Category Archives: Photography

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

Part of life in Albuquerque is the annual balloon fiesta. For up to 9 days (weather allowing), 550 balloons launch at dawn and fill the skies; their adoring viewers fill the town. The fiesta adds a surreal whimsy to the week. More than once, I’ve walked outside to find a balloon 20 feet overhead, people waving as I stand sleepy with my morning tea. Sometimes the balloons have to land creatively, trying to avoid highways and power lines. Last year, I scheduled a doctor’s appointment on a morning during fiesta week. It was beautiful to drive into a field of glowing orbs but it didn’t bestow the greatest confidence in my fellow drivers.

When the conditions are just right, the wind forms a pattern called the “Albuquerque Box”. When The Box is in effect, ground level winds sink down the Rio Grande Valley, flowing south and higher winds flow north. By adjusting altitude (basically the only control for a balloonist), the balloon can circle back to the launching position. The Box was running both days I went this year, and we watched the pilots compete in navigation competitions.

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Collecting Gardens

My first and favorite subject for photography was flowers. Early on, I struggled with composition, what to include in a wide-angle shot and what to exclude, and how to do this. Flowers were simple subjects; I knew immediately what I wanted my image to look like. This love of flowers has drawn me to many botanical gardens over the years, even as I learned to see more than just the individual flowers. So today, I rooted through my photos and found 10 favorite images from gardens in eight states. Maybe later this summer, I’ll share my own garden!

1. Marie Selby Garden in Sarasota, Florida

Marie Selby specializes in tropical epiphytes, or plants that grow on other plants. Orchids are epiphytes, and the greenhouse is stuffed with them. With no tripods allowed, the lighting conditions are a challenge, but I love seeing the insane variety of orchids.

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Marie Selby Gardens in Sarasota, Florida, specializing in orchids

2. Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis, MO

The Missouri Botanical Garden is one of the oldest in the country, and still a center for research. This is the garden that I wandered through as a child.

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The Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis.

3. The Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Richmond, VA

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The Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Richmond.

4. The Denver Botanical Garden

High elevation gardening, but with more water than my New Mexico. The Denver Botanical Garden highlights water efficient plants, but it was still mind-blowingly green compared to the high desert.

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5. The Japanese Garden in Portland, Oregon

Humid and covered in moss, Portland’s Japanese Garden feels authentic. It’s beautiful and detailed.

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The Japanese Garden in Portland, Oregon.

6. The Sonoran Desert Museum in Tucson, AZ.

A combined zoo/botanical garden next to Saguaro National Park, the Sonoran Desert Museum is a great place to check out bizarre succulents.

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The Sonoran Desert Museum in Tucson, AZ.

7. The Albuquerque Biopark

My local botanical garden. Living in a desert, you learn to treasure the green spaces. More often than not, I go just to stroll, not to photograph. For me, that’s very rare. I also really enjoy the Japanese Garden, which is definitely not as authentic as Portland’s (we are just not going to grow moss here), but shows how style can be interpreted with a local flavor.

The shrine at the Japanese Garden

8. Chile’s Peach Orchard in Crozet, VA

This view isn’t open to the public, but seeing an orchard in bloom is a beautiful thing.

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Chile’s Peach Orchard in Crozet, Virginia.

9. The Organic Tulip Festival in Madison County, VA

Another garden that you can’t visit anymore. They only sell their bulbs now.

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The Organic Tulip Festival in Madison County, Virginia.

10. Phipp’s Conservatory in Pittsburgh, PA

I’ve been to Pittsburgh about 5 times in the last decade, always in late March or early April. Apparently, it’s not a great time, weatherwise. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the sun there. So I can see how an indoor conservatory like Phipp’s is essential. It’s gorgeous, and right next door to Carnegie Mellon University.

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Phipp’s Conservatory in Pittsburgh, PA.

Western survivors

On my first western trip, I visited Moab in July. We went hiking in 105 degree heat, the sun pounding the ground and anything above it. We learned to respect the desert, because the desert will win.

