Work and Play

Heard this quote today for the first time and loved it, so passing it along to you …

The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his education and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him he is always doing both.

Kodachrome (movie)

IMDB Link – Kodachrome

I recognize the risk of this being cliché in recommending this film on my site, but it was truly one I deemed worthy of passing along. I am not a film reviewer and so as not to risk any spoilers I don’t plan on going into any of the details of the movie.

I do however feel that many of my readers will find great metaphors and symbolism to the plot of the surface and deeper meanings in the interplay of the charachers. If you’re searching for something to watch, give it a shot and let me know what you think.

PSA – I didn’t unfriend you

Back in April 2018 I shared in a post titled Just Do It that I was pulling back on social media but not ready for a departure. Well I have now made the next plunge. With the exception of Twitter (and it’s under review) I have been slowly closing accounts (Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc.)

The main subject of this site has never been used as a political platform and I don’t intend it be that now so I am not planning on going into the specifics of my decision, but we’ll just leave it with I have finally had enough of the manipulation and have chosen to make my exit.

The real reason for this post is for you out there who read this site and we’re following me on social media I wanted to let you know that I haven’t “un-friended” you. I still plan on keeping this site going (perhaps be able to give it more attention) and look forward to our conversations and sharing on this platform.



Three Days in God’s Country

I have written and shared about my past trips out to these parts, but I believe I have been remiss in expressing gratitude to those who help me and afford me access to their lands so I’d like to take a few minutes to remedy this. Firstly to each and every land owner who through my connection with locals have allowed accompanied visits to your lands (I am omitting names and specific references to places to protect these individuals – they will know who they are by recognizing views in my images). Without you my trips would be restricted to the roads and public lands and I hope the only evidence of my trip are footprints and images captured with my camera. Lastly, and certainly not least, I would like to thank Melanie Gentry of Luz Del Valle Images for her willingness to take me to these wonderful locations and her family for allowing me to stay at their home. Thank each of you, for you truly embody the meaning of West Texas hospitality and generosity.

For readers who might not be familiar with the daily rhythm of landscape photographers, allow me a few lines to describe a typical day when on a shoot. I think this might help explain some of the images and the journal entries that follow. It’s also key to understanding the reasoning for these strange hours is because of the light. Morning (sunrise through golden hour) and evening (golden hour through sunset – and later) offer the best light for taking landscape photographs. For those of you who share in this craft, I hope this gives you a grin and if you aren’t currently on an assignment it piques your appetite to get out again soon.

A typical day of a landscape photographer …

About two hours (sometimes longer depending on travel) before sunrise you get up and grab gear, coffee (or whatever your morning fuel is) and head out to a previously determined location to shoot sunrise. This doesn’t always mean you are taking pictures of the sunrise itself, but subjects illuminated by this sunrise light.

Once the sun has come up all the way you begin packing it up and heading back to camp or town for breakfast (usually a pretty big one because it’s been a long time since dinner and lunch might be skipped). After breakfast, the scouting process begins. When shooting with a group of photographers this can be especially fun. You spend the next several hours either traveling to a pre-discovered location to check on if it “is time” for this location to be shot, or you are navigating to waypoints that looked interesting on a map or just flat scanning from a vehicle to find spots for that evening’s shoot. You don’t typically waste too much time during this process because this is also your main time window for edits, gear maintenance and sleep.

Around dinner time you begin determining time of meal and departure. Depending on distance to your sunset and night shots, you will either grab a bite to eat now or head out to sunset location and return for some dinner before shooting any night sky (and light painting). As this is your longest window of time to shoot, this is when you spend the most amount of time in the field or returning for post processing, etc. before eating or going to sleep.

Next day, rinse and repeat!

Day 1

Day one was my main travel day. It takes me about 6:30 to 7:00 (depending on stops) from my home to here. We did run out after some dinner to shoot at a new location. The following are two night shots – one to the East (the small town at the bottom of the images is Dell City) and one to the West (looking towards the Cornudas mountains). I neglected to calculate my focal length to shutter timer so I apologize for the blur in the stars (500 rule does matter!).

(click images to enlarge)

Day 2

Day two started early. Out for a sunrise at the same location as yesterday evening. The mountain was captured in perfect silhouette as the sun crested behind Guadalupe peak. Scouting resulted in a new location to try for sunset and the second image from today. The white mound in the mid-ground of this image is from a gypsum mining pit located out in the salt basin. The mountains to the West you might recognize as the Cornudas range.

(click images to enlarge)

Day 3

Day three we did not go out for sunrise, but slept in a little bit for a longer road trip day. Weather reports and confirmation from other locals showed snow and or mix up in the mountains so that’s where we headed. The first two images from today are captures from the storm up and around Queen, NM and Dog Canyon, GNP (TX). I love black and white images and when shooting during the non-prime time of sunrise/sunset it is the prime time to develop in b&w. The third image is of Sitting Bull Falls, which is located in Lincoln National Forest.

(click images to enlarge)

I hope you have enjoyed these images and my chronicle of spending three day’s in God’s country. This is one of my favorite places to hike and chase light and I can’t wait to get back out there again.




