Saturday, October 17, 2015

Last Morning Sunrise
On our last morning at this great campground, Mother Nature decided to leave us with a fabulous show called a beautiful sunrise!
Morning Sky
This was the first part of the sunrise.  It was a rather pastel sunrise, which can provide some of the most beautiful skies.  If you look close, you can see the twinkling lights of the town of Carrizozo.  I wonder how many folks there were up and enjoying the sunrise, too.
Day Awakening
A bit later during the sunrise, clouds began to wisp in from the north.  I love the gentle bit of texture that they add to the sky.  Can’t you just feel the sun’s rays reaching to light up all the dark corners of the sky?
Sunrise Silhouettes
I think this is my favorite image from this sunrise.  I just love the graphic feel of the various elements in this image, and how the morning sunlight sort of softens it all.  What a wonderful world we live in!

Back Roads around Carrizozo
After we saw the cemetery on our drive, we then made our way to the small town of White Oaks, and beyond.  I have to admit, there wasn’t much to see in White Oaks, but I did have some excitement further on down the road!
Blue Seat
In White Oaks, parked in front of a door locked with a padlock, sat a bike with a blue seat and flowers in the basket.  It looked as if the owner of the bike had stopped in the shop for a moment, except he/she stopped right in front of the door, and the door was locked.  There was no one about that I could see, so I have no idea what the true story is about the bike.  The building it’s in front of appears to be deserted, without even a name on the building.  Still, I found the blue seat eye catching and wanted to capture this with my camera.  I converted it to a painting in my processing.
Young Bull
Down the road a bit, we came across some steer in a fenced in meadow.  The steer were quite curious about us, and I had to stop and take a few shots of them as well.  I really like this one – this guy is a young bull (as you can tell from his little horns), and I love how mussed up his coat looks.  My logical guess is that his winter coat is coming in, but the whimsical side of me likes to think he was just getting into things like little boys tend to do!  Even the look in his eyes holds that sort of  “I didn’t do anything” gaze.
Home in the Meadow
Further on down the road, there was this small deserted cabin just sitting out in a fenced in meadow.  I loved the way the clouds just sort of wisped over it, and I had to capture it.  I converted this to a painting as well – so peaceful!  You’d never guess what excitement I had getting this image!
Oops!  Sorry!
I always wondered how long it would take me to do something like this and now I know - about 6 1/2 years! When I saw the scene above, I got out of the Jeep and walked closer to the barbed wire fence that surrounded the field where it was. I was looking down to find a good spot to step up onto a bit of a rise at the side of the road and thought I saw the perfect spot. So, I stepped up and suddenly heard some very angry hissing! I yelped (Jeff's word) and leaped back so quickly that I was already about 3-4 feet away by the time my mind registered it was a snake! I looked around for where the hissing sound was coming from, and saw this guy. Jeff couldn't figure out what I was doing because after I yelped, he heard me telling something that I was sorry! LOL! Now, I always wear leather hiking boots that come up over my ankle when we do the back road exploring just because I never know what we'll come across. If this guy had actually struck out at me and bit me, if he aimed low enough, the boot would have protected me. However, even if I had gotten bit, this guy is a bull snake. The bite would have hurt, but wouldn't have been poisonous - whew! Still, it did get my heart really pumping for a bit! And, I still don't know how I missed this guy since I had been looking in the area where he about being unobservant! I still don't know whether or not he accepted my apology, tho.......!

Cedarvale Cemetery

As we explored the back roads around our campground, we came across this cemetery.  It’s odd that it’s named Cedarvale Cemetery since its right outside a tiny town called White Oaks.  And, there’s no Cedarvale anywhere around here!  Oh, well – one of those quirky little mysteries that I don’t suppose I’ll ever know the answer to! This cemetery seems to be in current use, as there are a number of new, or redone, headstones mixed in with some that are very old.  Of course, it’s the very old ones that tend to attract me…..
Jim Leslie Headstone
Some of the headstones clearly appear to have been hand carved, like Jim Leslie’s.  His wife is buried right next to him – her name was Callie, and hers looks just like his.  It’s hard to imagine his life – a life that ended before the start of the century before last!
Jesse Leslie Headstone

