April 27, 2014 America's Pastime
When Raton got its own semi-pro baseball team last year--the Raton Osos--Christina finally got the baseball bug and we extended our interest in the Osos to seeing more baseball movies than Christina had seen before and to catching an Albuquerque Isotopes game (above) at the wonderful Isotopes Park in Albuquerque.
This year we've set a goal of doubling the number of Osos games we see, plus catching several games with the Raton High School varsity baseball team that's having a banner year, and seeing two Isotopes games. We got a jump on the season, not only seeing a great Friday night game on April 18, but taking Christina's mother, Helen Boyce, who, as she approaches her 80th birthday next month, has never seen a baseball game! I'd hoped not to infuriate the fans around me with my running commentary for Helen's benefit, so imagine my surprise when the couples in front of us left and one man offered a big smile and handshake. He thanked me, saying, "I learned so much by listening in!" Helen, too, was a quick study, a fan of several other sports and now a convert to baseball. We're hoping she'll come along when we attend another Isotopes game this summer.
Like Christina's panorama shot at the top (my Nikon visible at the left), the new photo here was taken with my iPhone 5, this time from our seats along the first base line. The Isotopes are the AAA farm club for the Los Angeles Dodgers, my family's home team and the team I grew up watching and cheering. From our seats, I texted this photo to my dad in L.A. along with my scouting report since the best of these players will be Dodgers before the summer's over. The Isotopes are a strong team this year. We saw them dominate El Paso and I'm tempted to joke about the El Paso team's name--the Chihuahuas--but who can laugh when his own team is called the Isotopes?
April 9, 2014 Learning Media Arts in High School
My feature on Mosquero's magnificent murals in the March issue of New Mexico Magazine led to my spending the day Monday with Mosquero Schools' Roundup Technology media arts program, sharing what I do and mentoring the students for the day. We talked about writing and photography along with freelancing, promotion, and website development. (And music!) The students had lots of great questions. Although the village of Mosquero counts only 94 residents, and all of Harding County has only 700, Donna Hazen's media program is extraordinary. What an amazing opportunity her students have, learning and using myriad real-world skills.
In the afternoon I worked with the program's photographers--all girls--as we shot first outside and then (above) in the program's photography studio. From left to right here, Mya Vigil, Christa Hayoz, and Aubri Martinez took portraits of Seth Palmer, using different angles, getting in close and tight. In the studio, I challenged the photographers to find "art shots," close compositions using details available in the studio. (Here's one of mine.) The students use all of their skills to shoot senior pictures and publish various products including the quarterly 108-page Harding County Roundup. I couldn't be more impressed. I'm hoping to be able to return each year.
P.S. The students later sent me this wonderful thank you card, which spent two months on our home refrigerator.
April 8, 2014 Ninety Years Worth of Friends
When Max Evans gets around to turning 90 years old this summer, a bunch of his friends plan to present him with a new book published to mark the occasion. Max Evans & A Few Friends: The 90th Birthday Book will feature reminiscences by Max's legions of friends, many of whom are, like Max himself, great raconteurs and writers. I'm hoping that my features on Max for Western Horseman and New Mexico magazines will be included. One thing's already sure: the cover will feature a pair of my photographs. The background image, converted to black & white, shows Max's beloved Hi Lo Country immediately north of Des Moines. The color portrait is one I took for Western Horseman, on the north patio of Max's longtime home in Albuquerque. Watch for more here in the blog when LPD Press publishes the book in August.
March 30, 2014 Cultural Exchange
Since getting back to work for The Chronicle-News this month, I've produced ten features, two of which feel especially successful. I've established a weekly photographic feature, six portraits every Tuesday under the title "Over the Pass," three from Trinidad and three from Raton, each person answering a question of the week. Think of it as a cultural exchange across state lines and a high mountain pass.
Thursday's front page carried my story on Raton High School's two European exchange students and the American program that brought them here. Pietro Paciosi, above left, and Niklas Lenz, above right, proved great subjects and their unfiltered interview responses led to some fascinating food for thought about the state of American schools as they continue their fall. Great schools once led to a great country but today all measures show U.S. schools far below dozens of other countries.
Pietro lives in Turin, Italy. Niklas lives in Kassel, Germany. Both study four languages in addition to their own. Both go to school many more hours than we do, take more challenging courses, and study long and hard to succeed. Asked to compare their school experiences to ours, they simultaneously broke into laughter, saying, "School is much easier here!" They were also taken aback by our vehicles, SUVs and pickups; Niklas said, "The cars here are huge!" And that's the nature of cultural exchange, a two-way street in which we all learn from each other, learning more about this big world we share.
March 16, 2014 Enchanted Grounds
Beginning a new weekly series for The Chronicle-News took me to Raton's Enchanted Grounds Espresso Bar & Cafe Thursday afternoon. I was interviewing Raton residents about visits over the Raton Pass to sister city Trinidad, Colorado. I did the same in Trinidad Saturday, asking residents about their visits to Raton, New Mexico, 22 miles over the pass. The Chronicle will publish this first installment tomorrow, and then it will become a regular feature for Tuesdays.
The trio above is my Brain Trust and this website's Software Engineering Department. Mike Schoonover and sons Hunter and Noah (right to left) spend uncountable hours with their three laptop computers arrayed on round tables in cafes and coffeehouses in Raton and Trinidad. They're proof that immersion in computers doesn't have to mean immersion in games and social networking and wasted time. Their laptops are portals to the world and the Schoonies are explorers.
Penny Sue Kuhns owns and runs Enchanted Grounds, one of Raton's greatest assets. We need more vibrant businesses downtown; meantime, Penny Sue's coffeehouse keeps downtown alive when everything else is closed. One of my Trinidad sources works at MCMC Hospital in Raton three days per week. With a coffee fanatic's smile, she said she stops at Enchanted Grounds every time. I asked, "Before work? Or after?" She replied, "Yes."
