Tim's Blog -- September/October 2009
Tim Keller Photography



October 31, 2009    Antelope Flats

Antelope Flats, northeastern New Mexico, photograph by Tim Keller

I've had my eye on these two hills for as long as I've been photographing landscapes. They're on my morning commute, but they required the right sky to make the image work. I got it Wednesday morning.

I passed by at 70 mph, then started hating myself for passing it so I turned around and, thus, was late to work. It was worth it.

I shot fast, using a fencepost instead of a tripod to save time, and there wasn't much light yet -- f/8 was as far as I could go toward getting the needed depth-of-field, and even f/8 required a relatively slow shutter speed of 1/25 second. (Click photo to enlarge.)

The next day we had snow and ice. I stopped and shot these hills again for a very different look. Note that there are antelope in both shots, appropriate for an area called Antelope Flats.

There was another winter scene on Antelope Flats that I watched for months before shooting. The cross leans beside a lane of melted asphalt where a head-on collision took out five lives. (Christina was an EMT on that run, caused by an impatient driver passing unsafely.) I found it very moving but, like the scene above, it needed the right sky to complete the visual impact. I laid in the snow to get the camera that low -- in my school clothes, on the way to work in the morning. Morning has such great light!

Sometimes you see a scene ready-made for a photograph; other times you see a scene that will be just right -- someday -- if you're just patient and keep watching for it, waiting. It pays off.




October 24, 2009    Joining In

Tim Keller, NPPA

Back in June, Christina convinced me that joining the National Press Photographers Association made good business sense. She was right. I joined, and I've been so happy with it that I've already added a second year to my membership.

Among the many advantages to joining any professional organization, I've found three that I particularly value in the NPPA, which, by the way, was founded in 1946.

First, their "Find a Photographer" member listings is going to pay for my membership many times over. I'm the only member listed between Santa Fe, Colorado Springs, and Amarillo. I've had my first call -- from Military Times, wanting me to get a photo of a National Guardsman on the 78-turbine wind farm he manages outside Guymon, Oklahoma. I had to turn that one down due to a scheduling conflict, but I'm primed to say yes to the next.

Second, NPPA's monthly magazine, News Photographer, has quickly become one of my most highly-valued of the many subscriptions I have. (Since starting into this work professionally, I've added many subscriptions -- to study what others are doing and find markets for my own writing and photography.) It features top quality writing (and, of course, photography) on the subject of photojournalism all over the world. Lots of fascinating stuff.

Finally, that badge above, which comes on a lanyard I have hanging around the rear-view mirror of my Prius. It hasn't yet made the difference in winning me access anywhere -- the world I work in is so small that everyone lets me in anyway -- but it's cool and I like it.

Thanks, Christina. You were right. Again.




October 17, 2009    Abstraction

chrome, abstract photograph by Tim Keller

After the success (and fun) of the Raton Junkyard series, and particularly of "Raton Junkyard 18", I've looked forward to returning to Raton's Western Sales and Salvage for another go at it. It had been a year-and-a-half when I returned this month: at a glance, it looked the same, but close up, everything had changed. There were plenty of new images.

Above, that's the heat shield around a big vertical exterior exhaust pipe on a huge truck. Twisting the camera to get a diagonal composition adds visual interest, the same as RJ18. I actually did less processing on this image than usual. Adding any contrast at all, something I do almost always, didn't work here as it took the dark areas to black and the light areas were "blown" -- pure white.

Instead, I just sharpened my normal amount, then softened and warmed it a bit with a filter called Glamour Glow in NIK Software's Color Efex Pro, a plug-in to Capture NX2, my Nikon photo-processing software. By the way, this was the last frame I shot, on my way out, and it's probably my favorite.

I made another diagonal reminiscent of RJ18, this one a tail light with reflections provided by the sun sinking low in the sky behind me. I call it "Cell Division". When I shoot junkyards, I'm looking for abstractions; I find that the only lens I need is the 50mm.

I enjoyed standing over the broken back windows of a police cruiser and a regular sedan, both victims of bad wrecks. I shot straight down, getting one semi-abstraction of broken glass that looks like diamonds (this one, too, processed in Color Efex Pro), and another of a family's Bible and debris inside their back window. I couldn't help but wonder whether the family survived. The photo will.




October 11, 2009    Taking Orders   

Capulin Volcano Run, runner photograph by Tim Keller

The Volcano Triangle Fall Festival two weekends ago led to three orders this week for my photographic prints. That's the way my friend and web guru Mike Schoonover thinks it should go. He's worked quietly and singlehandedly to build interactive local economies out here in the far outback.

Mike guided and assisted me in the building of this website. He's helping Studio C and was a big supporter of the Des Moines Street Fair. He's on the board of the Folsom Museum, where he's been a driving force behind the Capulin Volcano Run.

A customer from Kansas purchased two of my race photos that Mike posted on the official race website. The same day the PayPal payment came through, I received another with an order for a 15" print of "Rhapsody in Blue", which the buyer had seen framed at Studio C when she and her husband visited from Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, for the street fair and fall festival.

It does look a lot cheaper to buy the print and frame it yourself. The surprise comes later: if you use an acid-free matte and UV-protected glass, you find that neither Studio C nor I have much of a markup on my framed photographs. I could charge more for my work in Santa Fe or another urban market, but out here the prices for art are very low.

I'm happy to sell my photographs in either format, framed or unframed. It was Christina, at Studio C, who suggested to the customer that she could order her own print from my website if she found the framed work too costly. Christina even gave her my card with the web address. The buyer is an artist, so we assume she'll make her own matte and frame, saving on the skilled labor cost. It's a win/win situation. It makes me want to go to TorC to see it.




