.  

 

And thinking again about chile, my mind turned to the whole of New World foods, of which the Nightshade family (chile and other peppers, potatoes, and tomatoes) are part, I decided to title these two photographs "New World Order 1 and 2".  The backdrop for these is Fred's Rug # 261, woven of 100% Navajo-Churro wool in the style of Navajo Chief's blanket, Phase II.  The first features Anasazi beans and red chile powder.

 

A potato, tomatoes, and 'Cañoncito' Landrace pepper, grown in Dixon, New Mexico comprise the shot below.

 

All the photographs were shot with a Nikon D5200, with natural light from south and north facing windows in the first two shots, and east, south, and a bit of western light in the second two images.

until next Monday,

DB

a passion for the image@

 

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blackscrossing@gmail.com (Blacks Crossing Photography and Writing) anasazi beans blacks crossing photography chile daryl a. black food fred black juice lettuce new mexico new world foods photography taos vegetables weavings http://blackscrossing.com/blog/2017/8/playing-with-your-food-again Mon, 14 Aug 2017 16:20:47 GMT
a week in the life http://blackscrossing.com/blog/2017/8/a-week-in-the-life When I am not doing environmental portraiture or weddings, a typical photography week includes a number of different photo sessions and a wide variety of subject matter.  This week was no exception.

My husband, Fred, is a weaver of fine, 100% Navajo-Churro wool rugs, runners, and rifle scabbards, made on a Rio Grande style walking loom.  He uses wool dyed by Connie Taylor, the authority on Navajo-Churro sheep and their history, and the national registrar for Navajo-Churro sheep.  To keep a record of Fred's work, I photograph each piece and print it for his portfolio.  This involves use of a tripod and lights, and it has taken me a bit to understand the concept of perspective, being that I am a bit thick when it comes to geometry and anything spacial.  Luckily for me, Fred has those concepts deep in his DNA, as is reflected in his latest rug, #303.  The colors are Ganado, dyed black, ochre, and sea breeze.

Moving from the "studio lighting" setting out into the garden, I am always on the lookout for new flowers in bloom, butterflies, birds - any part of nature that presents pure design.  Because of the cooler weather and overcast lately, the butterflies have not been quite as active, enabling me to follow them around and get better shots.  The swallowtail butterfly (Papilionidae) below is really getting into the cup of an orange day lily.

The next two shots are of the variegated fritillary (Euptoieta claudia), working on the flowers of a purple oregano plant.  Not only are the patterns and colors stunning, but I love the white knobs on the end of the antennae.

 

The humble evening primrose flower is probably considered a weed by some, but they are great photographic subjects.

 

Drifting around as I tend to do with camera in hand, there are always new blooms to photograph.  Echinacea flowers are layered with drama.

 

Always at this time of year, the afternoons bring thunderstorm build ups of cumulus clouds.  Whether are not they drop their rainfall in our neck of the woods, they are almost always brewing and stewing.

until next Monday,

DB

a passion for the image@

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blackscrossing@gmail.com (Blacks Crossing Photography and Writing) blacks crossing photography butterflies connie taylor daryl a. black euptoieta claudia flowers fred black nature navajo-churro wool new mexico photography swallowtail butterfly taos variegated fritillary weaving http://blackscrossing.com/blog/2017/8/a-week-in-the-life Mon, 07 Aug 2017 01:40:41 GMT
aerial antics, set 2 http://blackscrossing.com/blog/2017/7/aerial-antics-set-2 The end of July into early August, the hummingbird population on the mesa is at its apex, with anywhere from 425 to 475 birds visiting our feeders daily. But this year, as was true last year, the numbers are fewer, which is worrisome. There are roughly 250 broad-tailed, black-chinned, rufous, and calliope hummingbirds here this year.  Could the lower numbers be because there are more blooms in the landscape, or more insects so that they don't need the sugar water many of us supply?  Was there some weather event during their migration that temporarily reduced their numbers?  Or is it, as some in the birding world and scientists say, due to a decline in the bird population as a whole?  That the birds cannot adapt quickly enough to the changing climate? All of these musings got me out with my Nikon D800 and 70-200 mm lens to photograph the aerial superheroes again, this time against overcast skies, using the in-camera fill flash.  I shoot a lot, hand held, so the only limitation is my ability to hold the weight of the camera and not get a hand or wrist cramp!

Once again, all of these photographs are of rufous hummingbirds, basically because they are aggressive and are continually guarding feeders and blooming plants. Which means they are almost constantly in flight.  I often wonder if they ever get to eat.  Obviously, they do, because I also see them at rest, in places perfectly suited to keeping their eyes on the situation.

One things that is fun at this time of year, is the fact that both newbies and adults are present.  The newer birds generally have shorter beaks and tail feathers, like the young male shown here.

Compare him to the adult female below, that has a much longer beak.

 

 

It is always a challenge to try to photograph more than one hummingbird at a time.  Because they are traveling at different speeds and they are at different focal lengths, I usually get one in focus and one that is not, as is the case below.

 

These birds sometimes seem to be in suspended animation.  The adult male rufous and female below are lovely examples.

Photographer Terry Thompson asked last week what shutter speed I was using. I liked last week's results, so I continue to use 1/400 second.  

Some time next month, the hummingbirds will begin their migration south. We always miss their presence in our lives and look forward to their arrival in mid-April, around tax filing time, when they come to mate and continue the cycle of life.

until next Monday,

DB

a passion for the image@

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blackscrossing@gmail.com (Blacks Crossing Photography and Writing) birds blacks crossing photography daryl a. black hummingbirds nature new mexico photography rufous hummingbirds taos http://blackscrossing.com/blog/2017/7/aerial-antics-set-2 Mon, 31 Jul 2017 17:15:15 GMT
on the move http://blackscrossing.com/blog/2017/7/on-the-move One of my consistent photography challenges comes in the form of those aerial daredevils otherwise known as hummingbirds.  They are true wonders of nature, and I never tire of trying to capture them in interesting ways, not so much at feeders, but in the air.   Here is the latest collection from five different sessions (shoot, download into the computer, develop, select, and repeat, repeat, repeat).  The work also requires some preparation that includes watching these little hot shots to determine where and when I can catch them in the sunshine to reveal details, drama, and color.  My trusty Nikon D800 equipped with a 70-200 mm lens, hand held, is my tool of choice.  The photographs below are all of the rufous hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus).

 

 

 

 

The image below was shot with clouds in the background, rendering the backdrop a slightly grey/off white, and producing motion interest and spare wing impressions.

 

Since the hummingbirds are migratory and stay through the end of September at the latest, I will take advantage of the time they are here to photograph these beauties.  There is also an abundance of youngsters in the mix, and they are great models.  So stay tuned.

until next Monday,

DB

a passion for the image@

 

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blackscrossing@gmail.com (Blacks Crossing Photography and Writing) birds blacks crossing photography daryl a. black hummingbirds nature new mexico nikon nikon d800 photography rufous hummingbirds selasphorus rufus taos http://blackscrossing.com/blog/2017/7/on-the-move Mon, 24 Jul 2017 16:27:16 GMT