JWSmith Photography: Blog https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog en-us (C) JWSmith Photography (JWSmith Photography) Sat, 18 Sep 2021 14:33:00 GMT Sat, 18 Sep 2021 14:33:00 GMT https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/img/s/v-12/u776538690-o14528222-50.jpg JWSmith Photography: Blog https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog 120 120 A Personal-size State https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2021/9/a-personal-size-state
Small Fleet in Fog
Cape Porpoise, Maine

What seems a long time ago, Pizza Hut introduced personal pan pizza, a small one-portion (yeah, right) pizza.  It became a favorite back when eating right was a foreign concept.  Which is a clumsy way to segue into Canyonlands National Park.  When I first visited Canyonlands I saw it as a personal-size Grand Canyon; much easier to visit and get around, fewer crowds, and thus less congestion. I was a fan from the first hour.
Which is a clumsy way to segue into Maine, which I now tend to think of as a personal-size state.  If California were the Grand Canyon then Maine is Canyonlands.  Though there are just as many sights and doings here in Maine as in the much larger California, for reasons yet understood it seems more do-able.  Maine is the largest of the New England states and is by no means pocket-size but coming from a state which covered the majority of the Pacific coast it seems very manageable. 

(JWSmith Photography) california Cape Porpoise maine https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2021/9/a-personal-size-state Sat, 18 Sep 2021 14:30:55 GMT
Morning Walk https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2021/9/morning-walk North Berwick, ME Top of the Hill
North Berwick, ME

Many homes here are surrounded by an acre or two so unlike the suburbs they stand out and catch the morning light and that catches me. This home on the top of Fox Farm Hill Rd. is across the street from a trailhead where I parked to walk Buddy this morning. I like the contrast and the oddly shaped clouds. 

North Berwick, ME
Branch with Clouds
North Berwick, ME

Again, just some interesting contrast.

North Berwick, ME
Star Garage
North Berwick, ME

North Berwick, ME

North Berwick, ME Barn with Pumpkin
North Berwick, ME

North Berwick, ME I did
North Berwick, ME

Every road seems to be lined with rock fences but most are overgrown and hidden in trees and bushes.

North Berwick, ME
The occasional tree lined meadow
North Berwick, ME

Now and then a flock of turkeys will roam about in these meadows.

MariaMariaNorth Berwick, ME
Maria's Final Resting Place for the last 141 years
North Berwick, ME

There are a surprising number of family burial plots here. Most have 4-6 headstones and nearly all from the 19th century. In some you can see they are tended to but most I've come across are left for time and the elements to care for them. 


(JWSmith Photography) Maine Morning Walk neighborhood North Berwick https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2021/9/morning-walk Tue, 14 Sep 2021 18:30:45 GMT
Whitney and Ansel https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2021/9/whitney-and-ansel Point of View - YosemitePoint of View - YosemiteYosemite National Park, California
Clearing Winter Crowds
Yosemite National Park, California

Last night I watched a biography of Clive Davis, the music producer and founder of Arista Records. Clive has signed on many of the most popular singers, songwriters, and bands that people of a certain age know and love: extraordinary artists from Janis Joplin to Alicia Keys. There was a special bond however, between him and Whitney Houston so the show spent more time exploring that relationship and her tragic death. Of course, you can't discuss Whitney Houston without delving into her gorgeous, full throated rendition of Dolly Parton's "I Will Always Love You."  What? Dolly Parton's? Yes, Dolly Parton wrote and sang that song 20 years before Ms. Houston belted it out in the so-so movie, "The Bodyguard." And yet, it has become so much Whitney's song that if Dolly wasn't such a superstar herself I doubt anyone would know the song other than what flowed via Whitney's beautiful voice.  She now owns that song. 

It has happened before, Jimi Hendrix and "All Along the Watchtower", "Blinded by the Light" sung by Manfred Mann's Earth Band and probably dozens more. 

Which brings me to this: Why not photographs?

For example: Why have we not seen someone other than Ansel Adams own that grand vista from Yosemite's Tunnel View shown in, Clearing Winter Storm? Adams made that image in 1944! Over 75 years ago and no one has toppled the king? You'd have to be pretty naive to think that no one has created a better image from that spot; millions have tried. It wouldn't surprise me that over those 75 years someone's Uncle Bob or Aunt Jenny didn't accidentally take a quick snap while visiting and ended up with something equally as marvelous. Perhaps even those of you reading this have created something just as fine as Saint Ansel. Are we all just making copies? 

So, is it because he was the first... the best...the most recognized... or maybe, the most marketed? Is Clearing Winter Storm locked in our cultural consciousness; the photographic equivalent of the Mona Lisa? Or am I totally off base? 

El Cap with PineEl Cap with PineYosemite National Park, California
The Woefully Under-marketed, non-Adams, El Capitan with Pine
But! Act now, click the image to purchase! 


(JWSmith Photography) Ansel Adams Clive Davis icons music photography Whitney Houston Yosemite https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2021/9/whitney-and-ansel Thu, 09 Sep 2021 13:54:38 GMT
Steinbeck Quote https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2021/9/steinbeck-quote I hate cameras. They are so much more sure than I am about everything.
- John Steinbeck
Grain StorageGrain StorageOregon Silos
Somewhere, Oregon

I know little to nothing about silos, or for that matter, any farm machinery or furnishing. And yet, I love photographing silos, old tractors, winding fields of grain or grape and of course the ever present and most beautiful of all, the fence line. 

There's an age old aphorism that you should write what you know; the photographic corollary would be, I suppose: Photograph what you Love. But, here I am writing about photographing subjects I have little interest in or love for, other than, I like to see them in a photograph. They photograph beautifully. 

I've been close to a silo only once. Close enough in fact to look in from the attached barn after having been warned that the dust from the grains can kill you if you get trapped inside.  Warning enough for me to back away an additional step from that portal of certain death. 

