Blacks Crossing Photography and Writing: Blog http://blackscrossing.com/blog en-us @ Daryl A. Black blackscrossing@gmail.com (Blacks Crossing Photography and Writing) Mon, 16 Oct 2017 00:12:00 GMT Mon, 16 Oct 2017 00:12:00 GMT http://blackscrossing.com/img/s10/v108/u737315375-o129809688-50.jpg Blacks Crossing Photography and Writing: Blog http://blackscrossing.com/blog 112 120 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
fine stemware http://blackscrossing.com/blog/2017/7/fine-stemware Human beings create any number of both artful and utilitarian objects using nature as a guide.  Frequently, what some might consider pedestrian, such as the humble goatsbeard seed head, lend themselves to both the artful and useful.

Goat's beard or yellow salsify (Tragopogon dubius) is part of the aster family, and is similar to the common dandelion in its seed distribution.  After the yellow flowers go to seed, a puff ball sits at the top of the stem, awaiting an animal, insect, or strong wind to send its delicate stemware flying.  At least to me, the seeds look like a champagne or wine glass rimmed in gold.  You can see a clearly defined base and bowl on each stem.

 

What is astonishing is that from a distance, the seed head looks like a puffy ball.  But viewed in detail, each stem brings the feathers together that form the "stemware", and each stem gives the head strength and substance.

 

 

If the seed head is touched or blown by the wind, and if one or more of the pieces of stemware is carried away, the cycle is complete.  The fine stemware evolves into its utilitarian stage of planting future generations.  Many photographers have photographed and left incredible images of goatsbeard. Now it is the turn of other photographers, including you, to take up the challenge nature offers us.

until next Monday,

DB

a passion for the image@

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blackscrossing@gmail.com (Blacks Crossing Photography and Writing) aster family blacks crossing photography daryl a. black flowers goatsbeard nature new mexico photography seed heads taos tragopogon dubius http://blackscrossing.com/blog/2017/7/fine-stemware Sun, 16 Jul 2017 21:40:05 GMT
backdrops and depth of field http://blackscrossing.com/blog/2017/7/backdrops-and-depth-of-field I have been thinking about portraiture and commercial art lately, and how the backdrop for a portrait can either compliment it or create a distraction.  I see things in nature that seem to provide the perfect backdrop for a clothing shoot, a jewelry shoot or an environmental portraiture or straight portrait session. So I gave myself an assignment this week to discover some great backdrops, and how depth of field can help or hinder, depending on the subject matter.

Henry Horenstein, in his 2nd edition of Black and White Photography:  a basic manual, defines depth of field as the "zone of focus in a photograph or the distance between the closest and farthest parts of the picture that are reasonably sharp."  This is determined by the aperture setting (lens opening), the focus distance, and the lens focal length. 

In past blogs, I have discussed stucco and how it can provide the almost perfect, simple portraiture backdrop.  Another natural, unobtrusive, neutral colored background is sand, as the closeup below of a hole at Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve in Colorado shows.  The "fan" in the sand would not intrude but enhance a portrait.

 

The sandstone below provides the background for a volcanic rock, but because the texture is primarily contained in the rock itself, the depth of field of the sandstone can be acute and in focus without disrupting the subject matter.

But the picture, cropped to just feature the rock, creates a totally different backdrop.  It is very sharp and angular, and might work well for a piece of jewelry.

 

The palm tree bark, shown below in black and white and extremely sharp, would make a great and gnarly portrait backdrop, but again, I would need to be careful not to let the bark's character overwhelm the subject being photographed.

 

The relatively shallow depth of field of a "big sage" (Artemesia tridentata) shrub, has just enough detail and soft color to make an interesting backdrop, again, for clothing or jewelry.

 

The depth of field is shallow enough in the images of lavender and salvia below that the shapes have an impressionistic feel to them, making them more suitable for a written text overlay.

I suspect I will be experimenting with this more in the future, and will, at some point, show how I use the backdrops.

