Saturday, March 31, 2018
So we finally arrived at Big Bend National Park which is a bout 320 miles from El Paso. The drive into the visitor center from the entrance to the park is a 30 mile drive - this is a huge park. At the Panther Junction Visitor Center we stopped to get the camping permits. I was wandering around and saw this scene of Panther Mountain, and then noticed that there were orange blooms on the Occotillo, so I tried this juxtaposition.
Not ten feet away was this large Soaptree Yucca, also in bloom. What a magnificent sight. Fifteen minutes in the park, and I already had two photographs. Not a bad start!
Posted by Ken Spencer at 9:13 PM
Stan had mentioned that when we went through Marathon, Texas, we should stop at a gallery and take a look at the photographs of this photographer. His name is James and he has lived and worked in Marathon and the Big Bend Area for something like 30 years. His photographs are just astounding, and he has a way of doing portraits of people that are warm and loving, and sometimes, unexpected and wonderful. So we stopped, and because of incredible luck - it was Texas spring break - he was in the gallery. He was warm and welcoming and we had a wonderful conversation. He did say that generally he doesn't like to talk to photographers - we had mentioned we both were long-time professionals. But most photographers want to talk about cameras and lenses and other technical stuff. Visiting with James really made our day!
This is his gallery. One of his books is called "Big Bend" and we saw it on display in a couple of bookstores, but I am not sure you could easily find it here in the east. But seeing his large original prints was really a treat.
Friday, March 30, 2018
This is Buns N' Roses, an astounding restaurant where we had breakfast, in Marfa, Texas. The sign says "Light breakfast and lunch" and it also says "24 - Hour Wrecker Service." I guess that's all need! If you didn't know better, you might not stop here. What is amazing is the industrial building that it is housed in.
This is a detail inside the building showing its construction out of galvanized steel.
There are a couple of old trucks parked next to the restaurant. I am not a motorhead, so I hope one of my friends can tell me more about these wonderful machines from the past.
I am wrong - actually this is a Cheverolet Apache. I have no idea of the year. Time to go look it up.
We dined inside the building, but it was a warm day and they do have a table and chairs outside.
And here's an interior view. The breakfast was delicious, and the coffee was awesome, and the wait staff couldn't have been nicer! If you are going through Marfa, you must stop here!
Posted by Ken Spencer at 7:29 PM
We left Alamogordo and headed toward Big Bend National Park, but it is a long drive, so we stopped in Marfa, Texas for dinner, and stayed overnight. This is the view out my motel room window. I love that this is such a different view than I have ever seen. You are more likely to see an industrial landscape, than a field, out your motel window. So I added it to my "American Landscape" series.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 6:48 PM
Thursday, March 29, 2018
OK, last daylight photographs from White Sands National Monument. For people who live in New Mexico, they go to White Sands as we would go to Jones Beach. You can rent these plastic dishes at the visitor, and kids were having a ball sliding down the dunes and then climbing back up. There were hundreds of kids doing this.
I walked up on one of the dunes with Gowri when we first arrived at White Sands and we took pictures of each other. Then Gowri asked if I would take a photograph of him jumping, which I did.
This is Chirag descending a dune. The human figure is so small in this expansive landscape.
This is Stan and three of the tents set up down below the dunes. Look, two tripods. You can tell that we are photographers.
This is Chirag and Stan hiking out of the dunes and out of our campsite. The orange markers are what you look for to find the trail to the campsites. They are fairly difficult to see at some distances.
This is a photograph of Stan taking a photograph. Once again, a tiny figure in a huge landscape.
This is night shot of a Yucca plant shown up against one of the dunes, above which the constellation Orion slowly sets in the west. This particular Yucca variety is called Sotol. It grows a really tall stalk, and the stalk itself is stiff and hard like a branch from a tree. I saw people selling decorated walking sticks made from this stalk. I made this photograph at our campsite which was surrounded by dunes. It was really dark at night in the dunes, and so this photograph was taken at ISO 10,000 with a 30 second exposure!
