Note from Mom


I recently visited White Sands National Monument in Southern New Mexico, and upon return I sent a few images to my mother. She sent this note in reply.

“When we went hunting with my Uncle Lester on the Havasupi Indian Reservation North of the rim of the Grand Canyon we would sit by the campfire every evening and he would read stories to us about the desert. We would have eaten potatoes and fresh deer meat with onions. The wind would make that low whistle you can only hear at a place like this as it dances around the sage brush. Perhaps those ghosts are dancing there. We would be up before daylight back to the business of hunting. I got lost once with just a MilkyWay candy bar. I finally climbed a high hill and took a look around. Made my decision and traveled on. I finally ran into the cross fence I was told I would run into if I went that-a-way. It was just about dark when I got back to camp. I was glad. These are times that build wonderful memories that last all your life.
The desert is a magical place that plays all kinds of tricks on you. What you know well other places doesn’t apply to the desert. It shows you another dimension. You need time for the desert. You have to let it find you.”
Like the pictures.

Una Pura Verdad: a film by Flemming Bo Jensen

Several years ago, while I was still working as a photographer, I received a call from the marketing director at Blurb who asked what I was working on. She explained that Blurb had a film crew and was looking for a photographer who was mid project. I gave a quick explanation of my New Mexico Project and film crew said, “Yes, yes, yes.” Several weeks later I met up with the team in Southern New Mexico and we spend three days together. It was a great experience, and the resulting film really took on a life of its own.
New Mexico 201209. Una Pura Verdad
Fast forward to 2012. Early in the year I taught a workshop in Peru and one of the students was this photo-Jedi from of all places Denmark. I’m a product of the public education system here in the good old US of A so I was VERY well acquainted with Denmark. A red and white flag of some sort, reindeer and people who live in mud huts, but what was puzzling to me was the photo-Jedi himself. He went by the name Flemming Bo Jensen, which in itself was complicated and confusing but nothing compared to the language he spoke when he we first met. If you haven’t heard Danish please look it up online. It turns out the perpetually traveling Dane was an encyclopedia of anything Star Wars and would often times reenact entire scenes, playing all characters and reciting dialogue to perfection. Talk about a great skill to have. He was also an accomplished photographer and technology dude of the highest of levels. After the workshop we remained in contact and ultimately made plans to connect when his travels aimed him toward the American Southwest.
New Mexico 201209. Una Pura Verdad
I was continuing to work on my New Mexico Project and began to realize how advantageous it would be if I had another film to play with. Blurb had plans to release their rich-media platform, so I knew I would have a home for both the original film and as many other motion pieces I could create. I mentioned this to Flemming and asked if he would be up for working together. He was.
New Mexico 201209. Una Pura Verdad
So, we formed a plan, lit some candles, sacrificed a few, small woodland creatures(kidding) and set out into the Land of Enchantment. As with all things in my life, I didn’t have much time. I took a week off from work and we did what we could. Some things worked really well and others not so much, but what I can state with absolute certainty is that we both learned a lot. I did audio recordings of text I had already written, and tried to wrap my head around an edit that might be interesting. Flemming was buzzing around our tiny house like an angry bee, shouting instructions in Danish and waving his arms in a figure eight pattern as he talked about growing up on a farm in Degobah. At the end of the week I departed for California and Flemming rented a supercharged Dodge and continued his travels.
New Mexico 201209. Una Pura Verdad
Over the past few months the film began to take shape. Flemming approached a local friend and guitar player, David Goldberg, who agreed to do a soundtrack. I processed the film and made my selects. Flemming, through his Danish music scene connections, began to polish the sound and edit. Ultimately what was born is the film you see below; Una Pura Verdad(A Simple Truth). If you want to know the technical details and read Flemming’s take on the matter you can read his post HERE. When the film was finished Flemming and I made the instant decision that the finished film was more of a opening than a closing. We both know that filmmaking is going to be a big part of our future, probably more for Flemming than me, just based on time, but we already have plans for a future meeting in Santa Fe with more films on the visual horizon. This film was a tremendous amount of work, and I wish I could say it will repay us with fortunes in lost gold and invitations to late night parties in Hollywood, but the reality is this film was a labor of love that will, chances are, end up costing us several thousand dollars to produce, more if you count the time and travel. It’s something we did because we felt we needed to do it. It’s a personal project down to the DNA. Many thanks to Flemming, my wife Amy, David Goldberg, the Copenhagen crew and also photographer Arthur Drooker who led this horse to water. Siempre junto.