I always stop and admire the brave stalwarts of the desert—that scraggly tree growing from a forbidding rock face or that little flower, full of color if only briefly. They can never move. They survive or die.

In an ancient landscape shaped by wind and water on continents that no longer exist, the desert plants are ephemeral. Like the ruins of the southwest and our cities, the landscape will outlast them. But they, like us, can be beautiful for their time.

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Scrub at Canyon de Chelly National Monument

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Wildflower in Capitol Reef National Park

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A lone tree at Bryce Canyon National Park

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Wildflower at Zion National Park

Monument Valley

I just returned from a lengthy western road trip, including, amongst other things, 4000 photographs filling many gigs of space. I have hours of editing ahead of me. Today, enjoy some images from Monument Valley, one of the famous vistas of the American West. This lonely place is in northeast Arizona, near the Four Corners. It’s where Forrest Gump stopped running, and it’s appeared in many movies. And it’s only 6 hours from Albuquerque!

Monument Valley panorama

Just after sunset

Stars at Monument Valley

A little HDR nighttime play

Western split tone

Between Kayenta and Monument Valley

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The monument valley loop

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Sunrise play

Springtime!

Western springtime is different. In the east, March is “in like a lion, out like a lamb.” In New Mexico, it’s been warm and lovely since the start of the month, but soon, our spring winds will begin. Like many Americans, I think of spring as a damp, green, thawing time of year. Here, it  is dry and abrasive. Here, it was 8% humidity yesterday.

The grass is growing, my herbs are returning, and I have been itching to garden, itching to have a few square feet of lush, green eastern spring. Over the years, I have chased the spring blossoms, from lenten roses and crocuses to irises and peonies. In Virginia, I wandered Thomas Jefferson’s garden each day, seeing the new blooms and progress. This year, I’m working on my own garden. That means that, at this point, I don’t have many new images to share. I don’t know how to make mulching and pulled weeds look very beautiful. But in the spirit of what I hope to grow, here are some of my favorite spring images from years past.

 

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Ten Favorite Images of 2016

Better late than never! I took a little hiatus from photography for the last few months. Now that I’m back in the saddle, it’s time to pick out my favorite ten images in the past year. (Here’s my 2015 list, which focuses a little more on technique.) This year I continued my western travels, learned about lighting (not shown here), and got really into HDRs (shown excessively here).

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Great Blue Heron in Florida

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Bisti Badlands in Northwest New Mexico

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Ah-Shi-Sle-Pah Wash in Northwest New Mexico

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Sierpinski tetrahedron

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Eagle’s Nest Lake near Taos, New Mexico

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Looking towards Pike’s Peak in Colorado

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St. Elmo, Colorado

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White Sands, New Mexico

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Three Sisters Volcanos in Albuquerque, New Mexico

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Night sky in Taos, New Mexico

NM public lands: San Lorenzo Canyon

Of the 121,000 square miles that form New Mexico, roughly 21,000 of them are managed by the Bureau of Land Management. This land gets used a lot of different ways. Some of it is part of national monuments like Tent Rocks or Rio Grande del Norte. Land is leased for grazing, woodcutting, helium production, and oil and gas production. Land is used for hunting and fishing. Western ecologies are fragile and must be managed. Too much grazing and too much plowing lead to broad consequences, as demonstrated by the dust bowl. The BLM manages these uses, working to allow economic use of the lands without exhausting them. When we hiked in Bisti Badlands, we dodged dried cow patties from previous grazing; I was glad we could both use the land.

New Mexico BLM manages several dozen recreation sites, offering rock climbing, mountain biking, hiking, camping, and more. Saturday I visited San Lorenzo Canyon, which is near Socorro. We drove several miles up a wash into a canyon. We enjoyed hiking and a little rock climbing. December hiking in New Mexico can be pretty great. See for yourself!