So, the spring snow storm continues here in Colorado. In the Foothills now, it looks more like mid-winter than it does May Day, so there were lots of folks out capturing images with whatever camera they had handy–iPhone, point-and-shoots, DSLRs, even GoPros held out the window of a slow cruising car.
This kind of meteorological instability is really not unusual, though, as March and April can actually be very heavy months for precip in these parts.
The snow line must have been right at 5,430 feet above mean sea level today as the flakes turned to wet rain the minute they hit the streets here in town–but, just a few hundred feet higher, the snow accumulated heavily in the trees, bending their boughs under a very wet, thick, blanket of white.
April snow showers bring May sun and flowers??? We’ll see!
Here are a few images from Flagstaff Mountain this afternoon as we move from April into May…ever closer to summer.
Can you spot the raptor soaring between the Second and Third Flatiron?
Here is a closer view of the raptor, or…? Let me know, ornithologists, if you have a positive I.D. on this gal or guy:
The weight of these spring snows can break tree limbs and down power lines:
One of the many switchbacks that climb the hill, a route popular with local cyclists and rock climbers who specialize in bouldering:
The jagged north profile of the First Flatiron was occasionally visible as the cloud base moved and wreathed up and down:
So, this is sort of a short photo-documentary of a journey with the brand new “yerno” (son-in-law), Martín Montané, from the City of Mendoza up to San Juan Province to load up a small truck with crates of juicy Malbec grapes.
The harvest was destined for the Montané family’s home wine-making operation (their artisanal label Facebook page: Tierra Adentro).
El Valle del Pedernal sits at about 4,600 feet above sea level, on the eastern, more arid, slope of the Andes Mountains. It has only recently been developed as a major grape-growing area, but will likely eventually rival Valle de Uco (Mendoza) as a quality growing region:
Some of the grapes are harvested by machine, others by hand. It all depends on what the final wine product will be. The machine isn’t quite as neat as the hand of a real human bean (sic) in harvesting, though, so it is the manually-picked grapes that will likely go into making the better wines. The small bins to the right are ours for the Montané Tierra Adentro artisanal winery. Normally, during the harvest, much, much larger crates are filled, then loaded by tractor onto big semi-trucks–as you can just barely see in the background on the far left. Our 30-bin “take” was a pretty puny job by the standards of this huge finca (farm):
As the workers filled our bins, Martín went through each and did an initial, cursory, cleaning of leaves, loose stems, and any potentially rotten grapes that could affect the batch. From what he said, the harvest looked to be of excellent quality overall–and they did taste nice and juicy!
The foreman directs the crew to divert their attention temporarily from the big industrial-sized crates and to fill up our small plastic bins. The work is done in just a few minutes. The man at the left holds a device which records the number of bins harvested by each worker–that’s how they are paid. If I understood and converted correctly, they get about a dollar a bin–and those things weigh in at about 40-45 pounds per bin. Definitely hard work!
The man in the round hat with the device is registering another bin load from a worker. Note the huge crate of grapes that will eventually be loaded onto the semi-trailer truck. As a guess, each one must weigh in at 500 to 1,000 pounds when full. That’s Marcelo Bernal walking toward us down the road, the in-charge day-to-day manager of the whole 600-plus acre operation:
One of the hard-working guys on the harvest crew, probably a local Sanjuanino. If you are in to soccer at all, you’ll notice he is a fan of the famous Boca Juniors team, based in Buenos Aires. Those are scissors in his right hand for cutting the grapes from the vine. He is assigned a bin with a number and earns cash for each one he fills. It is hot, hard, sticky work:
The final bins are filled. That’s our little truck on the left that will soon be stuffed with 30 of them, or about 1,000 pounds of Malbec grapes:
Martín does some light, organic, disinfecting of each bin prior to loading:
Exactly thirty of those plastic bins will fit inside–not one more. We barely wedged the spare tire on top of it all when we were finally packed up! The tarp will be used to cover and seal the load. Why? Because we are transporting between the Province of San Juan and the Province of Mendoza and there are strict import-export ag controls between the two regions. Neither Province wants to spread pests–like the Mediterranean fruit fly, for example–into the other. Before leaving San Juan, the load will be inspected and sealed with a special, tamper-proof, metal tie. The load will be inspected again when we cross into Mendoza, and a third time once we arrive at the Montané bodega (their garage, actually) in Mendoza to make sure the the cargo has stayed sealed and the grapes are pest-free:
Martín Montané waits while the finca boss, Marcelo Bernal completes the paperwork on the sale of the grapes. All of this paperwork must be in order for us to transport everything back to Mendoza City, a three-hour journey to the south:
This map of the grape types grown on the finca was on the wall at the farm headquarters. I was impressed by how neat and orderly everything was–the buildings, the machinery, the harvesting process, and the perfect, perfect rows of all the different grape varieties, which included Malbec, Syrah, Cabernet, Chardonnay, Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, and Merlot. They also have a huge walnut grove (Chandler variety) at the farm (in yellow on the map):
Once back in Mendoza City and at the home bodega of the Montané family, the grapes went immediately into a machine to de-stem and crush the fruity rounds. In another century, this might have been done by many bare (and very stained!) feet, but the machine makes it a simple and quick task. Below, Facundo Montané, Martín’s brother and family jefe of the whole operation, skims off the stems that somehow make it through into the “must” (say, moost) bucket. The stripped stems fall into the left-hand bucket:
A top view of the machine. Martín tries to pull out any obvious loose leaves or stems just to make things even cleaner. Watch your hands!
