February 2, 2015

Obsession Part 3: No sun, no dancers...

The general theme of these last posts has been really the serendipitous nature of photography. You set out to shoot one thing yet it is another that becomes the image you keep. So it is with this third weather related experience.

The state park where I volunteer helps some students from NMSU put on a Native American Marketplace. This has been a good place to get some great images. Last year, I took “Native Dancer” maybe one of the best photos I have ever taken.

So I approached this weekend with excitement. Saturday was warm, sunny and I got this image of a Native American potter sketching out a design for a soon to be made earthenware pot.

There was some dancers scheduled for that day but they cancelled, but there was a children’s group scheduled to dance the next day. I vowed to return. I mean, what could be better than little children, in traditional costumes, doing traditional dance?

When we awoke, the sun was shining and we prepared to go with some coffee and breakfast. As we were leaving, i noticed the sun was gone, covered in dark clouds and there was a drop or two of rain. By the time we got to the park, it was dark, dreary, cold, and foggy. As we were approaching the gate, I must admit, I thought the day was shot. But as we drove down the access road, there was a view of the Organ Mountains, shrouded in fog and storm clouds. Around here they say that you never see the same mountains twice, that every day is different and this was no exception. I had never seen anything like this. I stopped, took a few shots and went to the marketplace. No dancers, no pictures there, as everything was buttoned up. However, I could not wait to get home to process the images I took. A few follow and I must say, I am happy with them!

January 20, 2015

Obsession Part 2: Sunset and moonrise and storm clouds, oh my!

My second interesting weather experience was last summer when we went out to chase a super moon for pictures. It had been a typically gorgeous New Mexico day - warm, dry, and with a brilliant blue sky. I had checked the almanac and found it to be perfect too. Sunset at 7:30, moon rise at 7:20, and it would take about 20 minutes for the moon to clear the mountains. Just what I wanted, enough light to get details in the foreground and the moon over the mountain peaks.

I left around 5 pm to travel about 30 minutes to a place where I wanted to shoot, up close to the mountains but as I went out the door, there was trouble. Clouds, clouds everywhere! To the west to block the sunset, to the east to block the moon rise. I continued anyway, hoping that maybe I would be lucky and it would clear but this was not in the cards that night. What was in the cards however were some pretty dramatic cloud formations and colors in the sky. This was what I ended up shooting.

I am including both a color and B&W image of several things taken that night. The reason for this will become apparent in the next few weeks as I am working on a special blog post. Perhaps in 2-3 weeks, you can see that too…

January 15, 2015

Obsession in Three Parts

Part 1 - Sun to Snow to Sun

So based on my recent posts, you might conclude that I am obsessed somewhat with the weather. This seems to be the usual around here in southern New Mexico. We always want to know how hot it will be, how windy will it get, will there be any rain, when is the dust arriving, or how long will this heat last.

As a photographer, I am uniquely aware of the power of weather changes because that is when photographs can show the most drama and capture a real feeling of helplessness. Since we have been here in New Mexico there have been 3 times when this power was suggested to me.

The first came on a beautiful March afternoon about 2 and a half years ago. After some cool weather, the day was just gorgeous and we got in touch with friends to go have an afternoon picnic at Dripping Springs, a local place we frequent. As we sat there eating we could feel the air suddenly get cooler and soon, massive clouds moved in. We were getting uncomfortably cold and decided to go up a little further to the visitor’s center. As we packed up, it began to drizzle. Although we only travelled about a mile further up the mountain, we may have gone 2000 feet more in altitude and as we arrived, the rain had changed to snow. So there we were in shirtsleeves scrambling into the building as the snow fell. In 20 minutes there was a considerable dusting. Another scramble to the car and car heater and we headed back down the mountain. By the time we got back to Las Cruces, the sun was shining and temps were still in the mid 60’s. This picture shows the beginning of the storm coming over the mountains at the picnic area.

