Spring Break in Taos – Part 6: Errata

Note:  Be sure to read the previous posts to get some context for this one.

Well, here it is, the last post about the Taos trip.  In addition to the more common photo fare, it is impossible to wander around any place like the American southwest without some interesting image possibilities arising that don’t fit neatly into the major narrative. So what do you do with them if you like them even if they don’t fit?

This area was, as I noted in the first post of the series, for most of my life, my home “stomping grounds.”  That is an important point because in this case I went “back home” to shoot” when most people have to get away from home to find anything fit to photograph.

Arthur Koessler wrote that creative people, artists of all kinds, share a common trait: the ability “…to see the familiar as strange.”  Freeman Patterson wrote, “If you can’t find a photograph in your back yard how can you find one in Morroco?”  The answer is that we artist types are attracted to the “strange,” the unusual,  things we haven’t seen before.  But the really good ones are able to see, as Koessler wrote, those familiar things as strange, meaning they can see things around them, things they’ve seen a hundred or more times, in a new way, a visually interesting way, and then interpret and render them so that the viewer will see them anew as well.

To me, a blog post (or series of posts) is a story, or needs to be in order to capture a reader’s attention.  A mini-book or even mini-short story to be sure; more of an essay really.  But as with all good stories and essays, it needs a thread woven through it that binds it all together and makes it coherent and understandable.

But that infusion of “story” imposes some constraints.  If you drift too far from the story arch it leaves the reader confused and not altogether sure what it was they were reading.  Confusion for the reader is one of the major hobgoblins of a writer, so usually they will not stray far from the narrative other than for a few minor digressions and an occasional aside.  That puts a high premium on editing.

However in places with such a rich array of possible images and even narrative “asides” as the American southwest, there are items that, though interesting, have to get culled from the story because they are either redundant (and boring), or don’t fit (and are confusing), or are distracting (and are fatal to a story), or just, for whatever reason seems appropriate to the author, best left out.  Left over notes and images, even often good ones, are common, because editing is as important as the writing or illustrations themselves.  But it can be enormously frustrating.

That image and note triage of editing doesn’t mean the author or image maker didn’t like them or think that for one reason or another they did not have value.  Here then, in this last “errata” section, are some shots along the way that didn’t seem to fit the major story line but which you might find interesting anyway.

They include some new things, some extra or left-over shots from old things, and in one case, a completely reworked version of a shot you have already seen.  So since we are so near the end, I guess I should just shut up and get to it, huh?  OK, here we go… skipping over, through, under, and around the main narrative of the previous posts in this series we have…

♦  Parked since the last ice age near the Overland Sheepskin Company north of Taos are several old trucks rusting away.  Here is the nose of one formerly proud old GMC workhorse now out to pasture…literally…

Old GMC nose and grille

Old GMC nose and grille

As you know, rust never sleeps, and in this environment it has created some patterned images to provide an abstract expressionist (or impressionist) painter some competition.  Here are some of those completely natural — or at least accidental — compositions.

Rusty Truck side, Taos

Rusty Truck side, Taos  A Kandinsky perhaps?

The rear cab of one had a truly colorful area:

An unusual pastel arrangement of rust and paint on the cab of one old truck.

An unusual pastel arrangement of rust and paint on the cab of one old truck.  Inspired by the spirit of Klee???

However, one of my favorites was the door to one of the trucks that looked like an Expressionistic landscape…

Impressionistic landscape in weathered paint and rust.

Impressionistic landscape in weathered paint and rust.

♦   When we were at Besh Ba Gowah there were some great stands of cactus that formed a great patterned wall. I already showed you one of them but here is another.  The other one had a more consistent pattern and visual flow, but the color of this patch was outstanding.  For all of my students out there, look at this and then the other one in the installment on Globe and analyse why I might have chosen that one for the narrative?