Thursday afternoon, 15-year-old Miriam West of Bryan, Texas, was hanging a show of her art for a Friday night event at which every piece sold. Even with reasonable prices between $50 and $100, sales like that are virtually unprecedented in Raton. ¡Brava, Miriam! Her success has generated some discussion in search of explanations, which I think include her talent and her ability to draw good will -- people wanted to help her succeed. That's a talent in itself. Miriam hopes to attend the Art Institute of Houston. I'll bet this won't be the last we see of her in Raton, where the grounds are enchanted.
March 15, 2014 TAP
TAP - The Show travelled west from Nashville to begin its 2014 tour in Raton, New Mexico, before swinging south and then back eastward. Although the weather was fine in Raton, the company ran into snow on the westward trip and had to postpone its Shuler Theater show, originally scheduled for Wednesday night, March 5. Instead, the first two shows were in Clovis and Socorro, then they drove more than 300 miles out of their way to do the Raton show Saturday night, March 8. The size of the Shuler Theater crowd suggested that the company may have gained audience by waiting for Saturday, versus losing audience by not doing the show on the night for which people had bought their tickets. A potential benefit for the Raton audience was that they got to see the third performance of the tour rather than the first, giving the newly constituted company time to work out kinks in choreography and other aspects of the show.
Considering that the set had to travel in a truck and be portable yet support eight dancers, I thought it was effective. The aluminum structure and movable white panels provided neutral palette that frequently changed colors from elaborate lighting that came from the sides and back in addition to the front. Each dancer seemed to have about 18 costumes and the costume changes were fast and furious, adding to the dynamism and excitement of the show. My costume-designer wife noted some rough edges and ripped seams but I doubt that they bothered anyone else.
On the negative side, most of the show felt too programmed as everything had to stay in sync to a pre-recorded soundtrack. Personalities were not allowed to emerge, nor meaningful contact with the audience. I didn't agree with criticisms I heard later about the singing, except the male lead's voice wasn't rich or loud enough to project over the music. The show's highlight came early in the second act when the six younger dancers got to put on a show with no recorded music to interfere with their improvisations or their interaction with the audience. The music of the tap shoes was often lost in the recorded music but in this section the tap rhythms were the entire soundtrack--and all the more effective for that. Equally important, the young dancers were able to banter with the audience and among themselves, allowing the audience to enjoy them as people, which added to the enjoyment and appreciation of the rest of the show.
March 7, 2014 The Trail Ahead
Back in Trinidad this week for another round of sunset photography, I couldn't resist this whimsical take on the town's landmark Fisher Peak. The site is in the next block southwest from the central downtown intersection of Main and Commercial Streets (and just yards from the Stock-House building, below). Like the others, the image may end up as a "Thousand Words" photo above the fold on the front page of The Chronicle-News.
It was a more successful outing than last week's when the sun suddenly fled the scene; I've just posted on my photography blog five shots taken within 20 minutes and 200 feet of each other along Trinidad's riverwalk that follows the Purgatoire River through the center of town. I learned that the riverwalk "meanders for miles" along the river: it looks like I've found my next Trinidad photo outing.
Meantime, I learned last night that a big framed print of my "The Trail Ahead" has been purchased via New Mexico Arts for the new Luna County Law Enforcement Complex in Deming, so I'll be exploring possible story angles to pitch to New Mexico Magazine, something I can do when I go to Deming to install "The Trail Ahead" in a few months. That's the way to do it, piggyback one project on top of another. Having picked all the low-hanging fruit in my corner of northeastern New Mexico, it's nice to take opportunities to explore, report, and photograph other parts of the state. Summer's already looking good, even as a March snowstorm moves in today.
March 2, 2014 Half the News That's Fit To Print
The relationship of Trinidad's The Chronicle-News to Raton, and thus to me, is a conundrum. For three-and-a-half years I wrote and photographed everything I could find for TCN--more than 275 features--and I was only one of three correspondents contributing content from south side of Raton Pass. The paper liked it, readers liked it, and I liked it.
A shift in the absentee owner's attitude, and his change of management, has led to a sporadic relationship for the past two years--on again, off again. Raton's 6600 residents live just 22 miles from Trinidad's 8700 residents, and neither of the sister cities has another town of its size within 85 miles. The paper's management can't abide the mountain pass and state line between the sister cities; residents who regularly commute between the two wonder how the paper can ignore the commercial prospects of a population 75% as big as the one it's comfortable serving.
In any case, the Chronicle and I are suddenly on again. My writing and photography will begin appearing again this week. Nowadays editor Bruce Leonard runs a front page feature of a captionless photograph titled "1000 Words." Appearing above the fold, it adds visual appeal and has proven popular with readers. Starting back with the paper, I decided to visit downtown Trinidad Thursday to hunt for some "1000 Words" images during the last hour before sunset, the time of magic light. However, I'd just gotten started when the sun ducked behind a huge black cloudbank on the western horizon, and it never reappeared! I took this photo of the clouds in the windows of the Trinidad Children's Museum, and the others here were captured before the sun disappeared. I've posted three shots on today's photography blog that were taken after the sun left, a far more challenging endeavor.
Even with my limited success, I got more than I did the one other time I drove to Trinidad on a photo hunt. I saw enough in the sunless shadow light to decide to go back and try again this week, hoping as always for dramatic clouds and a sun that succeeds at peeking around them. This time I also hope to work on a feature in which I interview people in Trinidad and Raton to ask them when and why they visit their sister city. Watch for all of the above on my own Chronicle-News page or at The Chronicle-News website where the paper is available free Monday through Friday.
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