October 2, 2009    Photo Immersion

 Eileen Terry, Steinway, piano, Mandala CenterWhat a busy week of photography! The Chronicle published three of my articles Tuesday, each with a pair of new photos. The Capulin Volcano Run published my race photos on its website, and others were published on a Runner's World forum.

I shot the Raton Junior Arts Council Tuesday, some creative shots with some creative kids, for their Christmas card project.

Today I shot the crowning of the homecoming queen and king at Raton High School -- I teach all these kids -- and found myself sitting next to the homecoming queen's father (a tear in his eye), who turned out to be Jerry Stolarcyzk, whom I'd never met but he's been my favorite photographer in the region for more than a year. I've seen his sensitive, beautiful photos in two shows. I hope I get to go out shooting with him someday.

The photo above portrays the hands of Eileen Terry playing the Steinway baby grand at The Mandala Center Saturday night. In order to get good shots but minimize distracting the audience in the small room, I decided to squat in the narrow, recessed base of a fountain in the center front of the room. When I stood at set's end, after taking this and other pictures (1, 2, 3), something popped at the top of my left femur, the pain making me almost pass out. (I was worried I'd drop and break my camera!)

It turns out that I "popped a tendon", my chiropractor Bruce Washburn diagnosed. Ouch. But the pain was gone three days later. Besides, it was worth it for the photos I got. What are you going to do?




September 26, 2009    The Beauty of Window Light

Quincey Burkhalter, Raton New Mexico teacher

For a feature in this week's Chronicle on new teacher Quincey Burkhalter, I set him in his classroom window looking out into a dark gray overcast sky. I moved both him and myself to get a flat, empty background in his typically-cluttered classroom. I turned off the flourescent lights above -- they're poison for white balance -- and used a low-power off-camera flash to provide a bit of fill on the shadow side of Quincey's face.

To see how far my skills have come, compare this shot to the last portrait I took of a teacher in his classroom for a Chronicle portrait. (Click on Quincey's photo to enlarge it, then click on the comparison link.) When I shot my friend Ed Hockett in January, I hadn't learned enough to turn off the flourescent lights, nor did I have any mastery of flash yet, so I used none. I didn't use the window light either. I just used the flourescent light.

Indoor portraits require an entirely different set of skills, knowledge, equipment, and experience than any other photography. It took me a while to get to it, but one of my quests this year has been to begin learning how to do this. Comparing my photos of Quincey and Ed shows me that I'm making progress.




September 20, 2009    The Art of Graphic Design

Western Horseman

Christina and I subscribe to a lot of magazines. I've added more this year as I shop for good venues for my work. (I'm beginning a series of pieces for New Mexico Magazine that will run in 2010.) Some that we get have the best graphic design and layouts in the business --- Vanity Fair, New Mexico, Surfer (yep, there's still a surfer in me) -- and Western Horseman's art department is among the best.

So one of the thrills of waiting for them to publish a story of mine is the anticipation of seeing what they've done with it, how it looks. They haven't disappointed: the October issue is out with my "Growing Up Rodeo" story. I hope you'll go out and find one. Look how they use type sizes and colors to add to their artistic palette. They're impressive.

The article opens with a two-page spread of my photo "The Long Gaze West", of young cowboy Paul Grice looking off into his future. Four more photographs follow, all but one of which are available here in my galleries. The issue will remain on newstands until mid-October. Christina has a supply available locally at Studio C.

It's worth checking out -- I've read it several times!




September 12, 2009    A Piece of Junk

Raton Junkyard 18, Solano Photography Show

I won another Honorable Mention last night at the 33rd International Art Exhibit and Sale in Raton, a repeat of what happened there last year in my first entry to a group show. So far, I've entered three judged shows and won awards at each; in fact, all the awards have included a cash prize, so I've gotten a great return on my entry fees.

It was "Raton Junkyard 18" (right) that took the honors last night. The 18 means it was the 18th -- and final -- image I chose to process from a foray through Western Salvage on the outskirts of Raton last year. There were 17 I thought were better. None of them has sold. Obviously others got what I missed: besides last night's award, "RJ18" was the first image I ever sold when pastel master Cindy Montoya bought the framed artist's proof at the opening of my first show, at Studio C, in October 2008, and the City of Belen, New Mexico, bought a large framed print which hangs in the cafe of their public library.

It's enough to make me want to go visit the junkyard again.




September 7, 2009    The Big Show

Lee, Capulin, snow

After attending the International Art Exhibit and Sale at International Bank in Raton for many years, this is my second year to enter my own work. I delivered five matted and framed photographs Saturday: Lee (above), Rhapsody in Blue, Golden, Prairie, and Raton Junkyard 18.

Photography is one of seven divisions in the show. Prizes include only First Place in each division, plus Best of Show, plus four overall Honorable Mention awards -- 12 awards, each accompanied by cash. Last year there were 197 entries from 52 artists; my Lonely House with Moon won an Honorable Mention.

With so many entries and so few awards, it's hard to do more than keep one's fingers crossed. In the photography division this year, Marty Mayfield has at least one image entered (fire trucks at work in the dawn) that could win, and I trust David Frank will have some potential winners entered. David, by the way, does all the printing of my photographs at his Frank Images studio in Trinidad.

It's a great show. If you're in the area, check out the region's biggest art event Friday, September 11, when the reception and awards ceremony are held, 6 to 8 pm, upstairs at International Bank in downtown Raton. It's free to the public, with wine & cheese, and it's always a packed house. I'll see you there.




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