Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Fall color arrives between the first and second week in October in the high country of southwest Colorado. It is the time to get out and drive the Forest Service roads into the San Juan and Cimarron Mountains. This image was made just south of Montrose with the San Juan Range towering in the background
Left click on the image above to see the larger version.
Monday, May 16, 2011
The Black Canyon of the Gunnison was designated a National Park during the Clinton administration.
By highway, the Park is about fifteen miles east of Montrose. As the crow flies, it is more like four.
Saturday, May 14, 2011
AFTERNOON IN THE HIGH COUNTRY OF THE SAN JUAN'S
Mount Sneffels is located near Ridgway, Colorado, and this view might be obtained by taking a Forest Service road to about the nine thousand foot level.
From where we live, we can spot a number of fourteeners from our kitchen windows, and Mt. Sneffels is one of the more dominant peaks along the skyline.
This year the snow in the Colorado Rockies has been dramatic with a continual buildup of snow pack and little or no runoff because of cold weather and numerous storms coming across from the Pacific coast.
Rocky Mountain NP has been unable to open their Trail Ridge drive because of drifts exceeding twenty feet, and that means it will not be open during the Memorial Day weekend.
Even along the western slope, we are told that many of the forest service roads that I would normally take this time of year are still blocked by drifts at the higher altitudes.
The site where I made this exposure was open because it has been plowed numerous times to enable the home owners near the top of the ridge to come and go during the winter months.
Friday, May 13, 2011
The seeds for this collection of photographs took root during the late nineteen forties when I was growing up in a small rural farming community in south-central Virginia.
That was our screened-in porch in the background with the old concrete pump stand immediately to my left. And I still recognize the two dippers hanging on the post to the right of my head.
The pump was a cast iron long-handle job; ancient by today's stardards. But occasionally, I still see one in a Forest Service campground; many of which have not been updated since the fifties.
Detecting my keen interest in drawing and sketching, my mother handed over her old Brownie box camera (she and dad were both teachers). For whatever reason, she felt that I might be interested in photography. The camera was an early-teens relic by Eastman Kodak, and I jokingly referred to the lens as a leftover chip from a broken pop bottle. I took to it like red clay on a pickup truck. Eventually, I wore it out. I can still remember the day the leather-covered back fell off. I must have been about thirteen.
From this camera came a stream of 120-roll film negatives, which I used for making contact prints in the mid-forties. I worked on moonless nights in the back corner of an old wood shed with several wax-lined trays, assorted odds and ends, and a bit of primitive chemistry. The safe light was a single red bulb dangling from a high ceiling rafter.
This hands-on experience was my introduction to what would later become my fine art photography. The only remaining image from this era is the self-portrait that was made about 1947. Note the string that is being held behind my back with my left hand and runs across the foreground in front of my feet. From there it cut through a forked stick in the ground and connected to the shutter lever of the camera. The camera was mounted on an old wooden tripod. This was, perhaps, my first creative image.
My interest in photography later became a passion and it spread from the nearby Blue Ridge to the Allegheny Highlands; then north and south through the Shenandoah Valley and beyond. From these experiences came my images and tales about how I photographed the last of the mountain people and documented a way of life that was rapidly disappearing from the rural byways of the Appalachians.
In 1997 my wife and I moved west to satisfy a boyhood dream, and my camera was again focused on new landscapes from our first home in Wyoming and then from our final destination along the western slope of Colorado.
As you observe my images and read about some of my many experiences which took place over a period of more than sixty years, you will see how my childhood and early back-woods environment molded me into an artist, helping me to develop the themes of my life and to follow the trail established decades earlier.
My purpose in life has been my art. That is my legacy and gift to society and to future generations. If you are an ardent admirer of rural beauty and grass roots America at her finest, this is a documentary that will never grow old. Enjoy some of that beauty and dignity that still exists in this old world. Sit back, relax and reminisce.
ASPEN GROVE IN SINKS CANYON NEAR LANDER, WYOMING ©1998
SILVER & OIL
Shortly after our move to Wyoming in 1997, I gravitated toward Mixed Media. I had practiced with oil paints back in Virginia, but I felt that the subject matter did not lend itself to transparent oils. However, the western landscape was a natural, and I made a series of hand-colored images. This was one of the first.
TO VIEW A LARGER IMAGE LEFT CLICK ON THE IMAGE. THIS APPLIES TO ALL IMAGES. THEN CLICK ON THE RETURN ARROW, UPPER LEFT CORNER OF MONITOR SCREEN.
SPLIT ROCK WYOMING ©1998
SILVER & OIL
This was one of my favorite rock studies because of the natural design and the boulder lead-in to the pinion pine in the background.
I revisited this spot last October (2010) and worked it over again with digital. The pine was reduced to a lot of broken pieces and the scene simply was not worth a second image.
A lightning strike may have put an end to the Pinion Pine. That happens frequently in this part of the country at the higher altitudes.
WYOMING OUTBACK ©1997
SILVER & OIL
We had not been in Wyoming very long before a local photographer offered to take me out to Monument Draw. He was what I would call a camera buff but very much interested in photography.
It's a good thing I went with him because it was definitely a four-wheel drive trip. The ride alone was worth the time, but when we got to the monuments I could hardly get my 2 1/4 out of the pack fast enough. The view of the Wind River Range in the background was stunning. But the erosional feature was the first of it's kind that I had ever seen.
The lighting was perfect and the sky was made for the scene. If you look closely, you will spot my guide in the background focusing his 4 x 5 in view camera. This silver image was the perfect candidate for oils. So, between the toning of the print and the layers of transparent oils, this trip turned out to be a winner. And that is what art is all about.