Wednesday, March 28, 2018
These are scenes from White Sands. It is an astounding landscape, like nothing I have ever seen before! I was hoping for bright sunlight at sunset and sunrise so the orange light would be raking across the dunes, and the wavelets in the sand on the dunes. But that was not to be. The sky was covered by high clouds, giving a soft light. But that turned out to be OK, and the sun broke through at the last minute for a few minutes. I am thrilled with all the photographs. I may post even more photos taken during the day, tomorrow. Then I will show you some photographs taken at night.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 9:09 PM
One of the stops we made before leaving Alamogordo was the New Mexico Museum of Space History. It has an extensive collection of rocket engines and missiles on display, in beautiful condition. What was strange was to see these two rusted metal objects, one which looked like the tail end of a rocket. Why were there these pieces of wreckage in amongst the other shiny pieces of space hardware? I went over to read the plaque and discovered that this is the remains of a German V-2 Rocket, from WWII. When the Allies defeated Germany, they gathered up the scientists and rockets and rocket parts, and brought them to the White Sands Proving Grounds where they were test fired. This rocket had been fired, and the remains were left to rust on the firing range for 50 years. What a brilliant idea to retrieve it and put it on display.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 8:32 PM
Tuesday, March 27, 2018
Just off North White Sands Boulevard, on West 10th street in Alamogordo is this amazing water tower. I have never seen anything like this - a water tower with what seems like the bottom of its legs cut off! It is just on the west side of the railroad tracks, but I don't believe that it was used for water for steam engines. It was the funniest thing to see when I first spotted it.
We camped in Oliver Lee campground, a New Mexico State campground for two nights, and then we were scheduled for two nights camping in White Sands National Monument, but get this, there was a Missile test on one night on the White Sands Missile Range, so we could only camp in the dunes for one night. We had to hike in about three-quarters of a mile carrying everything we would need for out overnight stay. What an amazing experience to be among the white dunes at night. More on that in my next post.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 7:08 PM
This is Rush, who lives in Albuquerque and who is the leader of our trips. Stan met him at the Grand Canyon about 6 years ago, and then I met him on our trip to Chaco Canyon. We have been traveling together ever since. He is, and as Stan says: "The Mythic Southwesterner." He is a wonderful traveling companion and so knowledgeable about camping and traveling, and brings our tents and cooking gear and all the stuff we need to camp.. He also has such wonderful stories to tell. We all treasure his friendship.
I am obligated by the rule of law in photography, to show you a sunset from the Southwest. This is a view from our campsite, looking toward the San Andreas mountains which are about 35 miles away. Between these mountains and our campsite is White Sands National Monument. More on that in another post.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 6:55 PM
Monday, March 26, 2018
In contrast to the previous post, of the industrial landscape, I give you the beauty of the desert! We left El Paso and drove north to Alamogordo and camped in a New Mexico campground called "Oliver Lee Memorial State Park." It is a beautiful campground, backed up against the base of the Sacramento Mountains. New Mexico - blue sky and sunshine and white clouds! Good for the soul. This plant is a Soaptree Yucca. This scene is about 15 feet from our tents!
