All images © Tim Keller unless otherwise noted.
August 30, 2016 El Morro
Before heading into Albuquerque for a late brunch on my way home to Raton, I finished my four-day Four Corners photo trip with a long, scenic early-morning detour from Gallup to Grants via New Mexico highways 602 and 53 so I could visit Ramah and the national monuments at El Morro and El Malpais. Although it was the peak of summer in early July, it was a weekday morning and I saw few cars along the way, and no one out exploring on foot.
I got close to the famed Inscription Rock at El Morro but the monument had yet to open for the day and a gate blocked closer access. The photo above, showing the entrance, turned out to be my best photo. Just a bit farther west, I enjoyed a two-mile hike along the Zuni-Acoma Trail, once a major thoroughfare for commerce between two adjoining nations. I also enjoyed a slow-rolling crawl through the streets of nearby Ramah, imagining its history after reading a fabulous old-and-uncirculated book in the Raton library about fifteen years ago--I finally got there to see what I'd so enjoyed reading. All in all, my morning swing south, detouring from I-40, was a relaxed and enjoyable way to end a four-day photo trip. By the time I reached Albuquerque, I was hungry!
August 22, 2016 Gallup
I'd meant to post consecutive blogs from my Four Corners photo trip but life and a wealth of other projects got between them. I circled the region counterclockwise (scroll down for earlier posts), spending just one day and night in Gallup, highlighted by a fabulous brunch experience at Jerry's Cafe (highly recommended), a great dinner at 505 Burgers (ditto), an after-dark after-photography treat at Baskin-Robbins Ice Cream (two scoops), and a twilight shoot at Gallup's famed El Rancho Hotel & Motel.
El Rancho is on old Route 66 and fun to visit, although TripAdvisor reviews resulted in my choosing a different hotel for my overnight stay. Route 66 and Gallup are both associated with lots of neon and El Rancho is the pinnacle, with neon to rival or surpass Tucumcari and its Blue Swallow Motel, which I enjoyed and posted here in May. Twilight is the best time to photograph neon, when there's still some blue in the sky rather than pure black. I drove Route 66 through Gallup for reconnaissance, then checked into my hotel for an afternoon nap (having been out photographing since dawn), returning to El Rancho after dinner for the magic hour of light.
Photographing the lobby (right) gave me some regrets about not staying at El Rancho. It's pretty amazing. There are black and white photos of classic-era movie stars throughout the huge two-story room and along its two grand staircases, supporting the sign outside (top; click photos to enlarge) proclaiming "Home of the Movie Stars."
I must have been fatigued after four days of shooting the Four Corners from dawn through twilight: I don't have photos to post from Jerry's Cafe, 505 Burgers, or Baskin-Robbins, although all three in my memory provide plenty of rich visual and other sensory memories. Next time!
August 20, 2016 Poetry Out Loud
When I arrived in March at Santa Fe's glorious St. Francis Auditorium as this year's official photographer for the Poetry Out Loud state finals, I assumed that I'd be shooting primarily for the event's Facebook page and the dedicated New Mexico Arts web page--all that I'd seen from the program in the past. Director Phyllis Kennedy handed me a new photo book made from the 2015 contest, where my student Rachel Patty won state but I was snowed in at home upstate. The book raised the stakes for my assignment, and made it more exciting. This year's book arrived recently and I'm thrilled with what Phyllis has done with it, and how great my 24 photos look throughout the book.
I discussed some of the challenges in my March 9 blog (which also has more photos), especially the difficulty of getting great shots without ever snapping the shutter in the midst of a student performance, and keeping my movements around the auditorium from being a distraction to the competitors or the audience. For the book, I needed to get shots of each student from a variety of angles, and some had to at least appear to be in the midst of performance. My five years as a coach and sponsor informed the work. I poised my camera during each recitation and snapped the shutter usually at the moment the student finished, before their expression changed and the applause began. It was tricky but it worked. Unfortunately, the book is not available for sale; instead, it's distributed to students, teachers, and program directors throughout New Mexico, with some also going to national program directors around the country. I hope to again be hired as official photographer next year, and I hope NMA will produce a PDF version of that book that we can share online. I'm optimistic that both will happen. Stay tuned.
