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!