When Jesse died, at the young age of 34, he was already a husband, father and brother.  And, from the dates, I am guessing he may have been the grandson of Jim, who died at 81.  Jesse’s life wasn’t nearly as long, and altho he did live into the 20th century, he died before the Great Depression.  Again, it’s amazing to think of how much he missed.  Also, I wonder what happened to the rest of his family – like his wife – her headstone isn’t here.  Perhaps she remarried, and is buried with the husband after Jesse.  From an artist perspective, I do really like the texture in his headstone – the shading is in the marble, and isn’t caused by light. 
Soldier Headstone
We saw a number of these headstones in this cemetery.  They were interesting in what they didn’t reflect, as well as the military information they did contain.  We have no idea when John (or any of the soldiers with these headstones) were born or died – only their military rank and where they served.  John was a corporal in Kentucky and must have moved here to New Mexico at some point in his life, but other than that, we don’t know anything.  There were several of these types of headstones in the cemetery – perhaps something the government did for those who served in the military?  Jeff & I wondered if they still did that.
Exact Lifespan

Here’s a headstone that has clearly been restored/replaced.  I’m including it in this posting because I found it so interesting for a couple of reasons.  First, John Slack was clearly a Mason – note the insignia at the very top of the headstone.  Also, I was struck by how the exact length of his lifespan is shown on his headstone, down to the days!  I calculate he was born May 20, 1820.
Dual Wooden Headstones
Next, I came across these 2 very, very old headstones.  They are wooden, and any writing there may have been on them has worn away over the, years.  There’s a dignity in their simplicity, isn’t there?  I don’t know what the smaller markers are – perhaps marking the end of the grave?  There were a number of these very old and I’m guessing forgotten headstones and the souls that lie beneath them.
Billy the Kid Victim

Here’s another restored/replaced headstone, and I’m including it because it is a slice of history, carried over into today’s world.  Billy the Kid is a famous (perhaps infamous?) outlaw of the Wild West.  I have read some accounts that say he was actually born as William McCarty in New York City in 1859, but most people know him as William H. Bonney, which supposedly was an alias.  He’s buried here in New Mexico, in the same county (Lincoln) where this cemetery is, but he’s an hour or so away from where we were on this day.  There have been recent efforts to pardon Billy the Kid, who died when he was only 22.  I’m not certain what the reasoning is behind that, but the family of Sheriff Bell (who died when he was 28) are some of the folks who are fighting that effort. 
Heartbreaking Headstone
Life was certainly hard in the West in days gone by.  It’s not unusual to see headstones such as this one, but I find each and every one of them heartbreaking.  This little one must have died at or very shortly after being born, since only the one date is shown on this tiny little headstone.  Makes me wonder at how lucky I was to have been born and lived when I did, not that this type of heartbreak doesn’t still happen every day.  The message here – live your life to the fullest.



Sunsets over the Malpais

We had a couple of great sunsets while camping and I thought I’d share some of my favorite images from them…..
Looking West
As the campfire burned, I turned away from that and looked to the west, toward the Oscura Mountains (which are in the northern portion of the White Sands Missile Range)_  I love the glow of the sun as it dipped behind the mountains and continued to light the sky and the abstract whirl of the clouds.
Sunset Clouds
Here’s a closer view of the same sunset.  I like the lines created by the sun’s rays against the clouds.  Sort of radiating light.
Swirling Clouds

This is the sunset from the following night.  The clouds were more interesting, I thought.  They were sort of swirling, on a couple of different levels.  It made for an interesting sunset!
Milky Sunset
This image was shot a few minutes later, and the clouds create sort of a softer milky type sunset.  I also like the layers created by the silhouettes created by the mountains (Oscura Mountains).  Then, there are the lines created by the growth on the mailpais, sort of grounding the entire image.