August 14, 2016 Adrian's Senior Pictures
I had a fun and successful portrait shoot with Adrian last week at Tiger Stadium, a great location chosen by Adrian and his parents for his senior pictures. Mom waited too late on older brother's senior pics so this time she went the opposite direction, commissioning Adrian's photos at the start of his senior year. Adrian's dad was the custodian when I taught at the high school and Adrian often came by after school to help his dad clean my room. I loved photographing him now, matured into a fascinating young man.
The track shot at right was his parents' request: They wanted to suggest the long road he's traveled to high school graduation, and the long road ahead. Pulling back to show more of the track was less successful than this close-up. Like every afternoon for the past month, there were thunderstorms all around, and it was raining at my house two miles away, but we managed to complete a great photo shoot within one hour, and not a single drop of rain. This one was fated to be good.
August 7, 2016 Los Angeles Times Comes Calling
Los Angeles Times and LA Weekly music writer Jonny Whiteside emailed me a week ago about using my photos to illustrate his profile of Raton's George Tomsco, who has an upcoming concert in Burbank. Jonny forwarded my reply to his editor and I didn't hear back for days. I assumed they didn't want to pay for photos. But my phone rang Wednesday afternoon as I entered an Albuquerque parking garage (at UNM Hospital--see the blog post immediately below). It was the editor and we negotiated a good freelance rate for two photos, which I had to get to him by 4 p.m. LA time the next day.
Because I was away from home only 30 hours, I'd opted to leave my Macbook Pro at home, the last time I'll make that mistake. (I do most of my work on a big Mac Pro desktop computer, using the laptop mostly for travel.) I don't like to work close to deadline, but I drove home and sent the pair of photos just 30 minutes early. The next morning the photos appeared in various neighborhood editions of the LA Times, including the Glendale News-Press. I love that about working with newspapers, the lightning-fast turnaround. When I work with magazines, I often don't see the results for several months or even a full year. Newspaper editors are used to working with last-second materials, but by always submitting my work well ahead of deadlines, I hope to increase my value to the editors that buy my work.
Although the editor requested and paid for two photos, he left the selection up to me. I chose the two above--the first from Raton's Shuler Theater, the second from Albuquerque Centennial Summerfest--and also sent along an extra Summerfest photo so he'd have the option of a vertical image, handy sometimes when doing page layouts.
The photos came from my previous features for Fretboard Journal and New Mexico Magazine. That's how stock photography works. I retain all rights when anyone publishes my work. I put my images here on my website. When editors or advertising directors do Google Image searches, my photos typically jump out from the others on the screen. They come to my site, where they email a request to license an image for their use. Payment rates have varied wildly--from $50 to $480 per image to date--depending on where it's going--a small newspaper versus a big magazine versus a corporate magazine or website. I once thought my retirement years would bring regular royalty payments for my songwriting. That's turned out to be a mere trickle, but my photographs continue to bring steady income. Several of my images have been licensed more than six times each. I average one license request per week, and the buyers are sometimes working last-minute--which is why I won't again take even the shortest road trip without my laptop computer along for the ride.
August 5, 2016 Art in Public Places
My photo "Clovis Train Yard" was mounted months ago in the Orthopaedic Clinic at UNM Hospital in Albuquerque. I was finally able to photograph it in place this week: That was less simple and more fun that I'd imagine. A very nice security guard stopped me inside the hospital entrance, concerned about HIPAA privacy regulations and my camera taking photos of people in the hospital. Ultimately he joined my team, accompanying me to the clinic where, to my surprise, there were about three dozen people filling the crowded waiting room. The guard got this woman's permission to be photographed and Voila! I've got my picture of my picture.
I'd tried in June but discovered the clinic is only open Monday to Friday, 8 to 4:30. I posted notes and photos of my June attempt here, where you can see other views of the clinic and my photo on the wall, through the glass from the outside hall. "Clovis Train Yard" is my fifth public installation via New Mexico Arts (NMA) Art in Public Places (AIPP) program. My photos now hang in public places in Albuquerque, Rio Rancho, Belen, Deming, and Portales--two hospitals, one recreation center, one sheriff's office, and one library. Last week NMA notified me that all three of my entries for this year's program have been juried into the pool of images and artworks that will be made available to public places throughout New Mexico over the next twelve months. With a little luck, next year I'll be able to blog that eight of my works are up in public places around the state. Thank you, New Mexico Arts!