To me, there's a curious desire in many of us to photograph the new and different, even the unknown. I am not some bold adventurer, I mean this isn't Everest or the deepest reaches of the Amazon. They're just a bunch of silos I can see from the safety of a major interstate. But for a kid from the suburbs who doesn't know the inner workings of an American farm, they are the unknown.

And, they photograph beautifully. 

Silo Salute
Northeast New Mexico

Farm Gateway
Western Oklahoma

Silo FarmSilo FarmNorth Dakota
Silo Farm
North Dakota

Windmill and SiloWindmill and SiloPaso Robles, CA
Windmill and Silo
Paso Robles, California

(JWSmith Photography) farms new and different silo Steinbeck https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2021/9/steinbeck-quote Fri, 03 Sep 2021 15:00:00 GMT
Finding George Tice https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2021/8/finding-george-tice A Guy and a GullA Guy and a GullYork, Maine
A Guy and His Gull
York, Maine

I discovered George Tice though a video interview on YouTube. I'd never heard of him and I'm sorry I hadn't found him sooner. By the way, that's not George on the beach, just an anonymous fellow I happened to spot. 

Here's the video link if you have a few free moments to hear from a photographic artist discussing his life and craft:  George Tice

After watching the interview I looked him up and found that he published a book called "Seacoast Maine" so, of course, I had to buy it. I found it used on Amazon and because I try to avoid Amazon I ordered it direct from the bookstore listed.  They had it listed as "Collectible" which I liked because it usually means it's in better than usual condition.  Turned out it was in perfect condition, a First Edition, and signed by Mr. Tice.  Very cool if you're a bit nerdy about books (you know who you are). 

Tice is an old school film photographer and the images are all B&W but with the kind of contrast you get from a overcast Maine day, softer, lighter. These are not Instagram moments of in-your-face-gotcha! photographs. Many are just day-to-day scenes of small towns or people at work. They're lovely. He titles each image with what it is, a white church is titled "White Church, Stonington, 1971".  Most of the images are from the early '70s but by the end of the volume he's included some from the early 2000s. 

I've often felt that some photography needs to be among its brethren to be appreciated. Much from this volume would not stand on their own, they need to be shoulder-to-shoulder with images that tell of a place and time; that's where books like this shine. His most famous images are from urban landscapes in New Jersey, Patterson in particular and I'll be looking into those at some future time. 
If you appreciate this type of work, images that let you relax and enter an unfamiliar place, then I recommend you have a look at Tice's work.


(JWSmith Photography) books George Tice Maine photography Seacoast Maine Tice https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2021/8/finding-george-tice Tue, 31 Aug 2021 18:32:27 GMT
Waiting for Henri https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2021/8/waiting-for-henri Kennebunkport, ME Coastal Still Life
Kennebunkport, Maine

Yesterday, while hurricane Henri was making landfall south of us and its northern edge was dispensing everything from light mist to moderate downpour, we decided to take a drive to the coast to see what havoc he was causing with regard to waves.  Not much it turned out. Henri had softened to a tropical storm by now and having made landfall somewhere in Massachusetts it wasn't having much effect on the Maine coast. Nonetheless, we got plenty wet and I found some fun scenes to photograph. 

Kennebunkport, ME
Abstract, Maine's Rocky Coast
Kennebunkport, Maine
Kennebunkport, ME
Henri's Terrible Fury
Kennebunkport, Maine

Kennebunkport, ME Lifeguard
Kennebunkport, Maine

I like doing these semi-abstract images shot through a rainy window but they do get old fast. There's only so much you can take of blurry colors fronted by raindrops. Nonetheless, I didn't have many chances to do this in San Diego so I graciously accepted the opportunity. 

Kennebunkport, ME
Kennebunkport, Maine
Kennebunkport, ME
Sweatshirt Shop
Kennebunkport, Maine

Lone SailboatLone SailboatKennebunkport, ME
Safe Harbor
Kennebunkport, Maine

Kennebunkport, ME
A Bird's Privilege
Bennett's Sandwich Shop, Kennebunk, Maine

Quick explanation for the sign: There is a Larry Bird autographed basketball encased in plexiglass on display in the shop. Celtic fandom runs deep here. 

(JWSmith Photography) abstracts hurricane Henri Kennebunkport Larry Bird Maine's Coast rain https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2021/8/waiting-for-henri Mon, 23 Aug 2021 15:12:45 GMT
Moving SW2NE - Random Thoughts 4 https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2021/8/moving-sw2ne---random-thoughts-4 La Mesa, California
Iowa - non-stop corn
Somewhere along Interstate 80

Turning east from South Dakota we entered Iowa and corn country.

But first, let me get this out of the way: I hate candy corn. Of all the wonderful and creative uses for corn, candy corn is undoubtably the most ill conceived, unhealthy and tasteless. Yet, we have miles upon miles of corn crops, tens of millions of ears and each year around October we see how it's wasted in filling plastic bags, decorated with ghouls and ghosts; stacked high in every supermarket in the nation. An epidemic.  

Upon entering Iowa the land slowly transformed to rolling green fields of corn which were surprisingly peaceful and bucolic once I stopped fretting on how much of this would be candied come October. Katherine took the wheel seeing I was sweating and mumbling a lot and I, rather dreamily, saw Iowa as a dark green, shag carpet of knee high corn. It's impossible for a fellow from the southwest to imagine all this corn in one place. And, it's not just Iowa, this crop spreads all the way to the east coast! Not as plentiful as in Iowa, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio, but IT'S EVERYWHERE!  If corn were to ever become sentient, well, look out folks, there's an ear with your name on it. 

So, if you're into green this is the place for you. I'm often amazed that people can and have lived everywhere. We adapt, even to green fields that extend for miles, we adapt. After hours upon hours of passing green field after green field it became mind numbingly tedious. But, it stays with you, this mass of green and you realize there is much more than what you can see out a car window whizzing by on the interstate. It's worth a second visit, perhaps in early October when the candy corn is being harvested. 