Then the must gets poured into the fermentation tank:
Facundo checks the sugar content of the batch. It sits right at 22-23, so it looks good!
The next steps in the wine-making process, after the fermentation, will be “clarification” (separating the clear fluid from the chunky stuff), then aging and bottling. At the Montané bodega, they hope to produce somewhere in excess of 4,000-5,000 bottles of several different wine varieties–as they have in years past. What they do is exactly what the big bodega’s do, but at Tierra Adentro, it is obviously on a smaller scale, much more artesanal, and very hands-on.
Being essentially a non-drinker (I just don’t like the taste of alcohol, more than for any other reason), this was all quite an education for me. A big thanks to Martín, Facundo, and the whole Montané family, as well as to jefe Marcelo Bernal for the wonderful sunrise tour of the Pedernales finca!
So, keep your eyes on the wine list at your local restaurant here in the States…lets see if any from El Valle del Pedernal, Argentina, start showing up. I am betting they will very soon!
For some color landscapes of the finca at El Valle del Pedernal (previously posted on Facebook)… CLICK HERE!!!
It has been awhile since my last visit to my favorite local area sunrise perch, Sugarloaf Mountain…but the unstable weather conditions were calling.
In Boulder, the previous day there were lots of low clouds with a small cold front moving through, with this particular morning (27 April) forecast as clearing. The possibility of some nice cloud layers below the Sugarloaf summit was there–and so it was. And so was I (despite the 4a.m. wakeup!)
A handful of images…
The pre-sunrise light up here always seems very blue, a color that also communicates the cold temps of this particular morning. That’s Denver off to the right in the distance and probably Louisville on the left. Boulder is buried under cloud. From left to right you can also see the profiles of the First Flatiron, Green Mountain, and Bear Peak. The lights from a couple of mountain homes can also be seen between Green and Bear, and in the very near foreground:
Moving from a telephoto shot (above), I switched to the 24-70 and tried to work with the sculpted summit stump. The elephant-shaped cloud helped fill in all that negative space in the sky. It snowed about an inch up here last night:
Back to the 70-200 telephoto for a closer view of the cloud layers and the mountain profiles. I liked the line of cloudlets marching across the sky and, in the foreground, the silhouettes of the trees, some burned in the last fire a few years ago:
For sunrise, I changed perspectives radically, going for a 14mm view of the giant, scorched, tree I call “Old Grandpappy”, along with his forest fire-veteran companions.
On the descent, Sugarloaf’s shadow led the way with a three-quarter Moon looking on. The clouds were layered, with low, fast-moving cumulus blowing by in the cold wind and a massive lenticular starting to form at high altitude, and some light cirrus up even higher:
A photo walk, and the images you gather whilst oot and aboot, may not contribute directly to your current photographic project, or your portfolio of portraits, or your birds and wildlife collection, or your waterfall series, but…
…these outings will very likely make an indirect contribution.
Grabbing your camera and just strolling about some random local area can be an excellent exercise in “seeing”. You will be forced to look very closely at the scenes around you (many not very interesting at first glance) as you try to come up with interesting compositions. You are exercising your eyeballs, your technical prowess with your photo machine, and the right half of your cerebral melon–all good things to strengthen.
