Sunday, October 20, 2013

And yet again...

By now everyone who checks in here from time to time must be downright sick of seeing this damn windpump. I can only plead that it is in my "front yard" (285 yards away) and I can't help photographing it in the myriad different lights that play upon it. I guess it's a compulsion. Wouldn't doubt that this is the most photographed High Plains windpump to ever squeak in a brisk westerly.

God bless Aermotors, wherever they are. They are the lifeblood of the plains.

You asked for it!

Well, not everybody asked for it. But BobF said a recent pic of Jack afield would make a good oil. So I whipped out my pallette, squirted some oil paints on it, found my mink-hair brushes, and dashed off a quickee. Enjoy, Bob.

(You might have to click on it to embiggify it.)


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The long road home

Last week I had to take Jack to the vet for his routine rabies shot. None of the other dogs needed anything so he and I made the trip alone. Our regular vet is 80 miles away. There is one closer, only 35 miles, but I like the regular vet to see the dogs regularly. I also like the dogs to see the vet! For the most part they enjoy their trips to see him, and the great staff that pampers them and makes them feel special. Despite their nervousness their tails are always going a mile a minute.

I live at just about the mid-point of a north-south one-lane road (called a "two-track")  that runs between two east-west secondary roads 70 miles apart. Well, actually I live two miles off to one side of that road and not on it. As we returned from the vet I could see a storm developing to the south, and could watch it move from east to west. There were a few lightning strikes, but not many. At the point I took the snapshot above we were yet about ten miles from home, but we managed to make it before the brunt of the storm hit. In the end it didn't amount to much at our place and all we got was a nice little spate of welcome rain. Most of it was well south of us.

By the way, I noticed the other day that our two track, which is about half paved and half dirt, does not even appear on the official state highway map. That's OK by me.

Autumn sunset

The other day we had a wonderful golden sunset. This is common this time of year. But it is a fleeting thing, gone in a minute or less. I sometimes see a really fine one, but by the time I get the camera it is gone. But that's what a photographer does: chases light, light that is never the same again and when it passes it is gone forever. Photography means "light writing." I like the Irish better: griangrafadoireacht, "the craft of sun-writing."

This is a good time of year for sin-writers. If they are quick enough!

Monday, October 14, 2013

The call of the fall...

These cool mornings, with a bit of chill in the air, energize Jack like nothing else can. He won't take no for answer and I almost always succumb to his entreaties and take him, and me, for a nice long ramble. There's nothing quite like being afield with a good dog— and friend— like Jack. He could do this sort of thing, inside our wire, on his own. There's plenty of ground to explore there. But NO, he has to have me come along, too. He's almost like a little kid: "Come and watch how good I hunt!"

So I go, and watch, and am pleased and energized myself.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Sic Transit Gloria

This is the real end of summer: when the sunflowers finally give up. Sad to see them go, but I know they'll be back in the late spring as harbingers of the next summer.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

The first of August

How fitting that August's first post here should include a juicy, sweet, vine-ripened tomato. As usual they are late here compared to other parts of the country. I've only been enjoying them for about a week now. For the second year I am growing them in big "cow tubs" and the results are much better this year than last. Slowly, slowly, I get the hang of it. And the results are sweet indeed!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013


I went to a junior rodeo on Sunday. These events are always emotional for me because I am filled with admiration for the kids who participate— and Sunday had a ton of 'em.

I thought it would be a small event, due to its location, but the place was humming with kids of all ages on horseback zipping up and down in the parking area and having a great time. When I say "all ages" I mean it. Kids of three and four on ponies and even some on full size horses, with the stirrups hitched up as high as they could go. And in most cases adult supervision nowhere in sight.

The toughness of these kids always impresses me. They don't quit either. That young wrangler above, about eleven, in the steer rasslin' drew a critter that outweighed him by at least 150 pounds and could drag him anywhere it wanted to without breaking a sweat. But the kid hung on, never gave up, and eventually got it down by some unaccountable miracle. The thing is he never quit. "Aw, this is too HARD!" Nope. Even though his time was way, way out of the running he hung in and got it done.

And they were just about all like that, in all the events, boys and girls alike. Had me thinking we'd be better than just fine as a country if all our kids were like this. But they aren't, and there just isn't enough of them to go around. And that's a pity.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Expectations of Reality

"Amazing Grace"

Reality in photography is mostly subjective. When someone views a photograph they make their own reality, as the photograph itself has none.

It is often said that “the camera never lies.” Actually, a camera can do nothing BUT lie. Everything it produces is a lie of one sort or another. The traditional camera’s product is a two-dimensional miniature rendition of full-sized subject matter. Sometimes the rendition is monochrome. If in color, it is only a very limited, distorted imitation of the colors its user saw.