(JWSmith Photography) candy corn corn cross country trip Iowa https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2021/8/moving-sw2ne---random-thoughts-4 Sat, 21 Aug 2021 15:20:59 GMT
Accepting Gifts https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2021/8/accepting-gifts Joshua Tree National Park, California
Joshua Crow
Joshua Tree National Park, California

Rather than “taking” photos or “shooting” them or even “making” photos, we will practice “receiving” images as gift. The traditional words for photography are possessive and aggressive. Yet the actual mechanism of photography is that light is reflected off of a subject and received by the camera through the lens opening. We can create conditions for a “good” photo, but ultimately we must stand in a posture of receiving and see what actually shows up in the image.**  -Christine Valters Paintner

The above quote reflects an attitude change in our approach to finding and making images. At one time everyone went out 'shooting' pictures or 'taking' photos. Then, some began 'making' images; less aggressive and less of a possessive approach, more of an artistic, creative leaning. But, I think Ms. Paintner has a point and it's one I have unknowingly adopted and haven't had the word for: to "Receive" an image as though a gift. 

For a long time I've considered myself an opportunistic photographer. I no longer sit in one place, coffee in hand, waiting for the 'right' light to turn a bland scene into something magnificent. I wander about, knowing that something will pop up. Now, that's not to say I haven't arrived before dawn to a place like Joshua Tree, knowing the morning light will burnish the boulders to a warm golden hue, sure I do that.  But, for the most part I arrive, walk about, find a scene that attracts me, make my image and move on.  I take (receive?) whatever opportunities are offered...as a gift, using Ms. Painters term. 

I have many keepers that I've just stumbled upon, many more than were planned using all the tools available to photographers nowadays. The one above for example, just a morning walk in a field of Joshua Trees looking for 'something.'  And, not to get too metaphysical, the universe sends a crow to land atop a tree and strike a pose. I, ever vigilant for such happenings, compose and create.  Okay, yeah, way too metaphysical, but heck, it happened! 

Now you could argue that I was in the right place at the right time and that's all there is to it. Yes, you could argue that, I won't stand in your way. But, I think you'd be missing the point. That being, it's a change of perspective she's promoting, and how that may change your approach to your art in a positive way. We all enjoy gifts, right? Acknowledge them, accept them and be grateful. 


**From Richard Rohr's Daily Meditation, Center for Action and Contemplation


(JWSmith Photography) attitudes Christine Valters Paintner photography quotes receiving vice taking https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2021/8/accepting-gifts Thu, 19 Aug 2021 19:15:02 GMT
Yellowstone https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2021/8/yellowstone Yellowstone National Park
Worship Service at the Altar of Spewing Water
Yellowstone National Park*

I wish I could wax long and lovingly about Yellowstone National Park. When we were there it was easy to find places to love, but hard to see them. The crowds were a three-days-before-Christmas mall frenzy.  One family said they've been coming every year for seven years and this was the worse they'd seen. 

We entered via the south gate after spending some relaxing time in Grand Teton NP with the intent of making our way thru the park and out the west entrance where we'd be camping in Idaho.  It was early and we roamed using the map to get us around from iconic scene to iconic scene; from crowd to crowd and congestion to congestion.  

As we left we decided that the next day we'd just find a place by the river and spend our time inhaling nature and letting the park come to us. And that we did. A much more relaxing time.  And yet, the draw of those 'hot spots' is hard to resist, especially upon the first visit. So, before we left that second day we drove out to the Grand Prismatic Spring and waited in a long line of cars entering the parking lot and then circling it like vultures over a carcass. We were very fortunate to have someone pull out from the front row just as we were approaching. Karma payback for some good deed I suppose. 

Anyway, I do have a handful of photos to share, nothing other than documenting that we were there, nothing that you haven't seen on some past nature show. 

Cloud with PinesCloud with PinesYellowstone National Park
Relaxing by the Yellowstone River
Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park Grand Prismatic Spring (ground level)
Yellowstone National Park

We did not climb to the overlook to see the Grand Prismatic Spring from above like so many others do. For one, I was half way thru the boardwalk before I realized it was up there and not down here, second being that since we had Buddy one of us had to stay and dog sit while the other did the tour. Then we switched, so it would have been a long and boring time if you were the dog sitter. 

Grand Prismatic QuartetGrand Prismatic QuartetYellowstone NP
Grand Prismatic Quartet

Guess where...

Because I didn't do the overlook I decided to photograph the surrounding formations in the spring.  I think they make a nice quartet. 


*I usually add the state where the photo was taken but since Yellowstone lies in 3 states I just left it out. Feel free to pick Idaho, Montana, or Wyoming (okay, it's Wyoming). 

(JWSmith Photography) Cross Country Trip Grand Prismatic Spring National Park Ol' Faithful Yellowstone NP https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2021/8/yellowstone Sat, 14 Aug 2021 16:01:35 GMT
Moving SW2NE - Random Thoughts 3 https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2021/8/moving-sw2ne---random-thoughts-3 Hay BaleHay BaleLa Mesa, California
The Hay Bale that Fell to Earth
Somewhere, North Dakota

I have no doubt that North Dakota is the windiest state in the lower 48. We drove nearly the entire length, from the Montana border to Fargo and the wind never stopped; gas mileage dropped like that legendary hay bale that fell from the sky (look it up!). We stopped in Fargo for lunch because Katherine found on their web site that they had 18 Things to do in Fargo! Eighteen, not just 2 more? The one that sounded like something we could do was have a rattlesnake bratwurst at a restaurant whose name I've since forgotten. We sat outside in a pretty intense sun accompanied by wind of course. Buddy crawled under the picnic table and slept. 
I've never had rattlesnake before and I'll trust that it was rattlesnake, actually rattlesnake-rabbit bratwurst and I don't know the snake-to-rabbit ratio but to me it tasted like any other bratwurst I've had in the past. No ill effects and the beer was tasty.
Leaving Fargo we headed due south to South Dakota, conveniently tucked under North Dakota. We spent the night in Sioux Falls before heading into Iowa and points east. 