You will then likely find yourself just a tad more “fit” when you do return to your favorite subject matter. So give it a try!
I liked the contrast between the high mountains and Longs Peak (Nature), versus the line of powerful machines at rest (Man). Chipping away at yet another piece of real estate, shrinking yet another ecosystem…
Ultimately, who will win this conflict? Or, will we someday, before it is too late, learn to live in sustainable harmony?
McCurry is quite famous for these kinds of portraits, as well as his landscape, travel, and documentary photography, often published in Nat’l Geo, books, and other top magazines.
He is quite admired for his work–but the admiration apparently is not unanimous.
Enter a recent article published in the New York Times Magazine (“A Too Perfect Picture”, March 30, 2016), by noted author, photographer, and critic, Teju Cole. He takes McCurry to task for what might be called formulaic eye candy, possibly even posed or set up, that only serves to perpetuate foreign stereotypes (this last phrase, my summary of Cole’s point). Cole even goes so far as to call McCurry’s pictures “boring”.
Let the fireworks on the photography and art forums begin! Time to get the popcorn popping and pull up the recliner…
Actually, among my photographer friends, we often have similar debates and discussions: Why is it that the cliché sunrises and sunsets get mountains of “Likes” among the Facebook masses while an image (as mine above, for example) we might consider much more profound, layered with meaning, subtle, and so on, gets nothing more than the sound of chirping crickets? Why do most viewers gravitate toward the picture-perfect postcard, shying away from work that is more challenging to understand?
Of course, the debate is endless. It depends on your definition of art…your taste in art…the venue where you are viewing the work…what you see as it’s purpose…what makes you feel good…your level of engagement with art and artistic discourse…and myriad other factors.
Me? Well, like many photographers, I would love to have McCurry’s talent, renown, and income! (Although, naturally, my pictures would look nothing like his.) What he does is beautiful and even spectacular and sublime. On the other hand, I also get the notion that these images can also sometimes be seen as idealized, “too perfect”, cultural postcards. So, I am not yet sure where I come down on this debate–somewhere in the middle, I suppose. It is certainly something to ponder.
Check out the links above to the two opposing articles and see what you think.
Postscript: The controversy escalates…There now seems to be a lot of doubt about how Steve McCurry’s images were created, how much staging was involved, how much Photo-shopping occurred after the shot, and so on. This is seen as an important ethical discussion as many if not most of McCurry’s images were published (many in National Geographic) as documentary or photo-journalistic photographs. Obviously, if he were simply a self-declared photographic artist creating creative images, this would be a non-issue–but photojournalism is a different beast with different rules and expectations.
“Black-and-white photography, in a way, is much more powerful than looking at color. I don’t care what anyone says. Color tries to take you on a much pleasanter journey. Black and white is bleak and stark and it brings reality into things, whereas color gives you opportunities to go off at different thoughts and places.”
—Don McCullin (b.1935), acclaimed British photojournalist and documentary photographer.
I tend to agree. I have always thought that color can sometimes be distracting, pulling the eye and mind away from the intended message of the image. The above photograph for example–would it have the same impact of loneliness, alienation, and finality…if it were in color?
Naturally, this is not always the case. In photography, the rules, the norms, the consensus, the expert opinion, the guidelines–whatever you want to call them–are all there to be bent and broken. The above quote is simply food for thought.
Just a reminder that even the most humble neighborhoods can be cheered up with a wee bit of street art in just the right place. In this case, the artist is Cees (Natalio Garcia Barros), another top-notch graffiti-mural artist from Mendoza, Argentina.
I liked this one especially because of its humility and simplicity–a bit of optimism and even some slight crowned happiness rising up out of the ruined earth to cover the rusted, precarious, patchwork of galvanized metal.
[NOTE: For an example of one of Cees larger works (in cooperation with Dötz and Zupa), take a look at the southwest corner of Manuel Belgrano and Aristedes Villanueva in Mendoza. This huge mural, which took eight days to complete, is called “Wings of Memory” and was done less than a month ago in honor of the thousands of desaparecidos of the 1970s and 1980s civil conflicts often referred to as The Dirty War. To read a short article in Spanish about “Wings” go HERE. For some of my pictures of this mural, CLICK HERE!
2016 Black & White Magazine, Spotlight Award Winner! (Issue: June, 2017, #121)
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).