June 30, 2014 Wilde About Comedy
The Shuler Theater's Kaleidoscope Players this week launch a two-week run of Oscar Wilde's 120-year-old farce, "The Importance of Being Earnest," featuring (from left) Barbara Farrar, Brenda Ferri, Nora Leahy, Ian McCabe, Blake White, Tamara Todres, Matt Campbell, and Sara Kowalski. During Friday's dress rehearsal, they set up this scene for me to photograph for this week's preview in The Chronicle-News. At a Saturday night reception following the final performance of "The Cotton Patch Gospel," I interviewed Nora and Ian, the producers, as well as director Tom Evans, to help me Sunday morning in writing the preview. As usual, the process made me excited to see the show. I look forward to photographing and reviewing Thursday night's opening performance.
June 25, 2014 The Right Stuff
Sunday was Raton Chamber of Commerce day at Gabriele Field when the Raton Osos met the Taos Blizzard in Pecos League semi-pro baseball action. I was pressed into action by my wife, Raton tourism coordinator Christina Boyce (in orange, above), for a group picture. Then I saw city manager Butch McGowen actually warming up for throwing out the day's first pitch, looking every bit the real deal (which he is). That inspired me to quickly change lenses, from wide to long, and run down as far behind the catcher as I could get. I was barely in time, getting a six-shot sequence of Butch's pitch -- a knuckleball! And it barely missed the bottom corner of the strike zone. As city manager and as pitcher, the real deal.
June 21, 2014 Bucking the System
I'd planned to shoot the 36th Annual Raton Rodeo last night from inside the arena but after a lot of inquiry I determined that the PRCA rules virtually prevent that. Their credentials allowing a photographer inside the arena require a long application, submission of a variety of prescribed event photos for a portfolio evaluation, and then $300 each year. But no matter. I went early to visualize my shots, then returned an hour before the rodeo began. I struck out in the contestants area where all the competitors remained bunched together in a pen behind the chutes, like the bulls in the next pen. There wasn't a good picture of either. But it was easy to shoot the events through the rails in front of the grandstands, using the 24-70mm lens on the D4 for everything but the bullriding, which required the 70-200mm used long: those bulls have no interest in running across the arena toward the stands. They buck right where they're released. Anyway, with no PRCA credential, here are last night's results. (Click any image to enlarge it.)
June 16, 2014 Jesus: The Musical Comedy
I just submitted to The Chronicle-News this new photo with my preview of the upcoming Shuler Theater musical comedy "The Cotton Patch Gospel" for Wednesday's paper. At yesterday's rehearsal next door at the Isabel Castillo Performing Arts Center, the five-member cast danced, sang, rollicked and demonstrated great fun and great chemistry. I'm excited to photograph and review the opening performance Thursday night. Ian McCabe, left, returns to the Shuler after four years doing comedy and theater in Chicago. He's accompanied by Rick Trice, John Ward, Canadian Grand Master fiddler Tom Fitzgerald, and original Fireball Stan Lark (from left above). Imagine Jesus Christ being born in the rural American South in recent times: that's where "The Cotton Patch Gospel" begins. Directed by Bill Fegan, shows are presented at the Shuler Theater June 19, 20, 21, 22, 26, 27, and 28.
June 15, 2014 Roso the Oso
Raton Chamber of Commerce tourism coordinator (and my wife) Christina Boyce spent more than three hours Friday night being the Raton Osos' mascot, Roso the Oso. (In Spanish, oso means bear; bears are abundant in and around Raton.) While the rest of us grew cold as darkness fell, she said it remained hot inside the costume. By the ninth inning, she'd grown tired and came to sit with her mother, Helen Boyce, a newly converted baseball fan visiting from Santa Fe. (I get the credit for introducing her, two months ago at age 80, to baseball.)
This is the second year Raton has the Osos, a semi-pro baseball team in the Pecos League that stretches into Colorado, Texas, and Arizona along with New Mexico teams in Santa Fe, Roswell, Las Vegas and Taos. Their arrival last year helped turn Christina into a baseball fan. This year we're seeing about half the home games. Christina is a former costume designer and costumer who now has Roso's costume at home for some cleaning and improvements. She had strings of kids following her and getting hugs Friday night. I hope those kids aren't too disappointed when they return and find that Roso is not always so tall or so huggable.
June 8, 2014 Osos Storm
Today's Raton Osos home game at Gabriele Field against the Taos Blizzard turned more dramatic than usual when a tornadic thunderstorm moved in from Colorado, delaying the game with the Osos ahead 6-3 in the sixth inning. Here, Raton first baseman Zach Kreegar swings at a pitch moments before the home plate umpire stops the game. As always here, click the photo to enlarge it: imagine that this was taken at 4 o'clock on a June afternoon. I haven't previously shot baseball but I couldn't resist getting my camera out for this light.
June 7, 2014 Studio Portraits
I examine lots of photographs, hundreds per day. In books, magazines, Flickr, Instagram, Humans of New York, and other sources, I pay attention to images, considering why most don't work and why some do. After watching the Canadian indy film "Still Mine" this week, I found this Ryan Rogers portrait of actor James Cromwell in IMDb. It's gorgeous.