Hay and HillHay and HillNorth Dakota
Hay and a Hill
Somewhere else, North Dakota

(JWSmith Photography) bratwurst Fargo Moving East North Dakota Road Trip https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2021/8/moving-sw2ne---random-thoughts-3 Tue, 03 Aug 2021 12:46:22 GMT
Moving-SW2NE---random-thoughts-2 https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2021/7/moving-sw2ne---random-thoughts-2 Idaho StormIdaho StormIdaho Downpour
Island Park, Idaho

On our fourth day on the road and the final push north before we turned east for Maine we stayed in a Glamping site in Idaho, just 20 miles from Yellowstone NP. We were there for two nights and this is what we experienced the first night. The two cattle and a dozen or so others were heading for some wooded area right of frame. The storm hit us a bit later but we were already snug in our Glamping bed. 

Interior of our Glamping tent with Glamping bed and Glamping faux leather chairs, comfy. 
Our Glamp-mates, around 50 strewn throughout this large field

Island Park, Idaho

It wasn't bad at all; quiet, spacious, and a herd of free-range cattle to visit now and then.  The cattle would wander around the Glampground and lick the community fire pits to get the potassium. I considered buying them a bunch of bananas. We parked right next to the tent which made it very convenient. Buddy didn't seem to like the cows. 

(JWSmith Photography) cross-country trip Glamping Idaho https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2021/7/moving-sw2ne---random-thoughts-2 Thu, 29 Jul 2021 23:55:10 GMT
Moving SW2NE - Random Thoughts 1 https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2021/7/moving-sw2ne---random-thoughts-1 Moulton Barn detailMoulton Barn detailGrand Teton National Park, Wyoming
Moulton Barn
Mormon Row, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

I wanted to narrate our San Diego to Maine move Tom Dills' style, daily journals while the thoughts are fresh and reactions more immediate.  Well, that didn't happen. So, what I'll be doing is random thoughts about the move and places with reactions that have been mulled over for a few weeks.  Plus a few pretty pictures. 
I won't be day-to-day linear in these posts, they'll be tossed about and jumbled as I think of them. But, it just so happens that this post is about Day 1. Oh, and don't expect the photos to have any relation to the writings. They too, will be tossed about and jumbled as I tend to edit photos as they connect with me on any particular day. Feel free to shrug and walk away if you want finer structure, I get it. 

Interstate 15 runs from San Diego to the Canadian border.*  I've driven the I-15 route between San Diego and Las Vegas a few dozen times and over the years it's become worse and worse for traffic. My daughters live in Vegas now and therefore the trip became more important and more frequent. Still, I grew to hate the drive. It occurred to me as we were taking that 10-mile downhill from California to the Nevada border and past the Ivanpah solar station that this time, for the first time, I wouldn't be making the return trip. Happy and sad at the same time defines bittersweet I suppose. 


*I always thought it was cool that Interstates 8, 5 and 15 all terminate (or begin) in San Diego, California.  Remember that as it may be a Jeopardy question.

(JWSmith Photography) Maine Moving Road Trip San Diego https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2021/7/moving-sw2ne---random-thoughts-1 Sun, 25 Jul 2021 13:37:26 GMT
A Quick Hello https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2021/7/a-quick-hello surveyingsurveyingTheodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota The Best View
Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota

Well, we've made it to Maine and are starting to settle in.  As you can no doubt tell, the computer is up and photos are being processed. It was a long trip of 4,500 miles over 13 days and could have been longer if we knew the movers would arrive 5 days late.  

More on the trip later, just wanted to say Hi and get my fingers back in practice on the keyboard.

Bye for now.

(JWSmith Photography) Cross-country trip horses Maine Theodore Roosevelt National Park https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2021/7/a-quick-hello Fri, 23 Jul 2021 21:42:20 GMT
The Short Goodbye https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2021/6/the-short-goodbye  


Paddling downtownPaddling downtown Well, it's time to wrap things up here in San Diego.  Sometime today the computer will be boxed up for the trip to Maine and I'll go silent for a few weeks, blog-wise anyway. I expect to re-emerge in mid-July; like a late blooming cicada. 'Til then stay well all and I'll see you in Eastern Standard Time. 

(JWSmith Photography) California cityscape goodbye kayak Maine San Diego https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2021/6/the-short-goodbye Mon, 21 Jun 2021 16:48:04 GMT
Kryptonite https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2021/6/kryptonite  

KryptoniteKryptoniteHidden Beach, San Diego
Hidden Beach, San Diego, CA

Man is a rope, Zarathustra cries out to the crowd, fastened between animal and Superman – a rope over an abyss.

Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra

  Emerald EdgeEmerald Edge Moss PointMoss PointHidden Beach, San Diego

(JWSmith Photography) Hidden Beach kryptonite Nietzsche quote https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2021/6/kryptonite Sun, 13 Jun 2021 18:18:23 GMT
caterpillars and butterflies https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2021/6/caterpillars-and-butterflies November SkiesNovember SkiesPaso Robles, California Paso Robles Clouds
Paso Robles, California

There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it's going to be a butterfly.
                                                                          - R. Buckminster Fuller

This caterpillar has been in its cocoon for 6 years.  I've seen it, poked it a few times, but never considered it to have butterfly potential. Seeing those clouds come alive while working on it today changed my mind. 