Plant Life on the Malpais
As I said in a previous blog posting, part of the definition of the word “malpais” is “barren”.  I found this malpais to be far from barren – take a look!
Prickly Pear in the Morning
I love the morning lighting on this prickly pear in the lava field.  I also love the textures of this image – there’s the sort of fuzzy texture of the greenery off to the left in the image.  The prickliness of the cacti and the sharp edges of the lava. 
Soap Tree Yucca
This plant is the state flower of New Mexico.  What I found incredibly interesting about it is that it’s NOT a cactus (even tho the ends of its leaves are very sharp).  It’s a member of the lily family!  The leaves were used by Native Americans to make brooms, and were woven into baskets and mats. 
Walking Stick Cholla
The name of this plant is one of the most ironic that I know of.  Why?  Well, one generally grabs and holds a walking stick, at least I do!  The barbs are incredibly sharp and all over the plant!  Plus, the odd thing about this plant, and I freely admit, it’s based on my own observation, is that when you get too close to the plant, the barbs almost seem to jump off the plant onto you!  I know, that sounds odd, but Jeff agrees with me!  So, how can one be a walking stick when no one can get close to you?
Fall Shrub Bloom
I don’t know what this shrub was, but they were all over the malpais, and these lovely little light gold little petals were all over the branches.  They sort of reminded me of small golden coins!
Hard to Pick Berries
These berries looked nice and bright and sort of appealing until you notice the very long, very sharp looking barbs!  Ouch, ouch, ouch!!
Juniper Tree
I love the complex twists and turns of juniper trees.  I thought this image showed off the beauty of the tree nicely.  Amazingly, this tree is estimated to be about 400 years old!  Amazing.
Blooms Against the Lava
I saw these small little flowers that look like a cross between sunflowers and daisies.  I can’t recall what these flowers are, but they are neither sunflowers nor daisies.  Still, I thought they and the dried grass next to them looked very pretty up against the lava rocks.  I converted this to a painting type photo.
Dead Juniper
This juniper tree is dead.  But, it still serves a useful purpose here on the malpais. It is a perch for birds, a shelter for some smaller animals.  Plus, as it breaks down, it provides nutrients for new plants and some nice nesting material.  Talk about recycling!
Purple in the Prickly Pear
I thought I’d end with this portrait of opposites.  I love these tiny little purple beauties, especially how they contrast with the sharp barbs of the prickly pear cactus.