July 25, 2016 Hike 'n' Bike, Joy 'n' Wonder
I started this page July 1 (scroll to bottom) with a photo of this bridge in Farmington's Berg Park. A young girl was running ahead of her mother and I just happened to be in the right place and time, ready to catch the image. As Kurt Markus says (immediately below, July 18), the best photos generally arrive as gifts.
Berg Park was near my hotel but I was lucky to stumble upon it on my second night, looking for photos in the light of the setting sun. I was headed for another spot on one of the three rivers that traverse Farmington when my roving eye spotted tell-tale signs of a park through the trees where the Animas River runs through. Along with the joy and wonder on the little girl's face as she runs across the bridge, I like the image above of a man close to my age crossing into the sunset alone on his bike. Tranquility. A lovely moment.
July 18, 2016 An Artist's Date with Kurt Markus
I gave myself a wonderful weekend artist's date to Verve Gallery of Photography artist's reception for Kurt Markus at his show "The Fashion Years, 1987-2014," and Kurt's hour-long gallery talk the next afternoon. I happened to be in Santa Fe last month when they hung the show so I got to see it as they were still placing labels on the wall. Right then, I put this weekend's events on my iCalendar for an "artist's date" -- a concept introduced in Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way, which my wife, Christina Boyce, has studied and taught. Among the many parallels I feel with Kurt Markus is our enduring marriages--his with Maria--which are close and productive partnerships. Christina was my model for the two images here, above and below left, where my work has perhaps most closely resembled the fashion work in Kurt's current show, which runs through August 27.
Kurt does his own printing, generally from black-and-white film. Among my many favorites is "Pantxika, Hi-Line, Montana, 1995," above right (not in the current show), "Shane Johnson, Raton, New Mexico, 2005," below left, and "Zlata Mangafic...2014" at Eaves Movie Ranch down the Turquoise Trail from Santa Fe, below right. The 2005 image was shot at a private ranch chapel near Tinaja, southeast of Raton, using actor Brad Johnson's son as model in a shoot for Japanese GQ.
I learned so much from Kurt's Saturday afternoon talk that I had to grab a flyer to jot quick notes. He prefers spontaneity over planning, preferring to be surprised, so he arrives at a location looking for what visual elements and light he can use--an approach favored by Michael Wilson, too, another of my favorites. A self-taught photographer, Kurt avoids the use artificial light and he hates reflectors. When a model asks him at the start, What would you like me to do?, he replies, What would you like to do? His first success came from shooting working cowboys across the West. In the late 1980s, fashion editors that wanted to show their products and models in the West naturally reached out to Kurt, giving him an entirely new career path. He came to enjoy being flown to the most beautiful places in the world, enjoying the best restaurants and working with famous models--but he says that as the perks grew, the freedom and ability to be creative diminished: The more money a magazine or designer threw at a shoot, the more they controlled the shoot.
Kurt cited photographer Edward Weston as his original inspiration--that and seeing Kurt's own first photo credit in the San Francisco Chronicle--and he's been influenced enough by Irving Penn that he's had to consciously avoid repeating work that Penn had already done. On influence and inspiration, he praised "anything to get the (shutter) finger moving." And he observed that the good pictures generally arrive as gifts.
Almost everything in Kurt's show at Verve Gallery was originally created as a paid commission. Such is his gift that he created Art--art that long outlives its original publication. Unfortunately, there's no comprehensive catalog or book from the show--all the more reason to see it in person while it's up through August 27. A Google search will whet the appetite, but there's nothing like seeing Kurt's own prints on the wall. Go, see. Give yourself an artist's date and be inspired.
July 15, 2016 Navajo Nation
The Navajo Nation sprawls across much of northwestern New Mexico and northeastern Arizona. I spent two nights in a Farmington hotel so I could be out photographing at sunrise and sunset throughout the region. It's fifty miles to this view, near Shiprock, but there are no lodging options closer.