Quite a few of my photographs in the last several years have been pushing the reality envelope. Back in the Olden Times I had experimented with many techniques for altering or enhancing an image: selenium, copper, and gold toning, split toning, masked effects, and many other ways to tweak an otherwise “straight” photograph. Looking back over the history of the craft I was in some pretty good company. But of course that didn’t stop the critics who never seemed to tire of pointing out that I was polluting the so-called purity of photography. I suppose purity, like realism, is in the eyes of the beholder.

When I changed over from film to digital I became aware that the ante on image manipulation had been upped considerably. I was a slow process for me. The one dominant means for photographic manipulation was complex and almost too feature-rich for any one person to ever “master.” Lately, there are alternatives but nothing out there allows the worker to get easy, quick results— no matter what the ads say. The recipes for images that I liked were never off the shelf, never easy or straight-forward. Achieving a successful result involved long experimentation and complex combinations of effects and procedures— and far more failures than successes.

Why bother? Most of the time I don’t. But sometimes I want “something more,” or maybe something less. I want something that cuts to the chase, so to speak. It might be degrees of abstraction, fiddling with color, or messing with light intensity. It could be anything. Or nothing— just a whim. When people ask I sometimes take the humorous way out and tell them that at my age I find reality highly overrated. Well, MAYBE I am being humorous.

There is an anecdote about Picasso being criticized about the distortions of his artwork. He asked the questioner is he was married, to which the man replied that he was. Picasso then asked him if he had a picture of his wife in his wallet. Why, yes, the man responded and produced the picture. “Lovely,” said Picasso, “but how can you have a relationship with such a tiny woman?”

Effects in manipulated images can be difficult to see in small sizes. Clicking on the image will enlarge it.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Halcyon Days

These are indeed the halcyon days on the High Plains. High banks of fluffy clouds, cool breezes, and a rich carpet of prairie wildflowers.

Mornings are a pure delight, cool and bright. The mid-days can be uncomfortably hot from about ten on, but the late afternoons and the pre-dusk evenings are a return of the comfort of the mornings. As dusk gathers I am usually on the front deck, in my camp-style recliner, watching the dogs play and enjoying the cool breeze and the slowly dying light.

Emma, the old girl, enjoys loafing in a patch of cool sand. That she has excavated it directly on the path to the deck doesn't bother me. Visitors can go around. Mags usually stays close and is most often actually up on the deck with me, stretched out on a strip of indoor/outdoor carpet I put down for them. Jack is usually much too busy for relaxation to take hold. After all, there are brush piles to inspect, tall grassy areas to explore, and the "little woods" behind the house to check out for treasures and adventures. Now that all my plants are in large cow-tubs, he is even welcome to patrol the garden and has learned to open the gate on his own.

The only down-side is the prevalence of ferocious thunderstorms in the late afternoon and the possibility of tornadoes. But that goes with the territory.

June on the High Plains and life is good!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Moving day

Friday my neighbor moved the main herd from one 15,000 acre range to another of about the same size. I tagged along just for the fun of it. It was an easy job since the oldsters pretty much knew where they were going. I also think they wanted a crack at the nice, untried grass on that side. It's interesting to watch their millennia-old habits come to the fore. The bulls naturally gravitated to the front, flanks and rear of the herd and stayed there. Some of the newborns had to run for quite a few miles and were tuckered by the end of the drive. Watching 6000+ of these very large critters move so easily across the Plains is a great sight. One I never get tired of. But it's still hard to imagine millions in a single herd.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Morning visitor

Late this morning, as I sat on the deck reading a newspaper, Emma began to bark insistently. At first I thought it might be the UPS man coming down the road. But she kept it up and I could see there was no one on the road. I looked over the deck to where she stood, only about five feet away and right away saw the problem. A large bull snake was in the front dog pen, coiled up against a tree truck and ready to fight my noisy Shorthair.

This is itself was strange, as usually Em will just dive right in, oblivious to bites, and terminate a snake with extreme prejudice. But this time she was standing off and barking. I didn't want her to kill it, so I started down the steps to close the pen gate so she couldn't get at it. Just as I expected she would as soon as she saw me coming she lunged at the visitor to grab him. I had already figured out some time ago that she is far more ruthless with snakes if I am close by. Her protective instinct is flattering but a little too destructive for my taste. This time I managed to call her off and made her keep her distance while I swung the gate closed. She continued to bark but obeyed when I called her inside.

Jack was there the whole time, standing shoulder to shoulder with her but not barking or lunging at the snake. He was very interested in Mr Slithers, but wasn't making any moves toward it. I like this aspect of Jack's personality: He is by no means timid, but rather he is careful and thoughtful about interlopers and "strange things," without the instinct to dive straight in that has made Emma such a consummate murderer of reptiles and assorted other critters. Jack watches, circles, ponders, and as likely as not comes to get me. "Come see what I found!"

When I went back outside, the snake was gone. This is not the first time I have seen him on the place, so I'm hoping that maybe Em is mellowing in her old age.

For those who might not know... A bull snake (Pituophis melanoleucus sayi) is a non-poisonous snake that is a great exterminator of rodents. For that reason alone I like to have them around, but in general am not a snake fan at all.