Another wall of cactus in the Besh Ba Gowah ruins, Globe, AZ

Another wall of cactus in the Besh Ba Gowah ruins, Globe, AZ

♦   Some of the petroglyphs we saw near Albuquerque were representational and some were symbolic… and some we weren’t too sure.  I posted a few of the more traditional ones.   This one could represent a number of things but we’ll go with “a leaf” for now.

A petroglyph of a... leaf, that's it, a leaf.

A petroglyph of a… leaf, that’s it, a leaf.

♦   When at Acoma I took a shot of a window that I included in that post.  I also took a shot of an old doorway I liked too.  But after throwing darts at a board that ended up selecting the window for inclusion, it seemed repetitive to also show the door.  But I like the door!  So here it is…

Screen door on an older apartment on the Acome Pueblo mesa top "sky city."

Screen door on an older apartment on the Acome Pueblo mesa top “sky city.”

♦   At the arboretum in Arizona there were a number of exhibits in addition to the ones emphasizing local flora.  In one a plant with yellow leaves seemed to shimmer and dance in the air against a background of darker green foliage so I was compelled to take a shot.

To me this was like gold leaves floating against the darker green foliage.

To me this was like gold leaves floating against the darker green foliage.

The still shot is visually accurate, but to catch the emotional “high” of those sparkling yellow leaves dancing in the breeze like faeries in the moonlight, I think it needs motion.

♦   At the canyon bottom area along the Salt River, there were some nice little detail areas that really didn’t relate to the story but were nice anyway.  In addition to the lichen covered boulder I already showed you, I especially liked the mix of grasses flowing in the breeze.

Grasses wave in the late afternoon light along the bottom of the Salt River Canyon in Arizona.

Grasses wave in the late afternoon light along the bottom of the Salt River Canyon in Arizona.

♦   And finally I wanted to show you the results of re-thinking the edit of a shot.  The wide shot of the mission at Taos that I put in the second post is a panorama made up of 6 shots.  I wanted it to look “old timey” so I desaturated it and warmed it up a bit.  But I have never really been happy with the editing I used when I put in that installment.   At the time I was trying to get things posted and didn’t know what else to do with it.

I am incessantly harping on my students to go back and revisit work to see if they can make it better.  It turns out that Cynthia took a shot of me taking that shot that was better than the shot I was taking when she took me taking the shot… or however that should go… and that inspired me to revisit my initial interpretation and take some of my own advice.  First here is her shot of me taking the photograph.

A shot of me taking the pano of the Mission at Taos pueblo, by Cynthia Sinclair (used with permission).

A shot of me taking the pano of the Mission at Taos pueblo, by Cynthia Sinclair (used with permission). You can click on this to enlarge it. Canon 5D MkIII

I had taken several shots of adobe walls to use as texture layers and so, after seeing her shot of me and realizing I had now a shot to live up to, I started fresh with that previous image’s RAW file and incorporated a texture screen of adobe, lessened the amount of desaturation, and now I like it much better.  Nothing like some competition to kick you in a delicate spot to motivate you into trying harder…  Click on it to enlarge it.

Latest version of the Taos Pueblo Mission Church.

Latest version of the Taos Pueblo Mission Church..  Click on the image to see it enlarged.

And there we have it; images and thoughts from a week’s trek during Spring Break.  I was in hog heaven in an area I dearly love.  I hope you’ve enjoyed the images as much as I enjoyed being in a place where I could produce them.

What is next?  Beats me.  As the semester winds down it will be nose-to-the-grindstone with project finals and such so hard to tell when and to where I might be able to get away in search of a wily image or two.

But wherever it is, the odds are there will be a shot or two and maybe even a story to pass along.

About ndking

Commercial Photographer and Professor of Photography at San Diego City College
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2 Responses to Spring Break in Taos – Part 6: Errata

  1. Elizabeth says:

    Please make this a workshop!!! magnificent.

    • ndking says:

      WEll, we are trying to put it together but in order to make it work, we’d need 15 participants and it would not be all that cheap given where it is. but we are definitely trying… If it happens I’ll announce it here.

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