Morning Walk on the Malpais
Malpais?  What’s that?  I noticed when we moved here that lava fields were called that.  And, it is a term that’s used in the Southwest, Mexico and South America for very rough, barren and un-eroded lava fields.  Hmmm…..we took a walk on a paved nature trail thru the malpais (pronounced MAL-pay) one morning while camping this past week.  Thank goodness it was paved, as walking on the lava can be very difficult, as the terrain is rough and the lava’s actually sharp!  The thing that made me wonder about the definition is that the land we saw this morning was far from barren!  Take a look ~
 Little Black Peak
An interesting thing about this specific malpais was that it wasn’t formed from any volcano!  Instead, the lava flowed up from vents in the valley floor.  The photo above, of Little Black Peak, is thought to be the last vent from which the lava flowed somewhere between 1500 – 5000 years ago.  Rather recent in lava field “years”, but pretty long ago in my book!  Scientists believe that lava flowed from Little Black Peak for 30 years at the rate of 5 cubic meters per second – fast!  Just as a point of reference – that amount of water would fill about 15 bathtubs – in one second!!
Oscura Mountains in the Distance
As I looked out on the malpais, the view of the mountains to the southwest was quite something.  I love the contrast of the greenery in the foreground with the rocky mountains in the background.
Life on the Malpais
I love the look of this image.  You can see the rough lava and the plants and shrubs that are growing up thru it.  This is why I sort of hesitate at the part of the definition of malpais that calls this field “barren” – doesn’t look barren to me!
Crack in the Lava
One of the reasons that it’s rather tough to walk on the lava is that there are all sorts of cracks and crevices in it.  I thought this was an especially good view of one of the cracks.  The mountains in the background?  The Jicarilla Mountains – we had mountains all around us!
Growing in the Lava Crack
As I looked along that lava crack, I noticed some great greenery growing out of it – I really liked the look of this and just had to share!
Bright Lichen on Lava
I couldn’t believe how bright this tiny bit of lichen looked on the lava!  There are 2 tiny bits of it on the lava, with some other greenery in the background (out of focus).
Yucca Shadow
We were walking on this fairly early in the morning, and as the sun rose higher, there were some great shadows to be found on the lava – these shadows created by the yucca plants growing out of the lava.  What incredibly tough plants – there’s no dirt, sand or clay here – just lava rock!
Collapsed Lava Dome
Off to the right in this image (at mid-point vertically) is a collapsed lava dome.  When the lava was flowing, it flowed under domes such as these.  Once the lava moved on, the domes tended to cave in upon itself.  However, some lava domes haven’t yet collapsed, and that’s another reason that it can be dangerous to walk on these lava fields.  If one steps on top of a dome, it could cave in under the weight of a person, and that person would then fall onto the sharp lava rocks below.
Edge of an Ancient Lava Field
As we reached the end of the trail, there was this incredible view.  I thought it was really cool – you can see a path off to the right (altho it wasn’t open to the public) alongside what appears to be a wall of lava.  This is sort of an edge to the flow.  Interestingly, there was additional flow to an extent on the other side of our campground, so it must have been sort of a ragged edge.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Digital Art – Foggy Morning
This morning, on our side of the mountains, the morning was very foggy and misty.  I think it was actually some very low clouds, but the result is the same.  Bright sunshine on the other side of the mountains, and a great photo morning on our side!  I took some of the images I shot and made them into some digital art – take a look!
Along the Road
It’s finally happened.  My favorite deserted cabin, just down the road from where we live, has finally collapsed.  I am very sad about that, but even in collapse, the cabin presented a great photo image.  I think I will still get some great shots during this winter.  It’s not quite flat to the ground, and that lends itself to character type photos.  This piece also combined some paint type background, text and some special brushes, with Photoshop Elements blending tools.
In the Past
When I captured this image, I just couldn’t help but think of the past, and the people who lived in this little cabin in years past.  This cabin is in the small town of Stanley, New Mexico.  One of the ironic things about this town is that, at first blush, it sort of seems like there are almost as many deserted cabins as there are occupied buildings.  Thinking about the past, I decided to create some digital art using this image, a vintage postcard and some painting backgrounds and textures, combined with blending techniques.
Deserted Town
I’m still in Stanley and captured this image of 2 different deserted cabins….kind of like a little town of deserted buildings.  I tried to capture the feeling of old and vintage paintings, text, special brushes and blending tools.  Oh, and I also used layer masks in here – first time ever! – and I really like the effect of it!
Single Sapling
I really like this image, and decided to go with digital art for it.  I think I’ll also do some other technique, but I kind of like the line of the tree to the specialty stamp of the leaves in the upper right corner.  It’s complemented by music, a vintage postcard and some text from a very old dictionary.  It’s not the strongest of the digital art pieces, but it does hold a certain appeal to me.

HDR and Special Effects Photo Imagery –
A Peek into Yesterday
Here are some more images that I took on my foggy outing to shoot images of deserted cabins.  For these I used some Photoshop Elements special effects and my HDR software.  I achieved some interesting results –
This was one of the first images I shot of my favorite deserted cabin.  It still has character, even in collapse.  I applied some text to the image and some special framing.  I then layered this on some paper texture.  In a way, it’s a bit of digital art, but I thought it fit the special effects just as well.
Old Cabin
I really like all the detail in this image.  The deserted cabin, surrounding trees, and grasses in the foreground provide a wealth of detail.  The doors and windows are gone and I couldn’t help but think of all that one could see over the years, looking thru the door and windows.
Front Door
This is another of my favorite deserted buildings – an old adobe building.  The old fence in front of the old front door adds just the perfect touch.  The soft background complements the overall feel of the image on this very soft morning.
Old Homestead
In this image, you can see how my poor little deserted cabin has collapsed.  However, there are still some details that are able to be captured.  In a way, it’s even more photogenic now than it was when it was upright.  It’s still my favorite subject.

