Monday, May 2, 2016

Construction Zone

I'm in Port Aransas and since I was last here in October it seems like construction has doubled. The first thing I noticed is that across the street from my hotel has been paved. The construction sign says that soon there will be 100 RV parking places. Last October it looked like it was part of the salt marsh. Maybe a bit higher than the land around it but not much.

As I have driven around Mustang Island I'm really shocked at all of the home construction. The picture above is a development of beautiful houses. They must be building at least 10 more with construction trucks parked on both sides of a new street. Just like you would see in any subdivision that is going up.  Most of the houses you can see in the distance are occupied with lovely landscaping and window treatments already in place. People are living there.

This isn't the only change that is happening but the thing that really hit me today is how fast the Island is changing. I am really glad that I started photographing for the book I'm working on in conjunction with the Mercer Logs some time ago. It is going to be harder and harder to find landscapes and things that connect me with excerpts from the logs.

I know I'll sound like an old Fogey because I hate seeing these changes but the lyrics from Big Yellow Taxi came to mind.

Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you've got til its gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot

Thursday, April 28, 2016

La Selva Orchidia

A most wonderful morning this week. Bill Bartlett is a friend of mine but I had never been to his Orchid jungle before but now that I'm joining the Orchid Club in San Miguel and I'm going to try to keep some alive, I wanted to see his renown collection. I knew that groups scheduled tours to see it and now I understand why. Bill has had some of his orchids for decades and I am overwhelmed with the beauty and variety in his Orchid jungle. I could have made a 1000 images of the orchids that were in bloom, and there were many varieties that were blooming, but I was so busy listening to this expert and trying to absorb a bit of his knowledge that I didn't have time to make lots of photographs.

Bill is going to come visit me in San Miguel this year. I just hope that by the time he arrives I haven't killed off the few orchids that I have and that I have a bit more knowledge than I do now. I'd love to have a tiny Selva Orchidia like Bill's and I'm hoping I can figure out how to do that in the patio.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Twenty-two Years Ago

This week I had a panic attack. I was looking on my hard drive for a series of work I did in Pozas, the Surreal Garden. I didn't always keyword back sometime in 2000's and that was when the work was shot with a Holga camera and medium format film. So using keywords wasn't helping. Running through folder names wasn't working either. Oh, I have backup hard drives but the panic starts to set in. Could this hard drive be dying? What else could be missing? What will it cost to have it restored if it isn't on the other backup drives? That is, if it can be restored. Finally I noticed a folder name, FotoFest 2006. It was inside the folder for the year 2006. My file plan is to put images in yearly folders and then in sub-folders chronologically by date made. These images were not made in 2006 but I opened it and there were all of the images I had been searching for. I melted back into my chair.

I guess at the time when I named the folder, FotoFest 2006 and put it inside the year 2006 it seemed like a reasonable thing to do because these images made up my Goldesberry Gallery FotoFest show in 2006. But it wasn't logical in 2016. It gave me quite a scare. And it caused me to look back at old images just to be sure they were still there.

This particular scanned negative was made at a festival in Ocotlan in the State of Oaxaca in 1994. Twenty-two years ago and yet when I look at these young men running through the crowd with the fireworks exploding from the structures over them, I can still remember everything about that night.

I've been a photographer for a long time.

Twenty-two years ago. Isn't that something!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Desert Colors

Back in March I went to Big Bend National Park with photography friends. It was my first time there and I thought that maybe I would print a small portfolio of 10 or 12 black and white images for myself. Now I'm working on processing the files and I'm not so sure about the black and white plan. This image captures the colors in such a painterly way. I think it is going to hold up for a large print.

Several of my friends who went have been to Big Bend many, many times and certainly I've seen hundreds of pictures of the place. I mentioned that I wanted to see Big Bend but I didn't feel I would make any picture that had not already been made. That might be true but I did make some that I like.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

A Flood of Memories

Having lived in Houston for most of my life, I've seen the bayous flood many a time so I started thinking about some of them. One of the most memorable was probably when we were headed to the airport to pick up Son #2 who was coming home for the summer from Manhattan School of Music. It was dark. We were on a two lane road. It was raining hard. The water from the fields on either side of the road started coming over the road. In a few minutes we couldn't go back and we didn't dare go forward. Someone in a pickup truck came along. He said he was headed to the Hog Breath Saloon and he would take us there. He assured us it was high ground. Not knowing how much higher the water would get, although the rain was letting up, it was already coming in under the door so we left the car and went. We didn't want to be "those people" on TV who are sitting on top of their floating car as they are being rescued by the first responders in a power boat. 