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 New Mexico Taos backdrops depth of field flowers nature palm tree bark photography rocks trees http://blackscrossing.com/blog/2017/7/backdrops-and-depth-of-field Sun, 09 Jul 2017 22:58:49 GMT
patience http://blackscrossing.com/blog/2017/7/patience At almost any time or for any reason - large or small - patience in a human being can vary wildly.  For photographers, patience is required at almost all times, but especially when photographing nature.  Photographing butterflies demands both patience and constant movement to keep up with their movement.

During the heat of the day, butterflies are everywhere and they are extremely active, flitting from blossom to blossom, clinging to flowers and gathering nectar. They take their pollination work seriously!  I am not by any means an expert in this area, and I apologize to those of you who have studied these fascinating creatures all your lives.  With luck and the help of my new favorite butterfly identification website "Gardens with Wings" - gardenswithwings.com, I hope my identification is correct.

Here is a series of photographs of the variegated fritillary (Euptoieta claudia).  I originally thought the first butterfly shown here was an American lady or painted lady, but after looking at the website, I think the shot is of the fritillary with closed wings.

 

Of the butterflies I photographed, these clouded sulphur butterflies (Colias philodice) seem to be the most active.  I had one heck of a time catching them, and had no success during three shoots of getting a decent image of one with open wings.  This particular butterfly has seen some action, as evidenced by the layer of wing that is missing.

The checkered white butterfly (Pontia protodice) is on the move here, but I use the shot to demonstrate the blue body that I would otherwise not have noticed.

 The two-tailed swallowtail (Papilio multicaudata) is always a joy to see and photograph, as it seems to linger on blossoms longer.

until next Monday,

DB

a passion for the image@

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blackscrossing@gmail.com (Blacks Crossing Photography and Writing) Blacks Crossing Photography Colias philodice Euptoieta claudia Papilio multicaudata Pontia protodice butterflies checkered white butterfly clouded sulphur butterfly flowers gardenswithwings.com nature photography swallowtail butterfly variegated fritillary http://blackscrossing.com/blog/2017/7/patience Sun, 02 Jul 2017 19:51:34 GMT
looking upward http://blackscrossing.com/blog/2017/6/looking-upward With the Bonita fire still burning roughly 10 miles west of us, our habit for the last several weeks has been to look upward and outward at the sky on a fairly regular basis.  There are, unfortunately, a number of fires burning throughout the western United States, Portugal, and other places around the world, and the smoke from those fires alters the quality of light and particulates in the air. Here on the mesa, we would have one day of smoke and 4% humidity, while another morning, we would have fog, low scud, and 70% humidity.  It has been both interesting and disturbing to watch.  So when the skies did clear enough to expose thunderheads and other cloud formations, I grabbed my camera to take advantage of it.

Summer skies in the Rocky Mountain west have lots of variety and drama, providing a palette of colors and textures.  Here is a shot of some cumulus cloud buildup in the northeast.  The top layer of lower cloud fingers are like a curtain staging the thunderheads.

A slightly different shot of the same formation in black and white

 

To the south, different forces were at work, producing this formation.

 

 

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 New Mexico Taos clouds cloudscapes cumulus nature photography sky thunderstorms weather http://blackscrossing.com/blog/2017/6/looking-upward Mon, 26 Jun 2017 15:08:23 GMT
Broadway on the mesa http://blackscrossing.com/blog/2017/6/broadway-on-the-mesa Another show opened on the mesa today.  This time, it was the hedgehog cactus, and I must say, costume designers for Broadway musicals must have seen these babies in bloom.  Check out the headdress.    

Although it looks like an anemone, the strawberry hedgehog cactus, Echinocereus fendleri, is known for its blossoms' retina-piercing color.  The body of the cactus is a barrel and so nondescript that it is almost guaranteed you won't see it except when it is blooming.   Although I shot the photographs contained herein between 2 and 3 p.m. (a shortened shoot because the cedar gnats were out in force) which is not exactly prime shooting time in summer, I did not adjust the color in these photographs.

 

Scouring the mesa for these costumed beauties, I would occasionally come across some that carried much more subtle hues, such as the ones below.

