All images © Tim Keller unless otherwise noted.
February 26, 1928 -
December 20, 2016
December 8, 2016 Bear With Me
Depending on the lens attached, my Nikon cameras weigh between eight and ten pounds, so I've only once carried one on a hike; instead, I use my phone camera, recently trading in my four-year-old iPhone 5 for the new iPhone 7. Now that winter is finally arriving--it's snowing this morning and the temperature has only reached 12 degrees at 11 a.m.--I'm pretty much the only one on the hiking trails, and I'll have to stop when the snow gets deeper. (That sends me out far ranch roads to hike across remote pastures, and to a gym, which I dislike.)
Following a small snowstorm last Saturday, I set out up the Lake to Lake Trail in Sugarite Canyon State Park in early afternoon Sunday. Leaving Lake Alice for Lake Maloya, the snow made clear that no one else had hiked the trail that day. But then, one exception. A couple hundred yards north of the new bridge across Chicorica Creek, the tracks of a brown bear emerged from the frozen creek and continued up the trail for a quarter mile, the only other hiker out that day. The photos above are straight out of the iPhone 7 without any processing or filters. (Click any photo to enlarge.) The biggest challenge was keeping my two dogs out of the frame, and out of the bear tracks, long enough to get the pictures.
Exactly one week earlier, the same trail had only a light dusting of snow when my wife, Christina Boyce, and her mom, Helen Boyce, accompanied me on my daily hike. Helen, at 82 years old, impressed us by hiking the full 2.5 miles from Lake Alice to Lake Maloya. I made my usual round trip, then drove the truck up to the top trailhead to pick up my gals. That hike was doubly fun. It's getting harder now: Yesterday, Lake Maloya was wind-tossed and full of waves, throwing ice particles that filled the air all the way down to Lake Alice. The temperature was 24 degrees, not counting the wind chill factor. My border collie, Django, loved it but our Jack Russell Terrier, Jett, and I were plenty cold. Jett occasionally shivered despite the warm red jacket Christina has made for him, and I covered my face with a scarf while hiking uphill into the stiff north wind. (Click the left photo above to see the dogs.) Today, alas, I'm staying in as it snows outside and the temperature only now reaches the low teens.
November 11, 2016 Nightscape: A Main Street Christmas
The December issue of New Mexico Magazine arrived yesterday with its small-town Main Street Christmas feature, cleverly titled "Roamin' Holiday," and featuring two of my photos commissioned by the magazine during last year's holiday season. The feature showcases downtown holiday shopping and events in Farmington, Carlsbad, Las Vegas, and Raton.
I shot the feature's opening image (left) on Christmas Eve along Second Street at late dusk, 5:27 p.m.--dark enough for all the city lights to shine brightly but still light enough in the sky for the mountains to show in the background. (Click any image to enlarge it.) Using a tripod, I shot up and across the busy street from the Ford dealership, choosing a long lens to compress the distance. I used manual exposure to get a long depth of field so everything would remain in focus, a city block and a half, despite the low light. Using the Nikon D4 and 70-200mm lens (wide here at 70mm), I set the aperture at f/16 and left it open for 1.3 seconds at ISO 1600, using a timer to keep my hands from shaking the camera. The tripod allowed me to use such a small aperture and relatively low speed (ISO) for maximum quality and depth of field. I experimented with different shutter speeds and chose this one that got the streaks of taillights and headlights just right.
The magazine paid one "day rate"--essentially one day's work--and I shot exclusively at this dusk hour, several times over a couple weeks. I posted blogs here last year with several more of the shots that I sent the magazine. That's good pay for just two photos, but actually they're likely to use some or all of the other ones sooner or later, in the magazine or the annual New Mexico True Adventure Guide, and they've already paid for them. I threw in an extra for them, too, showing one of the annual performances of "A Christmas Carol" at the Shuler Theater, shot across from the lowest left corner of the balcony so I could show the stage, the conductor, and the singers in the right loge box. It's the third time I've managed to get our local gem, the Shuler, in the magazine, following April 2015 and June 2010 features.
I recently enjoyed reading legendary magazine editor Terry McConnell's memoir, The Accidental Life, in which he writes, "A photographer without a magazine is like a farmer without a field." I always feel some exhilaration when my work comes out in a magazine, and New Mexico Magazine is one of the best. Feelin' good here.
November 9, 2016 Bartlett Mesa with the iPhone 7 Camera
When I learned last week that the steep and rough county dirt road to the top of Bartlett Mesa had been repaired, I took advantage right away and drove the truck up there for a hike. With Indian Summer seemingly held in suspension, no sign of winter ahead in the forecast, I enjoyed the bright sunshine and moderate temperatures, my flannel shirtsleeves rolled up as I hiked across the mesa at 8000 feet elevation.
I tried out the camera on my new iPhone 7. At top left is a sunscape with an abandoned one-room house along the horizon line. (Click any image to enlarge it.) At top right, I'm inside that house. At bottom left, a solar water pump has replaced the old-time windmill in providing water for cattle. At bottom right, a simpler cattle stock pond keeps the cattle watered on Alice Moore's ranch southeast of Raton, a few miles due south of the Bartlett Mesa photos. When winter closes up the steep mountain roads and hiking trails, I hike out on sunswept ranches; I photographed the Moore stock pond late last winter using my previous phone, a four-year-old iPhone 5, which did just fine. Phone cameras will never compete with my Nikon DSLRs (D5, D4, D300) for quality and abilities, but those big cameras and their heavy lenses aren't going on any hikes with me, either. For that, nothing beats the phone camera.
November 7, 2016 Don't Forget to Latch the Gate
Hiking atop Bartlett Mesa over the weekend, I used my new iPhone 7 to photograph this wonderfully simple and effective gate latch: Just slide it up to open, then back down to close. (I'm not certain, but I think it belongs to Mary Lou Kern, who I profiled in RANGE Magazine six years ago.) Gates are important on ranch pastures and the protocol is to always leave the gate the way you found it, either open or closed. Another protocol, when driving across in a truck, is that the passenger in the shotgun seat is the one to get out to open and close the gate. That's why, when there are two passengers, the middle seat is more desireable.
Winter is late in arriving but soon I won't be able to hike mountain trails or atop the mesa. In the coming months, to avoid ice and snow and mud, I'll often drive a few miles out Blosser Gap Road to hike across the Moore Ranch. Late last winter I used my previous phone, a four-year-old iPhone 5, to photograph another wonderful gate latch, this one on Alice Moore's ranch, with my border collie Django looking ahead. I love the ingenuity of these custom gate latches. Both are easy as could be to make and use, demonstrating a simple Western elegance. I'd love to say that custom latches are common across the ranches here in northeastern New Mexico's Hi Lo Country, but they're not. Wire gates are a lot more common, and latches on steel gates are often bought at the hardware store. When I do see a cleverly designed custom latch, I like it enough to notice and photograph it.