The Hog Breath was as bad as you might think it would be. Maybe worse. A parking lot paved with oyster shell. Old wooden building on concrete blocks. Pool table and players with an attitude. Bar lit with neon lights advertising beers. Men in jeans and T-shirts with the sleeves cut out. A few pudgy women out of central casting with big Texas blonde hair, tight jeans and tank tops. Loud country music. Lots of smoke. You could feel that they were wondering what the hell we were doing there. We definitely didn't look like we belonged.

About three hours later, our friend Tom managed to come by another route that was a bit higher to pick us up and get us to the airport. That night was an adventure. Wish I had some pictures of the Hog Breath Saloon.

I don't remember how bad the November, 2003 flood in this picture was but usually when Buffalo Bayou floods it is all the way up the embankment to the left and over the four-lane road to the next small embankment. When I made this picture the flood had receded but was still outside of Buffalo Bayou's regular banks. We lived close by and I had been photographing the bayou for a project so I took two Holga cameras and went over to get pictures of some of the flood waters that were still rushing through Houston.

At one point I walked up the embankment where it was a little steeper to get around some mud and the ground started giving way under me. After a trying to make another step or two, I realized I was only making the situation worse so I laid down spread-eagle and got stabilized. I started inching sideways but a little more ground gave way with each schooch. Trust me, schooch is a verb in Texas. By the time I finally schooched onto stable ground my feet were about two feet from the rushing water.

And there was the flood when. . . . .
This blog entry is already too long. I'll save that story for the next Houston flood.

The picture is Buffalo Bayou headed toward downtown Houston which you can barely see through the trees. Buffalo Bayou flows on through downtown and becomes the Houston Ship Channel a few miles east of the downtown area. 

Sunday, April 3, 2016

The Rio Grande


This is the Rio Grande as it snakes between Mexico and Texas in Big Bend Texas State Park. The thin line that divides two countries. Everytime we stopped at some vantage point to look at the river, I wondered; "Where are they going to build The Wall in this rugged country?"  "What will it cost?" And don't tell me that Mexico is going to pay for it.

Today, Sunday Morning News on CBS ran a segment on the United States/Mexico border at the small village of Boquillas which is on the Mexican side of the Rio Grande but it had long been an informal crossing point between the two countries. Many Americans liked to visit Boquillas to say they had been to Mexico. After 9/11 the United States stopped anyone from crossing. Now there is a formal Port of Entry for checking in and out with a passport and people can once again cross back and forth. But the informality of going between the two countries hasn't totally disappeared. This crossing is just about a mile South of the Port of Entry and the guys on horses went back and forth several times while we were making pictures from a ridge above the Rio Grande. It felt very old west.

This is facing East from Boquillas toward the Gulf of Mexico.

The Sunday Morning News showed the reporter wading in this area at the entrance to Santa Elena Canyon. I doubt it is more than knee deep. I almost felt like they had stood in my foot prints to make their video for the show. But this natural wall between the two countries is a favorite of photographers. With the right light and from the right place I've seen fabulous images.


I was surprised at the emotional response I had in seeing the Rio Grande from these vantage points. I almost wanted to weep. Maybe it is because I live in Mexico but the United States is still my country. Maybe it was because of the vitriol that is being generated against immigrants during the Presidential campaign. While I was looking at the River I thought that I would write something very political on the blog. I'm not going to do that except to say I hope The Wall does not ever happen.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

The Resurrection - Mexican Style

Last night I watched an amazing celebration at the San Antonio Church. The plaza in front of the church is large and it was full with families who came prepared with stools for the elders to sit on or for the Mom's who were holding little ones. Around the edges there were vendors selling fast food and others selling candles of all sizes.

When we first arrived the music and prayers sounded solemn like many of the Semana Santa services and processions that I have seen in the last week but suddenly fireworks erupted from the roof and the bell towers of the church.
Up from the grave he arose;
with a mighty triumph o'er his foes;
he arose a victor from the dark domain,
and he lives forever,
with the saints to reign.
He arose! He arose! Hallelujah!
Christ arose!  
 Christ appeared with his arms outstretched and his white shroud loosened and flowing from his body. He was carried on a pallet covered in flowers through the plaza above the heads of the crowd. White balloons soared into the night sky, confetti drifted from the roof of the church as more and more fireworks lit up the sky. The music changed from solemn to snappy contemporary rhythms and everyone was singing and waving white pompoms. On the terrace of the church the priest was leading by waving a pompom and jumping up and down. A young man by the priest was like a cheerleader urging the crowd on.
We watched this joyful celebration for about 30 minutes and it was still going on when we left the plaza. It was the most joyous and beautiful religious ceremony I think I've ever been to.