Una Pura Verdad from Flemming Bo Jensen on Vimeo.

New Magazine Preview: Una Pura Verdad (A Simple Truth)

A while back I did a magazine. My goal was to sell one hundred copies. I did one blog post and the magazine began to sell, and before long the one hundred copies were gone. For me this was a telling sign of the times and yet another indication that, as an artist, the future was now and the future was what I was going to make of it. I’ve always felt, as a photographer, I’ve been on an island. Historically, my tools were limited. In fact, when I started in this game my tool set included ONE tool; the land-line telephone. These days we live in an ever-changing electronic world where we have more communication models than ever before. They are simply models, there for us to pick and choose. I still feel like I’m on an island but now I can invite others to join me. These models won’t make great images for you, nor will they make you a photographer, but they can surely help you get where you want to be. In my case that means pushing further and further to the edges of the island, one foot in the water lapping at my feet, wondering what would happen if I dove in and left the solid world behind……..

This spreads above are from the recent test I completed with the new Blurb magazine format. Granted, this was a rush job done right before I left on my recent trip and right after I partially tore the MCL in my right leg. I was not in a chatty kind of mood. However, a test is a test and it came with a benefit of the doubt. I’ve been waiting for this moment for a long, long while. The moment I could make my own magazine. Magazines are different from books, they are less formal, signify a renewal or continuation from month to month and are expected to wear out and disappear. Personally, there isn’t much about this format I don’t like.

In addition to the print magazine you see above I also dove a bit deeper into the modern tool kit and made a rich-media version of this same magazine. Rich-media you ask? Add audio and video and you have rich-media. I did this simply because I could. I’m not making bold proclamations about the future, or media in general, I’m simply experimenting with new tools to see how and why I would use them. I suggest you do the same. I now have this magazine on my phone and iPad. I never use my iPad but the magazine is there nonetheless. I do use my phone and have found it handy to be able to show this work in this fashion. I also feel that certain people IN these photos can relate to this work better via phone than print magazine, which is something I must consider moving forward. What you see below is how the magazine actually looks on my phone.

My goal is to continue to explore. I don’t ever want to be one of those people who always finds a reason NOT to do something, or try something. I’ve now tested both of these platforms and have a concrete plan in place as to how and when I’m going to use them. When something new comes along I’ll test that too and see if I can find a way to work it in.

The only thing that is bugging me about all this is the fact that I can’t be in New Mexico right now working on this project. It’s driving me mad. Time, time, time. Such is life. When I finally do arrive back it will all that sweeter. Happy testing.

PS: The football photograph was made during my last trip. A week of shooting and this is the only image I think was fairly successful. It sure felt great as I was kneeling in the sand watching the lads play as the sun lit up the expanse of western sky. I was tired, sweaty, coated in dust and dirt and exactly how I should have been.


Arizona’s Grand Canyon with only half sun above the horizon

I spend a fair amount of time around today’s photography industry. I travel to the trade shows, most of them, and I keep up on what is new, what is phasing out and what is rumored to be on the way. I also go to many openings, gatherings and lectures, encompassing a wide range of people and topics.

The further we go into this modern electronic game of photography, I’m always amazed at how much I hear about technology, both on the front end with digital capture devices, or cameras to normal people, and the back end, meaning workflow solutions, or software and computer stuff to normal people.

But what I rarely hear anything about is actual photography, the actual basics of making imagery. I guess that this information just isn’t flashy enough for the modern crowd, or the younger generation who have spent very little time learning photographic basics and have spent far more time on equipment, software, branding, websites and marketing. In some ways I can see the thought behind this. The business of professional photography is really in trouble, a reality that seems to get lost on many people, so creating a brand, marketing the brand, and trying to survive are important steps in being a photographer.

However, I also see the insanity in approaching the business in this direction. You can market and brand all you want, but in the end if you don’t understand the basics of photography you won’t produce a recognizable and unique product. My evidence of this is all around us, look at most publicly viewable imagery.