DESERT TRAIL ©2001
WYOMING OUTBACK ALONG BEAVER RIM.
This high 7,000 ft escarpment is located in central Wyoming, south of Riverton and is just one more fantastic area for an artist to explore.
This landscape has all the elements for a nice photograph and you have the trail as a lead-in for the eye. That is Dishpan Butte in the distance with a dark polarized sky in the background.
I also made a color image, but in my opinion, the toned silver image is far superior.
This area of Colorado near Delta offers the artist all manner of stunning erosional features, and because of the varied shapes and sizes you can work in either color or black and white.
I chose black and white for this image and toned it just slightly. When I used to print from negatives I always used a sepia toner which combined sulfur with the silver and you could vary the degree of toning depending on your on personal feeling at a given time. Since this was a digital image, I worked with the three primary colors and tweaked it just a little bit. It was just enough to give it a feeling of warmth and I personally like that feeling.
The time of day to visit this area is important. You need strong shadows to give the finished image a strong abstract appearance. And I would strongly recommend fall or early spring because it can get unbearably hot during the summer months. About nine to eleven during the morning is my preference because at this time of year, the sun is already pretty low to the horizon. To me, this is one of those little gems which are scattered around Colorado.
Colorado National Monument is located just a few miles west of Grand Junction and geologically, it is part of the Colorado Plateau.
This is an easy day trip, and I felt that a touch of snow would liven the image up a bit. The red rock against the snow did, indeed, improve the photograph.
This thirty-five mile route through the Monument is always a rare treat, and it reminds me, in many ways, of Canyonlands and Arches National Park near Moab, Utah. A tripod and a polarizing filter are highly recommended.
Before taking a field trip such as this, I always check out the area on Google Earth. By using this program, you can fly through the area and get a pretty good feel for the lay of the land in three dimensions. I strongly recommend it as a time and gas saver on long day trips. .
LAST DOLLAR ROAD NEAR THE SAN JUAN RANGE
This view of the aspen grove was made at the nine thousand foot level and all of the elements are in place. You have a nice foreground, middle ground and a striking background of dark blue sky.
The sky at high altitudes is darker than it is at lower levels, but I felt that the sky in this image could use a little extra darkening so on with the polarizer.
Notice the spacing of the dark brown patches of vegetation in the foreground. This adds another little touch to the composition.The finished image is about as close to being a perfect photograph as you can get, and I have always heard the experts say that there is no such thing as a perfect image. Well...that just depends on who is judging the finished image.
When I made the shift from film to digital, the actual process came naturally because I already knew the basics of the medium. What hung me up initially was learning how to use the computer. And then there was the processing program. I struggled with the computer for several months before I was comfortable with it.
I ended up purchasing Microsoft Digital Image 2006, and it was quite easy to walk my way through the various programs. A computer expert in the area recommended it as a great "starter" program. Heck, I am still using it five years later because it has everything I need plus more. It took me less than a day to figure out how to use most the various functions, and my philosophy has always been to keep it simple. And that applies to fine art work as well.
An engineering friend kept telling me how great Photoshop was, and that all the serious photographers used it. So, one day I broke down and dropped a hundred dollar bill on the counter and went home with Photoshop Elements 5. After one solid week of absolute total frustration, I took that program out of my computer and put the Microsoft back in. Enough was enough. I just wanted a simple program that had everything I needed. Nothing fancy!
As for RAW, I use the Nikon Picture Project 1.7. It too, is simple and easy to follow, and there are a few processing tools available for the user on page one. The Nikon program then channels your images directly into the Microsoft program with the conversion to tiff or jpeg already made. The simpler it is, the better I like it, and the results that I have obtained during the past few years vouch for the end results.
My objective was to obtain stock-art quality for the agency that handles my work, and my computer programs meet their quality standards.
I am from the old school, and I like to get the exposures right the first time. So why mess with Mother Nature. I have become a bit spoiled by the simplicity and accessability of the tools on my Microsoft program.cc
Thursday, May 12, 2011
Sunday, May 8, 2011
Saturday, May 7, 2011
WHAT CONSTITUTES A FAVORITE?
In this case, the young girl sitting on a rock atop Old Rag Mountain turns this image into one of my most memorable.
The Skyline Drive weaves its way through the Shenandoah National Park in the background.
The youngster is my daughter and she must be about seven or eight, I would guess. She joined me on this day trip, and with walking sticks in hand, we hiked to the top of this beautiful mountain in northern Virginia. Hilary even had her small back pack, and I carried my old Yashica Mat two and a quarter camera. This was my first 2 1/4 camera, and it provided me with the art to produce my first book.
This image later appeared on the front cover of National Parks and Conservation Magazine. I believe that was the name at the time. It just seems like a long time ago. The edition of fifty originals sold out rapidly during several of my early art shows. It was an image that people could relate to.
In 1973, I published WINDOWS TO THE BLUE RIDGE, and the Washington Post picked up the story and ran a major feature on my documentary of the mountain people. That article resulted in a sell-out of the first four thousand books in one week. I then followed with a reprint of five thousand copies which lasted for about a year. I did not pay one thin dime for advertising. I had approached several publishers about taking on the project, but they all told me that a regional book like this would never sell. Well....go figure!
I recently noted that some of these early books are showing up on the Internet in used book stores.
To view a larger image of the above, left click on the image.
To view a larger image of Mountain Man, left click on the above image.