(JWSmith Photography) Buckminster Fuller quote clouds Paso Robles quotes silhouette https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2021/6/caterpillars-and-butterflies Wed, 09 Jun 2021 20:16:48 GMT
Light and Shadow https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2021/6/light-and-shadow Saguaro National Park, Arizona
Light and Shadow
Saguaro National Park Visitor Center, Arizona

Earlier today Tom Dills posted a striking image from the Visitor's Center at Saguaro National Park.  He commented that he had not seen many images from this interesting architecture on the all-knowing; all-seeing Internet.  I replied that I would send him all 428 pictures I had taken while there.  Unfortunately, G-mail cannot accommodate all 428 so in the spirit of Go-Big-or-Go-Home, I went home: ultimately deciding to post a few of mine here in the hope it would satisfy Mr. Dills' hunger for more images from this national treasure. 

392 miles from Antelope Canyon392 miles from Antelope CanyonSaguaro National Park, Arizona TucsonTucsonSaguaro National Park, Arizona Saguaro National Park, Arizona

Saguaro National Park, Arizona

Saguaro National Park, Arizona
Long Faucet

(JWSmith Photography) architecture monochrome saguaro national park shadow play https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2021/6/light-and-shadow Tue, 08 Jun 2021 19:44:59 GMT
The Lizard Brain https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2021/6/the-lizard-brain StairwayStairwayNorthampton, Massachusetts Stairs
Northampton, NH
(Thanks to Alex Kunz for fixing it for me!*)

The ideas for this post came to me at 2am last night. The lines were well thought out, points were clear and concise and you would have loved it.  Unfortunately, they didn't survive until 7am. I'll do the best I can with what's left. 

When I used to travel for work I always, inevitably, had trouble sleeping the first night. The unfamiliar surroundings lent a sense of unease in my subconscious even though I may have felt perfectly safe. I've since learned that this is because our deep inner-brain, our reptilian brain is still active: I think Jim Morrison referred to it as the Lizard brain but I attribute a lot of odd, lizard stuff to Jim Morrison. It keeps a look-out when alerted by strange places, noises, activities. In our reptilian brain are the primal instincts of fight-or-flight, reproduction, feeding, and general survival. It keeps and eye out for us which we pay for with difficult sleep. 

A few neurons down the street from the Lizard brain, I believe, is a closet. In that closet we toss in thoughts and ideas, mental pictures, words, smells, tastes and other sorts of things that we collect on our life's journey. Most of this collection is taken in subconsciously; a book cover's artwork, a bakery aroma, or a musical passage is caught in passing and stored without even thinking about it. Something in our psyche was triggered and that thing was captured and stored in our little closet that resides down the street from the Lizard brain. 

And then...

And then you have a Wednesday morning coffee with some kindred spirit like Jodie Hulden where arcane subjects like books of photographic art and printing are discussed and days later at 2am you wake and pick the lock on that little closet down the street from the Lizard brain and out pours a flood of thoughts related to that Wednesday morning coffee. Ideas swirl and form and fade away so now, at 8:28am, I fumble to grasp all those wonderful and artistic projects that seemed crystal clear just hours ago. 

I have re-claimed some ideas I have on small books. I tend to do large books via Blurb. I think doing smaller books, both in size and pages is something I'd like to do.  Jodie has produced some beautiful works of single subject photography that I've found inspiring. Just now, thinking about it, I must have dozens of collections of like subjects that could be turned into 30-page booklets, short stories vice novels if you will. 

This post is an attempt to get this down before that closet door closed firmly once again.  Stay tuned...


*Alex did some Lightroom Transform tool work on the stairs to correct tilting in the rightmost spindles. In my defense the Transform tool was not available in LR when I created the image. But, I owe him.  It's unfortunate that this image is already in one of those Blurb "novels" and I cannot let that book exist without a corrected Stairs image. Sigh...




(JWSmith Photography) book ideas Jodie Hulden Lizard Brain photography https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2021/6/the-lizard-brain Fri, 04 Jun 2021 16:10:08 GMT
Global Reminder https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2021/5/global-reminder French West AfricaFrench West AfricaBodie State Park, California
French West Africa
Bodie State Park, California

A dusty reminder of the 19th and 20th century colonial land grabs of the African continent sits on the floor of an abandoned building in California's Bodie State Park.The large green swath covering much of West Africa is labeled French West Africa:

federation of eight French colonial territories in AfricaMauritaniaSenegalFrench Sudan (now Mali), French Guinea (now Guinea), Ivory CoastUpper Volta (now Burkina Faso), Dahomey (now Benin) and Niger. The federation existed from 1895 until 1958. Its capital was Saint-Louis, Senegal until 1902, and then Dakar until the federation's collapse in 1960.   - Wikipedia entry

1960 is not ancient history, for many reading this it was our childhood. 

(JWSmith Photography) abandoned Bodie california colonialism globe https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2021/5/global-reminder Fri, 21 May 2021 17:43:41 GMT
Pareidolia https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2021/5/pareidolia Picasso's StonemanPicasso's StonemanGoblin Valley, Utah
Brave desert visage
Burned by sun and brushed by wind
Hold Fast you, Hold Fast!

Pareidolia - (Pare-i-dō-lē-ah) - Pareidolia is the tendency for incorrect perception of a stimulus as an object, pattern or meaning known to the observer. Common examples are perceived images of animals, faces, or objects in cloud formations, or lunar pareidolia like the Man in the Moon or the Moon Rabbit. - Wikipedia (of course!)

The PugilistThe PugilistCapitol Reef National Park, Utah
The Pugilist
Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

(JWSmith Photography) haiku Pareidolia Rock Formations https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2021/5/pareidolia Sat, 08 May 2021 17:05:10 GMT
Bodie redux https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2021/5/bodie-redux
The Path
Bodie State Park, California

     When I find I have no new photographs to work on and yet I still have the urge to produce something I'll dig into the archives in search of ideas. I open Lightroom, click on Photographs (which is the entire on-line catalogue) and start paging through hoping for something to call out to me. Today, I stopped in Bodie State Park in northern California.  Katherine and I visited in 2018 for a couple of hours on our way to a cycling tour in Bend, Oregon. I have already worked through all that I thought of as 'good' images and posted them in a past blog.  But, and I do this often, I tend to find other little nuggets that for some reason escaped my attention or I became bored working on abandoned buildings and wooden decay. Either way I stopped there this morning and came away with a few more that I've come to appreciate.