Perfectly Foggy Morn
Sometimes, there’s nothing like blue skies with sunshine and white puffy clouds.  At other times, it’s a foggy, misty morn that gets my creative juices flowing!  One day this past week, it was one of those foggy mornings.  I practically jumped out of bed, pulled on some clothes, put a hat over my bed head hair and grabbed my camera.  The images below are some that I like best.  I decided to digitally frame them, just for fun!
A Page in History
If you’ve followed my blog for a bit, you know there is a deserted cabin just down the road from where we live.  It’s one of my favorite things to photograph, altho I knew that sooner or later, it would come tumbling down.  I thought it would fall last winter, but it managed to stay standing.  However, a strong wind about a week or so ago brought it to its knees.  It’s not totally collapsed yet, and in its partially downed state, it still is a great photo model.  The deadheaded sunflowers in the foreground are a nice autumn touch.  The frame sort of looks like it could be wood from the cabin, doesn’t it?
Tree line in the Distance
I like the gentle lines in this image.  The trees off to the right of the image and the fence line create lines that meet at the tree along the side of the road, which boasts its own line to the tree!  There’s a sort of mysterious feel to this image – where does the road lead?  We can’t see anything from this vantage point – what adventures lay ahead?  It’s a matter of faith in yourself – that you’ll be able to handle whatever lies down that road.
Old Farm
Further down the road from my favorite cabin lies the small town of Stanley, New Mexico.  There are a number of deserted cabins and buildings there – almost like a subdivision of the past.  This particular cabin has a bit of land surrounding it, so that it’s easier to imagine what it might have been like when this was a functioning farmhouse.
Slatted Roof
Here’s another cabin that is one of my favorites.  Why?  Because of the perfection of the roof that is more than half gone.  With the wind that we sometimes get here in New Mexico I’m amazed that so many of those slats (as I think of them) are still in place!  Maybe one of these mornings, I’ll walk all the way up to it and see what type of cool shots I can get!
Autumn Crumbling
Altho it’s a cool, damp, foggy morning, the autumn colors along the side of the road really warm up this image.  This is my favorite cabin, but the photo is taken from the opposite perspective.  You can see the collapse of the building much clearer in this image.  I have to admit, I really like the image of the cabin much better from this side of things!

Monday, October 5, 2015

Photographic Digital Art
I’ve recently started playing around with creating what I’m calling photographic digital art.  It’s a way to take my photographs to a new level, and present them in a totally different way.  Here are some of my initial results –
Brother Albert
This piece has the image of one of the deserted buildings on Johnson Mesa as its base.  The other element is a vintage postcard that I put in as a base.  I blended the 2 layers (postcard and image) to create this sort of surreal effect.
FEB 14 1911
This piece gets its name from the date shown on the vintage postcard that is the base.  The image is an old deserted homestead that I created a sort of vintage effect with.  I again blended the layers and then added a cool effect called a light leak, using Photoshop Elements.  I thought it gave the entire piece the feel of a photo taken with an old camera that did, in fact, have a light leak (that’s what did in my first 35mm camera).
The Story
A couple of weeks ago, we were in the semi-ghost town of Los Ojos, New Mexico, and I got a great image of the old deserted police station there.  I took that image and converted it to a black & white image and then blended it with a vintage handwritten page.  I thought of all the stories that probably were told in that old station many years ago.  I then added a few elements to add to the dark feel of this piece. 
The Birth of History
This is probably the most complex piece that I worked on.  It actually has three of my images in it – an image of grey clouds that I used as some background texture, the small deserted cabin that is not far from our home and one of my favorite subjects, and an image of a spider web woven among the pine tree branches just outside our back patio.  I added to that an old birth certificate, and blended all the pieces together using Photoshop Elements.  I then added some skeleton keys, just because I imagine that those would be the type of keys used to unlock the doors of the deserted cabin.  The name came from my thoughts as to the history of the cabin, combined with the birth certificate.