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 New Mexico Taos cactus color fuchsia flowers hedgehog cactus nature photography http://blackscrossing.com/blog/2017/6/broadway-on-the-mesa Mon, 19 Jun 2017 12:16:24 GMT
outside the box http://blackscrossing.com/blog/2017/6/outside-the-box There are days when I feel like the Julia Child of photography - happily experimenting, adding and changing ingredients, flinging flour into the air, reaching for eggs only to have them explode and land in a gooey mess on the floor.  She was just a little outside the box in her approach to cooking.  I would consider myself no more than a basic cook, not even remotely in the same category as Child, who, among other things, was a researcher for the OSS during World War II.  Her brilliance and creativity led her into projects including the development of shark repellent to keep them away from ordnance meant to explode German U-boats.  What Julia Child had and I share is a passion for what she did and what I do, regardless of failures and messiness.  It is the best way to learn.

In my case, doing photography with an eye on thrift, presents definite challenges, forcing me to be creative with the materials I have at hand.  At any given time, I use what is in my immediate surroundings.  One afternoon, I wanted to make sure to work with the white and pink lilies given to us by friends Cristina and Ben.  The shelf life of flowers varies from bloom to bloom, and the more you move flowers around from one location to another, the greater the chances of creasing the petals and shaking the pollen onto your carefully chosen backdrops.

The thrift factor coming into play once again during this photo shoot, as I searched the house and its surroundings for possible backdrops.  I have found that the black that works best for the still life photography I do cannot carry a shine, patina or or loose weave.  Thus, the plain black cotton of several vests I own seems to work the best.

Here are two images of a white lily with its cayenne-colored stamens.  I was shaking these a bit too much, as you can see from the spots of pollen in the photographs.  The first was taken with the in-camera flash.  The one below it was taken with natural light and a white reflector, without flash.

     

I used a pink lily, along with a shallow depth of field, and natural light to produce three different images.  The aqua is actually the metal roof of our house.

The next image is the same lily with its stem in the weave of a basket, with plain white paper as the backdrop.

 

And finally, the same lily propped on the window sill, just a hint of the roof line, and the wood floor below darkened for effect.

 

 

Keep experimenting!

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 New Mexico Taos flowers lilies nature still life photography http://blackscrossing.com/blog/2017/6/outside-the-box Mon, 12 Jun 2017 15:44:14 GMT
timing is everything http://blackscrossing.com/blog/2017/6/timing-is-everything On our planet, terrestrials - animals and plants alike - are controlled by the passing of time.  Day into night, night into day, days into weeks, months, and years. Whether or not a creature or plant measures it in the same way humans do, everything is governed by it.  The leader of a photographic workshop I took at Point Reyes, California years ago, said that "Light is everything."  I have pondered and followed that as a photographer ever since.  But time and timing are also crucial in photography and life, even in photographing things or objects that do not move.  Case in point, wildflowers, such paintbrush.  

Our final snow of substance this spring was on the 19th of May.  Melted, it translated into 1/3 of an inch of moisture, which was a perfect addition for the flowering mesa plants.  The Santa Fe phlox had already had a banner year, and some are still in bloom.  But the extra boost from nature has enabled the paintbrush (Castilleja integra) to thrive and make a huge splash among the grass and sagebrush, not to mention the white of snow.

 

The wonderful thing about late spring snow is that it melts and sinks into the soil quickly, because the ground is no longer frozen.  After the late snow this spring, the paintbrush really swung into action.  So did I.  

I suspect there are several more paintbrush shoots in my future, not only on the mesa, but in the mountains.  Flowers are just starting to bloom now at the higher elevations.  While I await the effect of time on the mountain flowers, I will continue to search nature in all its messy and wonderful glory.

until next Monday,

DB

a passion for the image@

 

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blackscrossing@gmail.com (Blacks Crossing Photography and Writing) Blacks Crossing Photography Castilleja integra Daryl A. Black New Mexico Scrophulariaceae Taos close-up photography figwort flowers nature paintbrush photography wild flowers http://blackscrossing.com/blog/2017/6/timing-is-everything Sun, 04 Jun 2017 22:24:28 GMT