Here ya' go


(JWSmith Photography) abandoned Bodie Bodie State Park California decay https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2021/5/bodie-redux Sat, 01 May 2021 18:02:47 GMT
The Invisibles https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2021/4/the-invisibles Paso Robles, California
Paso Robles, California

Over the last few days I've stumbled verbally in discussing friends who are virtual friends. Just yesterday I was mentioning my 'friend,' Monte Stevens and had to explain how he was someone I knew over the Internet (as opposed to real life).  Katherine just nodded knowingly as most of my photographer friends are invisible to all but me. I know I'm not alone in this, just as I know I'm an invisible friend to some of you. 

Quick aside: There's an old New Yorker comic where two dogs are sitting at a computer and the one at the keyboard looks at the other and says, "On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog."  

I'm thankful for my Internet friends, especially those who have sprung free from their keyboards to become 3-Dimensional persons with voices and color and shaggy hair. Others still wait to be discovered and there is anticipation for that.  There's the old adage that you shouldn't meet your heroes as it leads to disappointment but staying invisible isn't the answer either. Those Internet folks I have met have enriched my life and will remain lasting friends. 


BTW: I am not a dog. I can forward affidavits from at least 3 people and 1 yellow Lab verifying I'm a human. 


(JWSmith Photography) friends friendship internet https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2021/4/the-invisibles Sun, 25 Apr 2021 17:16:55 GMT
Paso Minimalism https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2021/4/Paso-minimalism Ranchland PortraitRanchland PortraitPaso Robles, California
Ranchland Portrait
Paso Robles, California

I was fortunate to have a lush and close fog the second morning in Paso Robles.  Ranchland Portrait is probably my favorite of the 2 mornings I was out. I think the soft palette juxtaposed with the rugged and aging structure makes for a nice composition. 

Paso Minimalism
Paso Robles, California

We can debate whether the above image deserves a minimalism moniker. It was what came to mind while I stood in the road setting up the tripod and now I can't escape it. It's not truly minimalist though, is it? It has many elements: texture hard and soft, curves, verticals and horizontals, colors, sky and earth; emotions of loneliness, freedom, ownership; the barbed wire fence carries a sense of protectiveness, exclusion, and inclusion.  No, not very minimalist at all. 

Yes, it's another fence line isn't it
Paso Robles, California

Meadow in Fog
Paso Robles, California

Hehe, yeah, a fence
Paso Robles, California

(JWSmith Photography) California fog landscapes Paso Robles ranch Ranchland wine country https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2021/4/Paso-minimalism Thu, 15 Apr 2021 17:57:47 GMT
Keats Quote https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2021/4/keats-quote Dead Tree in Wet GrassDead Tree in Wet GrassHollenbeck Canyon, San Diego County, California Tree in Wet Grass
Hollenbeck Canyon, Jamul, California

The poetry of the earth is never dead.
                                                       ― John Keats

(JWSmith Photography) dead tree Hollenbeck Keats quote https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2021/4/keats-quote Fri, 09 Apr 2021 16:52:37 GMT
Earth Portrait I https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2021/4/earth-portrait-i Slip Sliding AwaySlip Sliding AwayKitchen Creek, Pine Valley, California

Our lines once ran true
Earth stirs and rolls deep inside
Last chance, one last chance

I've been working on another book (I use Blurb) and as a subject I've decided on Earth Portraits. I have many images of what are typically called Intimate landscapes where the subject is photographed as one would a portrait; different than say a broad landscape or macro or a busy woodland photo.  In these the subject is obvious.  Also, thanks to Jodie Hulden who commented on my post quoting Minor White noting the boulder begged to have a Haiku written for it, I've begun writing Haikus for the images.

This image from Kitchen Creek is an example.  You can decide for yourself if it's a good or bad example. 

I assume there are many ways a Haiku can be written but a typical format is 3 lines with a 5-7-5 syllable meter. Something I've carried with me from high school is that the lines reflect Setting - Subject - Action but I've found that really difficult to adhere to so I stray to wherever the image wants me to stray. 

(JWSmith Photography) Earth fault line haiku nature portrait rock https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2021/4/earth-portrait-i Sun, 04 Apr 2021 17:51:41 GMT
Hollenbeck Spring https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2021/4/hollenbeck-spring Hollenbeck CanyonHollenbeck CanyonHollenbeck Canyon, San Diego County, California Leaving Hollenbeck Canyon 
Hollenbeck Canyon Wildlife Area, Jamul, California

I took a nice hike with my fellow photographer Alex and a new acquaintance Lawrence.  Alex wanted to show Lawrence Hollenbeck's elfin forest area, a small woodland of oaks in an area of mostly meadows and grassy knolls. Hollenbeck is my local spot but both Alex and Lawrence have to travel a bit to get here which says something about its attractiveness photographically.  The hills were green and lush as seen above but that won't last for too much longer unless we get another storm to pass through. In a month they'll be a nice toasty brown. 
Since I've been there so much I tried to find new views and places to aim my camera.  I came out with a few I like but nothing incredibly new.  