December 18, 2014

I, Robot

Recently we had the annual Holiday Celebration and Anniversary event at the Mesilla Valley Bosque State Park. I volunteer there and so usually am involved in this event. We started to offer pictures with Santa for young children and well behaved pets a couple of years ago and it has been a popular attraction for the park.

Usually I arrange for the photographer thru the Dona Ana Photography Club and we have a friend who volunteers his time as Santa. We ask for a small donation, which goes to the Friends Group to continue the good things they do for the park.

Things were a little different this year as there was a date/time mix up. As a result, our usually photographer was not available for the afternoon and our Santa’s helper was off knotting up a storm so we had to improvise and I ended up taking photographs and helping myself. No big deal but it made for a bit of a hectic time, especially when there were several families there at once. However, one family stands out in my mind.

There were two young boys, maybe 4 and 5, who were quiet but not afraid of Santa at all. They ran over to him, talked softly and both ended up sitting on his ample lap for the picture. When done, they ran over to their mother and i who were doing paperwork so I could send them the photo. The younger of the two boys noticed my leg and said something very softly that I could not hear in the large echo filled room. I asked him to repeat what he said and he replied “You have a robot leg” and smiled the kind of smile that makes you melt. I agreed with him and he happily went on his way.

I get a lot of young kids who stare at my prosthesis sometimes. I know it can be scary so I usually approach questions received very carefully. Yes I did once say I lost my leg in a shark attack but quickly corrected that. This boy was different. There was wonder and admiration and whimsy in his look and his voice. He made my day.

November 25, 2014

Monsoon Season

I have always liked weather. Some of my fondest memories of my kids growing up was sitting out on the back porch, listening and watching a New England thunderstorm come rolling in on one of those hot, humid days. It was a senses explosion, the sounds echoing through the valley, the sight of the sheets of rain approaching, the feel of the air changing as the rain brought cooler air, the smells of rain on the grass. We would sit and giggle and ooh and ahh until the flash of lightning was just a bit too close and we scurried into the house.

Here in the high desert of New Mexico, we have what is referred to as the “monsoon season”. It is a somewhat strange designation as growing up, we think of monsoons as this continuous rain cycle. Here in the desert, it is a 2 month (or so) period of increased likelihood of rain. When you only get 7-9 inches of rain per year, any increased likelihood is welcome!

I like to read the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) projections for weather patterns. They tend to be very accurate and this brings with it a sense of anticipation. It told us that this summer was going to be warmer in the southwest and we did get some record breaking heat. It then told us that our monsoon season would be a good one and I think by definition, good is good for us. The season starts right around the 2nd of July and lasts thru most of August. Traditionally we get maybe 80% or our rain for the year totals in this two month period. What we really get is spectacular thunderstorms.

There is some sameness to the way the thunderstorms come. The days get more humid (from a normal 10% humidity in June to 30-40% in July) while cooling just a bit. The sky is almost always cloudless early in the morning but by 10 am, they start to appear. By 2 pm or so, they thicken and some take on that dark, full of rain color and they get thicker and thicker. Because we are big sky country, many times you can see multiple storms at once. Also very evident is the virga, rain that falls from the clouds but does not reach the ground. These silky sheets can be seen everywhere.

When the rain actually starts, it begins as big drop, which leave half dollar size impressions on the roads and sidewalks. This, along with a huge increase of wind , signals that armageddon is about to start. Usually when it rains here, it pours. It can last 10 minutes, 30 minutes  maybe an hour. Roads flood, arroyos fill and many times people dance in the streets. Only occasionally do we get a soaking rain that lasts for more than an hour but again, every drop is welcome.

See more of Jim's incredible images at jimsphotographic.com

This picture is by a friend, Jim Rodgers, who won a ribbon for it in the recent Photograph of the Year contest held by our camera club. It is titled “Oh, What a Night!”  To me it just represents the whole thunderstorm experience, from the multiple lightning strike to the virga in the desert. What a picture!