I recently went to a trade show and walked the entire floor, looking and listening to every speaker I could find. Without exception, every featured speaker spoke about what new piece of equipment had taken them to a level they could have never reached with last year’s version. Now I know this is bunk, and they know this is bunk, but many of those in attendance don’t, and that is one reason why we have the issues we have today.

Yes, you can buy the latest widget, and the latest software to go with it, but if you don’t have a basic understanding of light, timing and composition, it won’t matter what you have in your hand unless you are only trying to provide generic content……….

Well, a lot of people today are only trying to provide generic content, but for the REST of us, basic photography is what we must understand.

Backlit bliss in Sicily. Wings. White wings. Frontlit it doesn’t work people.

I would LOVE to go to a trade show and hear the truth from the speakers. I would love to hear the backstory of the work they are showing, or their real work, where they got up before sunrise or waited for the last feeble, fire-red rays of the day. But for some reason, this isn’t what sells today.

But for me, this is where it all begins and ends. Light. This post is simply about light.

Take megapixels, capture rate, color space, file format, lens magnification, file converters, actions, tweaks, the clone tool, layer masks, workflow, tagging, rating and watermarks and just toss them out the window. Take your machine with forty buttons and just put it on the floor and walk outside. Now look up. Look right. Look left.

Find the light. Be the light Danny. (If you don’t know this reference I can’t ever talk to you again.)

I’m AMAZED at the number of photo students who have never done this. AMAZED.

I’ve seen students work images on a laptop like a shuttle captain under pressure of a hull breach. Images shot at 12 noon on a cloudless day. I’ve seen portrait photographers, on the beach at sunset, in the most beautiful light you can imagine, shooting every single frame with direct, on-camera flash.

I just want to say, “Stop, please, let’s go back to the beginning.”

Up at 3am, drive two hours, on the floor waiting for this image. Light comes through like this for five minutes each day. Could have shot at noon and got JUNK

Figuring out and exploring light is one of the most entertaining aspects of photography, at least in my opinion. You know that feeling you get when you think you left your wallet or cell phone on the counter at the airport? THAT is how I feel when I’m out and the light is great and I’m not shooting. I feel freaked out because I know how important light is to the bulk of what I do as a photographer.

Patented “Rainbow Dream Life” filter from my “Too Good to Be True” filter set available for $29.99 at selective sites and roadside park dispensaries.

And when you are in the right place, at the right time, in the right light, there is no better feeling.

Light makes everything AFTER the photograph easier, like making prints. When the light is great, and you expose that piece of paper, it just comes up in the developer like it was meant to be. It seems that most of my best prints, and somewhat easiest prints, were done in great light.

Look, we all know that sometimes we can’t control the light. When you can’t you just do what you can do and live with the results. But many times we CAN control when we work, and that, for me, is critical.

And let’s not think we need vacation sunsets to have great light. Great light can be flat, diffused, dark, etc, It is the quality of light we are looking for.

Early and late light give us what?

Come on? What?

Color and direction. But flat light can also give us great things.

What it takes is practice seeing and being able to recognize what light we need or want to make the pictures we want.

So, the next time you are thinking upgrading your Zupperflex 5000 Doppler SLR, and the software that goes with it, just remember in one year you will probably have to upgrade again. But neither basic photography knowledge, nor light, needs an upgrade. Learn it once, use it forever.

Smogranch Featured in Flash Flood

Recently I was alerted to the fact there existed a new, online publication regarding contemporary photography in New Mexico. Checking the list of founders, I was pleasantly surprised to see a familiar name or two, so I sent off an email of congratulations.

I began to think about my photography, about New Mexico, and wondered what I had from the region. This place, the “Land of Enchantment,” is one of my favorite places in the world. If you have never been, you must go. That is all I can say.

In fact, I recently did a radio interview and was asked about my favorite location I had traveled to, and without hesitation I replied, “New Mexico.” When I’m in New Mexico I feel different. I feel more connected, to both the land, and those around me. There are tensions there, both man made and the natural kind, but these tensions are what gives the region its flavor.

This image is active, so it will link you directly to the site. This feature was on the Flash Flood Blog, so don’t forget to check out the main site.


The story relates to my move there, and a trusty pickup that is no longer with us.