There are a surprising number of Christian churches (left), though, down this road past Shiprock into Arizona. Mostly I found the landscapes too spare to produce a large quantity of photographs, but I'm pleased with those that I did get. To do the area justice, I'd have to spend far more time out there, preferably staying closer--camping?--so I could take advantage of fast-moving weather systems to get great skies that accentuate and improve any landscape photo. Really doing it right would require getting to know the people so I could get closer to their homes and land. I saw lots of faces I'd love to get in portraits, so I'm adding that to my to-do list.
July 13, 2016 Photographing Shiprock
After building an extensive catalog of successful stock photography of eastern New Mexico--from the northeast corner's Hi Lo Country all the way down through Clovis and Portales to Lea County's Hobbs, Lovington, Eunice and Jal--I set a goal last fall to add the rest of the state to my catalog. As winter arrived in northern New Mexico last November, I made two road trips to balmy south-central New Mexico from Lincoln to White Sands to Mesilla to Hatch to Deming. Since then I've been largely working in Colorado but finally this month I made a four-day photo trip to the Four Corners area where Shiprock Pinnacle stands sentinal over the Navajo Nation west of Farmington.
Shiprock has been photographed so extensively and effectively that I wasn't terribly excited about shooting it myself, but that changed when I got there. The land is expansive and barren with relatively few, or difficult, photography targets. Shiprock looms unavoidable from everywhere within a 60-mile radius--grand, majestic, spiritual. The closest lodging is an hour away so shooting at sunrise requires an early alarm and a drive through darkness. The first morning, the sun didn't emerge from Eastern clouds until 10 a.m. when it was too high to do any good. (The gate photo above left shows first-morning light. Click any photo to enlarge it.) Instead, I was able to drive around and do reconnaissance, seeing that there are three dirt roads that provide good vantages with sunrise light. Sunset shots look likely to be on the backside of the ridge. Great shots of Shiprock depend on light and sky, with unstable weather bringing clouds and magic, far more likely in the evening than the morning. In the vertical shot above left, you can see the dirt road that goes along the ridge all the way, apparently, to the pinnacle. I had the Prius and didn't dare drive that far down the dirt road, but I'll bet you could get away with low-impact (and low light at night) camping down there, allowing you be stay in the area for morning and evening light without having to drive from a Farmington hotel. It's Navajo Nation land, but it appears that discreet camping would work. Meantime, I had two mornings and my degree of success was dependent on the skies and morning light. This is what I got. I've seen much better, but I'm happy to have these.
July 9, 2016 Wanderer
Wanderer, an exciting new Taos women's boutique, has licensed a pair of my photographs to represent the shop on the walls, on cards, on its website, on Facebook, and on its Instagram account, wanderertaos, where I captured these images.
Wanderer is the love child of Ashley Arabian, in the black dress below my photo, "Antelope Flats" at left. She also licensed "Lonely House with Moon" to represent her brand. The images appear on several of her Instagram posts.
I look forward to visiting the shop. Meantime, photos show a dynamic and artful new boutique for northern New Mexico, one I'm proud to be associated with. Congratulations, Ashley and Wanderer!
July 4, 2016 Independence Day
In Raton we celebrate the Fourth of July each year by lifting off and flying high over the land in brightly colored balloons. We have much to celebrate, including the land itself, and the hard work that comes with self-determination. The diverse and colorful people, we the people, independent, free--even if still in varying degrees. Flying above the ground in colorful balloons, we celebrate the Pursuit of Happiness, and all the rest that we share as Americans.
July 1, 2016 Jumping Into July
Each blog page encompasses two months; it's time to jump into July, both here and at my arts blog. I'm in the midst of processing photos from last week's four-day photo outing to the Four Corners area of the southwest. I'll be posting lots of those photos here this month. What better place to start than with this charming photo of a young girl running across the Berg Park footbridge over the Animas River in Farmington, New Mexico. July feels good already. A heat wave ended in time for my travels, and we've been getting light rains at home in Raton where the overnight temperatures are in the low 50s and the daily high is barely reaching 80. That won't last but it's nice for now. I've caught up with weeding my garden and the photo processing is coming along nicely. Let's go, July!