It makes me want to try some studio portraits again. I have the same backdrop, a dark charcoal, but it takes a huge room to hang it. I also prefer to have a big window next to it so I can use window light. We took some portraits of Laekyn Reust ( 1, 2 ) like that in my wife's studio, Studio C in Des Moines, a few years ago. I don't have studio lights but, when I wasn't using window light, I used two strobes on stands with umbrellas. I turn out to be a natural light photographer, though: I've just never enjoyed working with flash.
What I love about Ryan Rogers's portrait of James Cromwell is the way the colors jump out from what is otherwise a monochrome photograph. I may try that. Have my model wear all blacks or dark grays except specific spots of bright color. Carefully light the face. Shoot. And keep shooting because I rarely get flash right in a single try. The Cromwell shot inspires me to give it a try.
June 2, 2014 'Scuse Me While I Kiss the Sky
Lately much of my photography has been focused on my weekly "Over the Pass" newspaper feature that includes six brief interviews with six accompanying street portraits. (See samples and read about it here.) But twice I've found an unanticipated image simply by looking up. At the New Mexico Museum of Art on the Santa Fe Plaza, I enjoyed a photography exhibition and then waited to meet my wife and her mother in the museum's courtyard. I put the 70-200mm on the D4 to shoot some of the other people enjoying the spring sunshine in the historic square. Then I spotted the moon above this corner and got what feels to me like a classic "Santa Fe" style shot, shooting long at 190mm with the aperature set to f/16 to keep every element in focus--although I'll bet the moon out there didn't give a dang about my deep depth of field. Well, it turned out fine.
More recently, Christina and I exited Ristras Restaurant in Trinidad, Colorado, to find the landmark Simpson's Rest appearing almost in flame as the setting sun lit a thick cloudbank over the Trinidad sign and American flag. We'd gone over the pass for the town's monthly Art Trek and some "Over the Pass" interviews, then capped the evening with dinner at the new restaurant. I hadn't expected to be taking home a landscape photo. I wish they all came so easily!
P.S. The Trinidad sunset photo was published the next day at the top of the front page of The Chronicle-News -- see it here (and scroll down for six of my new portraits in the same issue.)
May 27, 2014 Keeping It Simple
Saturday night's country music concert at the Shuler Theater was a treat of good performances and new songwriting. Crystal Yates had performed two songs here in October, accompanied only by her husband Will Yates on guitar, but it was enough to win her the southwest regional championship and send her on to Nashville's Ryman Auditorium where, on January 16, she won the national Texaco Country Music Showdown, along with the title "The Best New Act in Country Music" and a check for $100,000. (On YouTube, you can watch host LeAnn Rimes introduce Crystal, saying she won the regionals "at the Shuler Theater in Raton, New Mexico.")
You wouldn't think a solo acoustic guitar would be sufficient to win a national country music talent competition. I didn't. But we were wrong, and that's a tribute to Will's sensitive and masterful playing. My Chronicle-News feature devoted some detail to their sound and its evolution. Mostly, though, it was Crystal's potent singing performances of her heartfelt original songs that won over the judges. Hearing only two in October wasn't enough so it was a treat to get a full set Saturday night, an extra boon for Raton, where the whole Yates family has come to spend a full week, having taken a liking to the town and the area. There may be more Shuler performances in store for them, and for us.
Opening Saturday night's concert was a new friend of Crystal & Will Yates but an old friend of Raton. Nicole Unser spent a year or two in Maxwell and Raton before moving to Nashville. While here, she won the New Mexico championship to compete in the regionals at the Shuler. By coincidence, she recently met the Yates' and joined their Shuler show, where she found plenty of friends and fans. Although I found her stage speaking voice to be irritatingly filled with affectation--trying to feign the little southern gal--she won me right back with a beautifully rendered and deeply felt rendition of Susanna Clark's "Easy From Now On." I'm ready to hear more.
May 10, 2014 Poetry Rocks!
The 4th Annual Poetry Rocks! show at the Shuler Theater Friday night, April 25, 2014, was the biggest yet and arguably the best. (Each is so unique that it's hard to compare.) This was the first year that Raton High School's seniors had enjoyed the two-week Poets in the Schools program for all their four years of high school. The added experience showed onstage in the sophistication of the new poems written by students during the preceding two weeks. There were more than 40 performances, including those of Brent Horner and Dariela Aleman, above. I've selected the best of my photographs to give a sampling of the night's joys. Click any image to enlarge it. Enjoy!
Vicente Esparza | Frank Hurtado
Lawrence Hronich | Celeste Rahamut
Andy Petrovich | Jeremy Gentry
Dr. Erik Fredell | Esmé Rodriguez Vaandrager
Michelle Holland | Manuel Gonzalez
Esmé Rodriguez Vaandrager & Cheyenne Starr
Andy Petrovich, Randi Vigil, Frank Hurtado, Audrey Munden,
Lawrence Hronich, July Hunnicutt
Rochelle Jackson, Cheyenne Starr, Rachel Patty, Ashley Neurauter