A Conversation with Melanie Gentry of Luz Del Valle Images

My friend and fellow photographer, Melanie Gentry of Luz Del Valle Images is in the process of releasing a new book. I recently got the chance to interview her about her artwork and this project.

As some of you might now, I spent a few years of my youth living in Dell City, TX (a small West Texas community between Carlsbad, NM and El Paso, TX along US Highway 62-180).  During those years, my family and I made some lifelong friends.  Melanie Gentry of Luz Del Valle Images is one of these friends, and in our adult years we’ve been brought back in contact with one another through our common passion for landscape photography.  I have had the privilege to tag along with Melanie on several occasions recently and photograph some of this vast landscape of our beautiful state.

Melanie is in the process of releasing a book that shares some of this countries history through the research of Mrs. Oleeta Etcheverry and her photographs. I wanted to chat with her about her art and this project, the following is the interview I had with her on June 8, 2018.  I hope you enjoy the interview and consider supporting her project.

Q. What’s your background with photography and how long have you been doing it?

I’ve had an interest in photography since childhood. My grandmother gave me a Kodak Brownie StarFlash camera when I was in elementary school and I graduated to a 35mm SLR by high school.

I really became serious about it when I studied agricultural communications at Texas Tech University and photography was among the offerings.

My aunt, Alice Shelton, was the designated family photographer and had learned how to develop and enlarge her own photos, so when she encountered issues with her eyesight she decided to sell her equipment. My parents new that I was enjoying my photography classes and bought her equipment and gave it to me for Christmas my sophomore year at Tech.

I absolutely loved processing negatives and prints in the dark room, but at the same time Photoshop was just launched so I learned the digital darkroom techniques we use today and I enjoyed that process too. Back then we would shoot and print our images and scan, crop and make adjustments for publication design and layouts.

When I graduated from Texas Tech, I launched a marketing and communications consulting business with my Mom and have provided grant writing, marketing, design and photography services for the last 18 years.

We lost my Dad 25 years ago and I turned to photographing sunsets as a coping mechanism. Looking back, I’m certain that my grandmother knew photography was my calling and that it would be the one constant in my life!  I am so humbled and blessed by all that her gift has given me.

Q. As evident in your book that is coming out, you have a great love of photographing landscapes, but do you do other types of photography as well?

I offer natural light portraiture and commercial photography services including product, real-estate, special event and equine photography.

Lightning and storm photography is my true dealing mechanism. There is something about watching a powerful monsoon storm build and roll across the desert lowlands that just puts things into perspective for me. These storms can be so powerful, chaotic and destructive, but at the same time there is pure beauty and tranquility within them.

Q. What’s the best way for folks who would like to support your work to back you in your current project?

The most difficult part of self-publishing is meeting the printing costs upfront, and there have also been several people who want to see our local history preserved and they have contributed to the project. I haven’t asked for “donations” in the traditional sense because I believe there are far more important causes people can  support in that way and I want anyone who contributes to have something in return so I am doing pre sales.  I’ve been tied up on a couple of other projects and have not had a chance to update the total raised, but we are about $500 out from meeting the goal on printing costs.

Anyone who would like to have a little bit of our area’s history in print can visit the book project page to learn more:

Helping to get the word out about the project is also a great way to provide support.

Q. Any other projects in the works you share with us at this time?

Photography is a lifelong learning process and for me the satisfaction comes from the journey to perfect the process.  I taught media technology at Dell City ISD for two years in the mid 90’s and I loved the interactive, hands-on side of teaching. It was rewarding to see a creative spark emerge into a burning passion in some of my students.  So that is something I wanted to get back to in some way, so I  just launched an educational portal as an off-shoot to my commercial photography business – Luz Del Valle Images.

It’s called Show Up & Shoot!

The main goal is to lessen the frustration of getting off auto mode for beginners and amateur photographers and help them realize a unique creative style. Taking control of the camera is a big step – when you can read the light and dial in manual settings everything else starts to become second nature.

I’ll be adding free content on SAUS as a way of paying it forward, but I also have the cost of running a business to consider so I offer a variety of paid options for folks who want to take their photography to semi-pro or pro level.  Those services range from group or private tours and workshops to on site coaching and virtual mentoring for individuals.

Q. Any other comments you’d like to share with folks out there that might be reading this and have an interest in photography?

Photography is both my dealing mechanism and a source of income I have learned over time not to get too caught up in the chase for the latest, greatest gadget. The best advice I can give anyone who is starting out is to find a camera that matches your skillset and then upgrade or add to your gear bag as you develop confidence and want to expand your skills and capabilities. The main thing is to find the style that fits you and then immerse yourself in the light and shadow. The fun is in the chase!

I have a lot of people ask me for tips on shooting lightning and I am reluctant to really share outside of a workshop setting because it is dangerous.  If you’re going to shoot storms or lightning learn about storm development and movement and make safety your top priority! Please don’t get caught up in the moment and place yourself at greater risk. When I see images from novice shooters who put themselves in danger to get those shots it really rattles me.  I had a couple of close calls last year – they were purely from the unpredictability of nature and not from carelessness. It didn’t discourage me from going out again, but I am very safety conscious so did make me look for ways to be better prepared.