Posted by Ken Spencer at 9:22 PM
It is such an interesting landscape behind the hotel we were staying in in El Paso. There was a huge refinery and a whole bunch of tanks for the products of the refinery. This view is out the window at the end of the hall on the floor we were staying in. I love to photograph the landscape, both the beauty of nature, and the beauty, if you can call it that, of the industrial landscape. A slightly different kind of view from Long Island, at least where I live.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 9:04 PM
Sunday, March 25, 2018
This is our home, the Milky Way Galaxy. Think of it as a fried egg, sunny side up. It is an enormous disk with a bulge in the center, made up of stars and gas and dust. We live in the outer reaches of the galaxy, and as we look toward the center, we see it as band of bright stars, because we are viewing the galaxy from within. The ancients saw this is milk spread across the sky. Big Bend National Park is one of the darkest of the dark sky sites in the United States, and as such, we can see something like the Milky Way best, because if you live where light pollution is, the light in the sky obscures the faint glow that we see in this photograph. For the curious, this was a 30 second exposure with an ISO of 6400, with the lens set to 17mm on my Canon 6D. Please click on the picture to see more detail.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 10:11 PM
I'm Back! It was an astounding trip, which you will see as I post more and more photographs. I will be doing two posts a day to catch up. This is an art installation located on both sides of Interstate 10 in El Paso, Texas. The installation is by artist Vicki Scurri and is made up of lighted wind turbines that generate electricity which is then used to power colored lights which change at night. It is an amazing thing to see, and it was designed to beautify this portion of the Interstate, and the neighborhood which has hotels along this stretch. This is the image in daylight, and below is a view of the sculptures at night, which is astounding. The colors of light which illuminate the turbines change every five minutes or so.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 9:24 PM
Tuesday, March 13, 2018
So tomorrow Stan and I drive to Alamogordo, New Mexico from El Paso, to meet up with our friend Rush. He has camping equipment and we will set up a campsite in a state park for several days. After a day or two, three more friends will join us for the photography and hiking in the area. There will be no internet service so you won't hear from me for some time. Not to worry, I will be fine, just off the grid and disconnected from the internet. OH NO... NO INTERNET... HELP... How will I survive? Just fine, thank you very much. As soon as I get reconnected, I will post an update.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 9:32 PM
We lucked out today in terms of the snowstorm. We only got an inch in Sea Cliff which is great, because Stan and I were headed for LaGuardia for a flight to El Paso, Texas for a week of photographing the landscape and the night skies. We were worried that flights would be cancelled and we had planned this trip for several months. Because of the ice and snow, all the planes were "deiced" before taxiing out for takeoff. This shows two workers in little yellow cabs on long arms that can move all around the outside of the airplane to remove the ice.
First they apply a soapy hot water solution to melt any ice that might be on the outside of the aircraft, and then they apply another solution, which is thicker and dyed green. It is very sticky and stays on top of the wing and tail surfaces to protect them from more ice, according to the captain that I talked to. When the aircraft begins its takeoff, at about 80 knots the green material just slides off the wing from the air rushing over the wing, and the plane takes off with a clean wing, which is important. I have never before been in an aircraft which was being deiced, so it was cool to watch.
Monday, March 12, 2018
This is my first Leica camera, an M2. When I was in college studying photography, we didn't have much money and it was a struggle to pay for film and photographic paper. My mom used to take care of an older woman down the street so she could send me money to buy photo supplies. A number of students in my freshman class were sent to RIT by their parents who owned photo studios. A number of them had 2 or 3 Leica cameras and lenses. The Leica is a magnificent camera, very solid, but quiet when the shutter releases. It is a joy to pick up and hold, and click the shutter because it feels so solid. I would wander into a classmate's room, and ask if I could pick up one of their Leicas and just hold it. When I graduated and got my first job, for the Rochester Times-Union, I took my first two paychecks and went down to Rowe Camera near the RIT dorm and bought this used Leica for $150, in 1964. I have had it ever since. I used in Rochester to shoot some types of photos for the paper, and I used it at Newsday. It still works perfectly, but is a bit worse for wear on the outside. I did buy a second Leica 30 years later, a used Leica M6, and that one is still in mint condition.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 7:35 PM
Sunday, March 11, 2018