So, what is NOAA saying about this fall? Cooler (yes it has been), wetter (yes it has been) leading into a somewhat drier winter (this we shall see!)

October 8, 2014

Sounds of Silence

In a post not too long ago I talked about going to the Mesilla Valley Bosque State Park and hearing and seeing the different birds in the garden there. Well recently I have been hearing more and different things.

People might call what I do meditation. I prefer to think of it as just slowing down and listening. When I arrive at the Park on Friday mornings, I like to go out near the garden to look and hear. I close my eyes and listen for the silence. If I concentrate I can just hear the sounds

-the buzz of the hummingbirds
-wind rustling the leaves of the cottonwoods
-a covey of quail calling their kids together
-far in the distance, some construction work

Well a few Fridays ago it was overcast and threatening. We have been having a nice monsoon season with frequent rain so the weather this day was not unexpected. I went out to the garden, closed my eyes and listened. In the distance there was the booms of thunder. The hummers were frantically filling up. The wind was really moving the cottonwood branches. Suddenly, I heard a sound, far away. It sounded at first like hands clapping but it was moving, I could hear it moving. It got a bit louder, a bit more frenetic, more intense. It got closer and soon was very close to where I was.

It was then that I recognized the sound of a drenching rain advancing on the area. The drops were hitting the ground and the trees and bushes and made almost a hissing sound.I turned and moved toward the visitors center about 25 yards away as the first drops hit the plaza bricks and by time i got to the door of the building, was very wet, almost soaked. I sat there in the doorway, watching the rain fall, feeling the coolness of the breeze

I was impressed…..

September 17, 2014

A Groundhog’s Day Redux

I wrote this several months ago but never posted it. Right now my leg is doing great but it was different at the end of the winter and thru most of the summer. I looked at this and read it over and decided to post it because it reflected a dark place where I was and no longer am. Here it is...

Did you ever get that feeling that you are trapped in a never ending life loop, seemingly repeating the same things over and over again? Welcome to my medical nightmare. By February it has been an issue for more than 2 months marked by doctor visits, referrals, more visits, referrals without getting any sort of solution. However this month marked a breakthrough in which a problem has been identified and remedied. Now we just wait to see the results.

So in summary, vein ablation, infection, partial healing, infectious disease referral, IV antibiotics. Well, this did not do the trick either and the infection was still present. My ID doctor then referred me to a vein specialist, a different one than the one who did the original surgery. I saw him on a Friday when he opened up the wound a bit and saw an infected end of a vein. It seems the ablation did not get rid of all the vein tissue and it festered and kept the infection and abscess going. As March came roaring in, I had surgery to remove the piece of vein and underlying infected tissue.

A note on anesthesia. I love it. As I lay on the table in the OR I remember the anesthesiologist saying “this will take about 30 seconds” and I remember starting to count and got to five when I awoke in recovery. Although I will never get that 90 minutes back, they can have it I am glad not to remember a thing.

So now I have a golf ball hole size hole in my leg, or rather had one. For the past two weeks I have been on a wound vac which sucks out all the yucky stuff and forces the leg tissue together to heal. Except for carrying around this small appliance wherever I go, it has not been too problematic.

Blogger’s note: Well the wound vac worked and all that is left now is a small indentation in my leg. There were a couple of setbacks along the way and I was not able to get into the pool this summer until just a couple of weeks ago. I am finally feeling that things are getting back to normal.

One final note - the Southwest Photographic Symposium I have been organizing takes place this Saturday and all the major work has been done. People in the club have stepped up and done a great job in organizing and volunteering and I expect it will go off without too many problems. What will be nice is getting a part of my life back, free of symposium worry and angst. The next month will be busy but recreational. A trip to Santa Fe and a 4 day outing at the Southwest Rendezvous, a photographers get together. Looking forward to both.