This place never ceases to astound me as a photographer. On the face of it, it is really nothing more than an old, somewhat dumpy, quarry area with a collection of shallow, swampy, ponds–but time has started to smooth out the scars and I almost never seem to go away from a photo visit without creating at least one good image, no matter the hour or the light.
A few days ago, we went for an afternoon walk around the ponds. The sun was still rather high…the light harsh. I had few expectations so didn’t bother with hauling the tripod along.
Still, Sawhill Ponds managed to rise once again to the occasion and show me something I had never seen before in my many, many trips out there.
Or is it that my creative eye is slowly maturing and is beginning to pick up on more sophisticated scenes?
…Landscapes that push beyond the boundaries of the traditional and the cliché, and on into the realm of the abstract…
First, here is a composition that appears quite busy at first glance, but is actually reasonably simple in terms of line, texture, and even form. Squint and blur your eyes and you might see what I mean. What caught my hairy eyeball was the way the winds were painting their way across the leaves and branches of a giant cottonwood tree–a tree with wonderful diagonals. The effect was almost surreal:
Second, here is a reflection I had never before seen nor captured in quite the same way, a nearby power pole supplying a sort of vertical focal point. The unusually low water level certainly helped by adding the many textured layers:
POSTSCRIPT: For those who are fans of the added element of color, here are the original versions of the above two photographs. I think I like them just as much as their monochrome clones. They are just different–the eye tends to move over the picture differently…notice different things. Which is better? I’m not sure…
—WHERE: The Darkroom Gallery, 515 Main Street, Longmont, Colorado, 80501 (right next door to the Longmont Theater); 303-485-7191
—WHEN: The Opening is Friday, December 9, 2016, 6-9p.m., and the art will be hanging at The Darkroom until December 31st. After the first of the New Year through February 23, 2017, the entire show will be moved to Bin 46 Food and Wine Bar just a couple of blocks to the north (600 Longs Peak Avenue).
—WHO: The jurors…Wesley Jessup, – Executive Director, Longmont Museum and Cultural Center; Kevin Holliday, – Owner, Kevin Holliday Photography and internationally recognized/ awarded fine-art photographer; Julie Cardinal, – Executive Director/Curator – The DARKROOM Longmont.
Here are the four images you will be able to see as large prints…
This one, “Radiance”, will be displayed at 27 x 40 inches and will look much nicer “live” than what you currently see on your tiny mobile phone or computer screen:
The following three will be printed at 16 x 24 inches on plexiglass to enhance the glow:
Note the birth date in the blog title and think about this: If he were still alive today he would be 125 years young. So, when Cliff was a child, there were Civil War veterans sitting around the dinner table telling stories about Yanks and Rebs–and those old, crusty, 19th century vets would have been about the same age as today’s Vietnam veterans.
It’s amazing how far, far away things in history might seem. But they aren’t really that remote when you look creatively at certain personal connections.
Cliff and his wife, grandmother Helen, used to take me out arrowhead hunting on the plains around Cheyenne. They knew where the old tipi circles were and, by golly, we found real arrowheads there! Young and impressionable, this was all so exciting and I could sense in my bones the ghosts of the Arapaho, Arikara, Bannock, Blackfeet, Cheyenne, Crow, Gros Ventre, Kiowa, Nez Perce, Sheep Eater, Sioux, Shoshone and Ute tribes as we scoured the rocky ground…their apparitions seemed to me to be very much present on what has since become national forest or private cattle and sheep ranches. (Another sad chapter for another day.)
He would take me fishing, too, and show me how to sneak up on the trout in the little prairie streams.
The one and only (and last!) time I went hunting was with him–when he was 85 years old! I actually killed an antelope with one shot, while standing, with the antelope jogging along a good 100 yards away–I couldn’t believe it. Fantastic luck or horrible luck, depending on your number of legs. I had no idea what to do next, so it was my grandfather–yes, at his age–who did all the dirty work with the knife to get the animal in the trunk of the car and ready for the butcher. We always ate the meat he hunted.
I like to think that today, if he were my age, instead of hunting we would be hiking Colorado 14ers together, or rock climbing, or cycling, or photographing (he was a very avid amateur photographer and especially loved his various Polaroid Land Cameras).
Cliff was called up for World War I, but the armistice was signed just days before he was to report. He was considered too old for World War II. He scraped through the Great Depression, so always cleaned up his plate at dinner–and was a big fan of FDR.
He raised chinchillas for fur (pre-Depression, pre-animal rights!), sold cars and calendars, traveled around and set up movie projectors for shows, owned and operated several grocery/sundry-type stores…he basically did whatever he needed to do to make a living. He also wrote stories and poetry, collected rocks, even building a house, fountains, and flower beds out of all the unusual rocks he found. (You can still see some bits of his handiwork at 711 E. 18th Street in Cheyenne, Wyoming.)
And he always had stories…
One of his best was about the first automobile he ever saw. The “vehicle” was on its way, very slooowly, from Colorado Springs to Denver and the driver had to spend the night in Larkspur (Grandpa’s birthplace) at mid-journey. Cliff and his excited young buddies helped push the very under-powered and novel contraction up a sandy hill. The rest o’ the story? Some 20-30 years later, he just happened to run in to that very same driver (now much older) in Cliff’s store in Carr, Colorado, some 100 miles to the north. It all came up in a casual conversation between them about the incredible progress of automobile design. Such was the intimate nature of the population back then.