Bowed and BrokenBowed and BrokenHollenbeck Canyon, San Diego County, California Bowed and Broken
Hollenbeck Canyon, California
Morning light and OakMorning light and OakHollenbeck Canyon, San Diego County, California
Oak with Morning Sun
Hollenbeck Canyon
Fence Posts and HillFence Posts and HillHollenbeck Canyon, San Diego County, California
Fenceposts and Hill
Hollenbeck Canyon

Stalking the MoonStalking the MoonHollenbeck Canyon, San Diego County, California
Stalking the Moon
Hollenbeck Canyon 

Lawrence and Alex Seeking Elfin Light
Hollenbeck Canyon

(JWSmith Photography) hike Hollenbeck woodland https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2021/4/hollenbeck-spring Thu, 01 Apr 2021 17:10:59 GMT
Is art heavy? https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2021/3/is-art-heavy  

TetrisTetrisJoshua Tree National Park, California Tetris
Joshua Tree National Park, California

Does creating art have to be big and heavy? If you could trade your entire camera bag for the upcoming iPhone X28* and make the exact same imagery, would you? 

I see similar choices in the audio world. Do I really need separate components or will that all-in-one-pocket-sized music player suffice? 

If I really was in it for the art, for the imagery, for the music, it wouldn't matter. Yet...

Personally, I consider myself image first or music first when it comes to gear. I want my images to satisfy me, as I want my music to satisfy me.  Yet, I'd be very disappointed should a blind test reveal that I chose the iPhone X28 over my Nikon and Fuji gear. Why? 

Because, I like the gear. Pretty simple really.  I like the solid feel of a well-designed DSLR in my hands. I like the look of separate audio components with lights glowing while Bill Evans plays a soothing piano.  Their heft seems to equate something in the way of, "I'm DOING something here! I'm big, bold and fully capable."  So, size matters? At least for now I think it does. With size comes resolution which is key in both photography and music.  You want to see and hear detail because when you do it becomes closer to lifelike, the art is better able to express itself. 


*The X28 is my invention. I have no insights into what Apple is doing so don't bet the farm on this. 

(JWSmith Photography) art gear Joshua Tree National Park music photography rocks Tetris https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2021/3/is-art-heavy Mon, 29 Mar 2021 18:07:36 GMT
Would you like some pepper with that? https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2021/3/would-you-like-some-pepper-with-that  

Fencepost in IRFencepost in IRHollenbeck Canyon Wildlife Area, Jamul, California
Fencepost in IR
San Diego County, California

Tonight, the San Diego Photo Club was treated to an engaging presentation by Cole Thompson, a black and white photographer whose work I've enjoyed for a few years now. A while back Cole posted an essay about Photographic Celibacy.  If you're a photographer it's a worthwhile read, if not, well, thanks for being here and I'll try to keep it interesting. 
The key component of this approach is that Cole would no longer look at other peoples' photography. Thus, his vision would not be influenced by the work of others. This has proven controversial as you may imagine. Why wouldn't you look at the work of Ansel Adams, Michael Kenna, Weston, Atget, Cartier-Bresson? It's like saying I won't look at Rembrandt or Van Gogh for fear of being influenced. Cole has his reasons and for him they're valid and obviously worked as his imagery is remarkable. 
And yet...
Consider this, I make a pretty good Huevos Rancheros...damn good actually.  Yet, whenever we have breakfast at a Mexican or Southwest restaurant I'll order theirs just to see a) is mine better and b) if theirs is better can I improve mine by taking something they do and incorporate steal it. 
I do this to improve my own work, to find new ways to garner more flavor, more texture, perhaps better colors or presentation. Someone out there is making better Huevos Rancheros than me. Someone out there is at the top of their game and I want to see how they got there, wouldn't you?  Now, keep in mind I don't want to make THEIR Huevos Rancheros, I want to make mine better. 
From listening to Cole tonight I imagine that he'd respond that that's fine for you if you're not overly influenced by others' work. He feels he is and needs to protect his vision. Completely understandable. 
Yet, if I'm in a position to advance further along my path of Huevos Rancheros godhood I'll taste what others have to offer. Should I eventually reach that state I won't bother with what other chefs are doing.  But I'll still order their Huevos Rancheros, because I like Huevos Rancheros. 


(JWSmith Photography) Cole Thompson Huevos Rancheros photography San Diego Photo Club thoughts https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2021/3/would-you-like-some-pepper-with-that Sun, 21 Mar 2021 04:49:33 GMT
Galerie Ancienne autoroute 80 https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2021/3/galerie-ancienne-autoroute-80 Unbeknownst to many there is a nice little gallery along Old Hwy 80 in San Diego's east county. Years ago Hwy 80 was re-routed to the newer, faster, time-saving Interstate 8 and thus the little gallery fell into disrepair.  You may still visit Le Galerie if you're willing to take some time and possibly bushwhack thru some sage and mesquite. Well worth the effort, I'd say.  Here then, are some examples of the art to be found at Galerie Ancienne autoroute 80.

GalleryGallerySan Diego County, CA
Galerie Ancienne Autoroute 80
San Diego County

Skunk SaysSkunk SaysSan Diego County, CA
Skunk et fenêtre
San Diego County

From the Eastern Gallery wall looking west we are surprised to find a Pink Flamingo! Pink FlamingoPink FlamingoSan Diego County, CA Flamant rose
San Diego County

San Diego County, CA
Art Nouveau
The Gallery West Wall

Lady in WaitingLady in WaitingSan Diego County, CA A Lady in Waiting
San Diego County

And finally, the pièce de résistance, the Mona Lisa of Old Highway 80
Mona Lisa of the HighwayMona Lisa of the HighwaySan Diego County, CA
Mona Lisa of the Highway
San Diego County

A detailed look
Mona Lisa of the Higway (Detail)Mona Lisa of the Higway (Detail)San Diego County, CA
Mona Lisa of the Highway (Detail)

The art here is nothing like you'll find in stuffy, hoity-toity museums.  This open air museum is very welcoming and touching the art is encouraged. I was able to spend 30 minutes or more completely alone: no museum guards, no snooty matrons or 6th grade tour groups.  Just me and the people's art. 