The kitties have their favorite places for hanging out. The couch, in various places is one of them. What surprised me about this is that Grace, the black and white one, was lying on Kathy's legs, and then Bebe was lying on a comforter, but her legs were lying on Grace. This is a bit unusual, which is what made it fun.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 5:25 PM
Saturday, March 10, 2018
This is the light bulb in a Mini Mag Flashlight. This flashlight is only about six inches long, so you can see how small the bulb must be. The bulb is only about 1/8" in diameter, and yet there is a very tiny spring-like filament inside. The AA batteries in this flashlight leaked, and there was some white crusty stuff inside the flashlight. Even after cleaning the crusty stuff, and with new batteries the flashlight wouldn't light up. So I started examining the flashlight with a magnifier to see, for instance, if the filament of the bulb was blown. That's when it occurred to me to photograph the filament so you could see how small it is. Below is a photograph of the whole flashlight.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 8:41 PM
Friday, March 9, 2018
This is Harvey Weber, who was the Director of Photography at Newsday, and he is the man who hired me from the Rochester Times Union in November of 1966. He was a wonderful boss and a real mentor to a whole new generation of photographers who were hired about that time. He called me "the kid." He was the boss, and yet he worked Sundays, which is when all the new photographers worked. After a day of shooting for the next day's paper, we would all go out to dinner at the Old Country Diner, and we would talk photography, which is where we all learned. He asked me to do a portrait of him in 1980, I think it was. I shot a roll of Kodachrome, and he asked me to just give him all the transparencies. I was always sorry that I never kept one. Then the other day I found this scan of one of them, and was thrilled to find it. Harvey was given awards for his work in the education of young photographers. He was lost to us in 1991. I have always grateful for the years working with him and for all I learned from him.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 6:49 PM
Thursday, March 8, 2018
We started the commercial video shoot of our fake observing session (because the sky was completely overcast) at about 3:30 in the afternoon. We all set up our telescopes on instructions from the director.
Here the director, who is also the director of photography does a low angle shoot of people and their telescopes.
What is interesting about how video is done these days, is that they are using DSLR cameras which are now capable of video, as well as stills, instead of using the much larger video cameras.
After the sun had set, the shoot continued into the night, after a number of lights had been set up. We were there until 8:30 PM. The energy of the crew was amazing, and the director of photography had so much energy, and was constantly looking for new angles. It was fascinating to watch how the shoot went.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 10:15 PM
Wednesday, March 7, 2018
I looked out the dining room window and saw this scene, early in the storm today. I couldn't believe my eyes! The scene was just stunning! So I grabbed my camera and went out on to the front porch. What makes this wonderful is the snow sticking to the tops of all the branches and vines, which was then muted by all the snow falling at the time I took this picture. This shot was a gift!
Posted by Ken Spencer at 9:52 PM
Tuesday, March 6, 2018
We were all at the Vanderbilt Museum for the video shoot from 3:30 PM until 8:30 PM yesterday. Which was lucky because I was there as the sun set. It was overcast all day, but as the sun was going down, it broke through the clouds for a moment and illuminated these huge smokestacks. I love the darker shades of blue and purple, as a background for the brilliant red and white of the stacks. And this photograph only existed for a few minutes, so I was lucky to be there. More on the video shoot in tomorrow's blog post.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 10:00 PM
Monday, March 5, 2018
How lucky am I! A space ship is landing, and a child walks over near it, and I am there to record it! What phenomenal luck! This is cool, right? OK, the real story is that one of our astronomy club members owns an SUV from an upscale automotive manufacturer, and because his passion for astronomy, they are doing a commercial, just for the web, about him, and his car, and his hobby. So the filmmakers came to where we meet and set up a star party so they could film it. They started in daylight, and then set up lights and filmed at night. This amazing thing is called a "balloon light" and it is huge and bright, at 1000 watts. The child is the grandson of the subject of the film.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 6:59 PM
Sunday, March 4, 2018
This is Father Rony, and he celebrated the Mass today, because this is his twenty-fifth anniversary as a Priest. He comes from Haiti, and told the story of his graduation from High School, and then making a start at several different professions before realizing that he was called to the Priesthood. He is a wonderful Priest and gave a moving tribute to all the people who have helped him in his life, and he thanked all the members of St Brigids church, and all that they have done for him.
There was a reception for him after the Mass, and everyone wanted to photograph him (including me, of course) and then they were showing him the photographs on their cellphones.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 8:42 PM