As you drive north on I-25, just before you hit the Wyoming State line, you’ll see some unusually sculptured sandstone formations on both sides of the interstate highway. This, at one time, was a wonderful rest stop maintained by the State of Colorado called “Natural Fort”, and we picnicked and played here often as kids. It was a kid paradise. The rumor was that a skirmish between Indian tribes (or was it between the Indians and the settlers?) took place here, so that’s what we re-enacted. Now, as evidenced by the many broken bottles and spray-painted graffiti, the place seems to be the big party spot for kids from Cheyenne, Fort Collins, and the few surrounding rural communities.
Anyway…One day, when Cliff was 16 years old, he stopped by a section of those rocks, likely on horseback and perhaps while out hunting rabbits for the home kettle, and carved his name and the date–“1907”–in the soft stone. Then, some 90 years later, my brothers stopped by and dug the thing a bit deeper as erosion was taking its toll (they were considering it sort of an historical artifact–or is it merely older graffiti?).
This year, I stopped by myself for a look-see and found it still visible (above), although erosion and lichen are both continuing to work in tandem to make it disappear.
The big questions: What will become of my grandfather when the wind and the rain finally smooth over the rock completely? What will happen when there are no longer any grandsons to carve the signature and date more deeply into the disappearing stone? What will happen when the rock itself is completely gone?
With the deciduous leaves freezing into brown, blowing and whipping about, and dropping from the trees in the high country, it’s time to dip down in elevation to follow the gold.
Boulder Canyon and the high plains around Boulder are in their prime right now.
From a photo outing yesterday with my buddy Dana Bove, here are a few images from one of our favorite haunts, Sawhill Ponds…
At the last minute, the sun poked out from between the clouds and the mountains for just a few, very short, minutes. You have to work fast when you get the good light:
Here is a telephoto view to play with the compression of perspective. On the left and above treeline, you can see the Arapaho Glacier (or what remains of it) just below the South and North Arapaho Peaks which are holding up the clouds. Many of the remaining summits of the Indian Peaks Wilderness is spread out to the right along the the Continental Divide. Most of the aspen up high have lost their leaves now (note the recent dusting of snow up there), but Sawhill Ponds, down near 5,000′, seemed to be peaking:
Often, flipping an image upside down is considered gimmicky. Perhaps in this case also, but I liked the strange, surreal, effect in this composition:
The nearby electrical lines seemed to me to be lighting up the clouds:
Finally, I am always looking for unusual abstracts that work well in monochrome. This one will challenge the viewer for sure–perhaps too much:
#1 – Those lotion bottles with the squirt tops that malfunction ALL the time–AND, even if they work properly they don’t reach the bottom of the bottle…so, for the last few weeks or even months, you end up banging out the last 1/5th of the total lotion volume by violent hand smacks as if the container were a Heinz ketchup bottle.
#2 – Hard plastic packaging that is molded tightly around the object you purchased (a small battery or a memory stick, say). It seems to be made of some extraterrestrial material and the jaws of life are required to open the damn thing up. You certainly can’t do it by hand. It makes me want to send the package back to the CEO of the company (C.O.D.) and ask HER to open it.
#3 – Pop-up ads. Have I already mentioned this one before? Can’t remember. Even if I did, I definitely wish to say it again…and again…and again. I HATE those things.
The clusters of color are slowly fading away into winter monochrome. In another week or so, as the wind, snow, and cold do their seasonal and necessary work, you’ll have to honk yourself farther south with the geese for your Kodachrome fix.
This sunrise wasn’t quite a “ten” yesterday, but it still offered up a few nice compositional possibilities thanks to the unusual cloud activity.
Location? Bureau of Land Management’s North Fruita Desert, just a few miles north of Fruita, Colorado. (This is one of those minor mountain biking meccas, if that is your thing.)
I used all of my lenses as the sun came up–the 14-24, the 24-70, and the 70-200, but I seem to always have a special affinity for the latter, even with landscapes–I like how the views are compressed at 200mm.
All but two of the following photographs were made with that longer lens.
From Leadville, try CR1 and CR3 uphill to the east. Explore and see what you find!
Some images from the area…
The Leaning Tower of ore chutes:
Many of the structures lend themselves well to the creation of abstract (and chaotic) images:
A closer look at the ore chutes used to load the wagons. The ore would then be taken down the mountain for further processing:
Here, a trestle still hangs precariously up in the Colorado sky. Small ore cars could be loaded up at the mine itself then sent directly by rail to the chutes:
A larger view of the disintegrating trestle leading to the ore chute:
In many mining areas like this, the entire hillside was stripped of trees for use as fuel, or as supporting timbers within the mines, or for building other necessary structures. Note the many old, grey, tree stumps that were left behind:
The next two photographs were attempts at some more storytelling/abstract images:
In many areas, the ground was pockmarked with exploratory craters. It reminded me of what I saw once upon visiting the Verdun battlefield in France:
This next building looks like it was a house at one time. Inside, though, was a brick structure of some kind–a pizza (bread) oven? A kiln? A smelter??? In a nearby building we found scraps of an old Denver Post newspaper that seems to date from the 1920s (we are still trying to sleuth-out the exact date based on the few clues we have from the clippings):
2016 Black & White Magazine, Spotlight Award Winner!
All photographs on this website (unless otherwise indicated) were created by and are the property of Daniel R. Joder and may not be used for any purpose without permission. Most of the images you will find here are available for license or purchase. If you are interested in using one of my images for your website, or if you would like a print, please contact me directly (See the Contact and Purchase Prints buttons for more information).