(JWSmith Photography) abandoned art decay East County graffiti Old Highway 80 San Diego https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2021/3/galerie-ancienne-autoroute-80 Sat, 13 Mar 2021 04:50:10 GMT
Something from Annie Dillard https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2021/3/something-from-annie-dillard Salton Sea SurvivalSalton Sea SurvivalSalton Sea, California Salton Sea Survival
Salton Sea, California

At a certain point, you say to the woods, to the sea, to the mountains, the world, Now I am ready. Now I will stop and be wholly attentive. You empty yourself and wait, listening.   - Annie Dillard

(JWSmith Photography) Annie Dillard quote Salton Sea tree https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2021/3/something-from-annie-dillard Wed, 03 Mar 2021 19:14:12 GMT
Minor White Quote https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2021/2/minor-white-quote SteadfastSteadfastJoshua Tree National Park, California
One should not only photograph things for what they are but for what else they are.
                                                                                                              - Minor White

I find this quote helpful when looking for interesting rocks, trees and clouds.  My friend Alex and I were having a discussion (Scotch was involved, so take that into account) about 'Art' and just what the hell makes art, 'Art', and why do photographers have such a difficult time with it. It's almost as if we have an inferiority complex over what it is we create.  Unfortunately, (or perhaps fortunately) we did not come up with a satisfactory answer but both agreed that we like what we do in our pursuit and it's for others to decide if it's Art or not.  That rabbit hole is too deep and twisting to spend valuable drinking time spinning around in it. 

Nonetheless, I spent a bit of the night thinking about our chat and it was then I remembered what Minor White said and I think that's my approach when deciding what and how I'll photograph a subject. The example above reflects this thinking. Whether Mr. White would agree is not really important to me. He sent me on this journey and I'll follow it best I can. 

The boulder is from Joshua Tree National Park and it's a typical boulder from Joshua Tree, exceptional in its potential but ordinary when seen among its brethren. I appreciated its stance and heft and found I could align the mountain range in the background with the lines of the boulder and so I did. I was fortunate for clouds as they softened the harshness of the light on the surface and provided a nice set of textures and lines for the sky. It was always going to be a monochrome image and I found while processing it that the range of tones and the tonal quality were perfectly suited for monochrome. 

So, back to Mr. White. Is it something else than what it is? Does it extend beyond its rock essence? I feel in some ways it does. Anyone can see it's a big rock, "Yep, big rock, swipe right, move on." But what I found and tried to convey was its timelessness; its textures, shapes, and tones; finding nature aligned with the environment and the eternal and massive gravity that I didn't completely recognize when there. By converting it to B&W I distorted its reality but not beyond recognition, thus a moderate touch transforming something ordinary in order to find what is extra-ordinary, what else it is. 

I hope you like it. 


(JWSmith Photography) B&W boulder Joshua Tree National Park Minor White quote rock thoughts https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2021/2/minor-white-quote Sat, 27 Feb 2021 16:00:00 GMT
Raptors in Mission Trails https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2021/2/raptors-in-mission-trails
Red Tail perched 
Mission Trails Regional Park, San Diego, California

There was rain threatening as Buddy and I left the house but we went anyway.  There might be some nice fog and the rain will probably be a light drizzle or heavy mist.  It remained a heavy mist until we were well into the Grasslands section and then it came down with a bit more authority so we turned for home.  While we were there though I found some nice looking raptors, what the in-house expert has identified as a red tail hawk and a kite.  From where I stood the kite looked similar to a gull but there would be no reason for a gull to be hovering above a meadow so I figured it was a raptor I hadn't seen before. I spotted it flapping its wings in a hover (called kiting) while on the hunt for some small prey.  Twice it floated (not dived which I would expect) down to the grass in an attempt to grab a morsel. I really couldn't see whether it was successful or not. 

Kite Kiting
Mission Trails Regional Park, San Diego, California

The rains kicked up around then so we headed back to the car and on the way spotted a crow taking in the view from a log. 

Rain Crow
Mission Trails Regional Park, San Diego, California

Other than the crow the images are highly cropped. Even at 300mm on my D800 I couldn't get very close to the birds but I like the way they came out. 

(JWSmith Photography) birds crow kite Mission Trails rain raptors red-tailed hawk San Diego https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2021/2/raptors-in-mission-trails Fri, 12 Feb 2021 20:04:33 GMT
Scenic East County https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2021/2/scenic-east-county  

Bleached ManzanitaBleached ManzanitaMt. Laguna, California
Bleached Manzanita
Mt. Laguna, California

It's been quite a while since I'd taken a long drive through our east county, up into the foothills and mountains: mountains that suddenly drop into the desert but on the way deliver impressive views.  There are a few routes I'll take but it seems that no matter what direction I consider as I leave the driveway I always seem to end up on Sunrise Highway.  Today was no different.  The forecasts called for cloudy days this week and I thought I may even get some fog.  No luck with the fog but some nice clouds always contribute nicely. 
The loop I do, regardless of the route, will take me around 100 miles, sometimes more, sometimes less but I can usually plan on a hundred.  Julian, Santa Ysabel, Wynola, Warner Ranch, Ramona were all on the route today.  On other days it may be Lake Cuyamaca, Ranchita, Pine Valley, and Guatay.  All have photographic potential and today delivered as well as any other.  The bleached manzanita is especially nice as a subject. 


Boulder overlookBoulder overlookMt. Laguna, California
To be a rock and not to roll (thanks to Led Zeppelin for that one)
Mt. Laguna, California

Manzanita View
Mt. Laguna, California

Split RockSplit RockMt. Laguna, California
Split Boulder
Mt. Laguna, California

Stretching OutStretching OutMt. Laguna, California
Reaching Out
Mt. Laguna, California

Pines with decaying logPines with decaying logMt. Laguna, California
Pines with Decaying Log
Mt. Laguna, California


(JWSmith Photography) California East County landscape Mt. Laguna Sunrise Highway https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2021/2/scenic-east-county Tue, 09 Feb 2021 23:51:48 GMT
Hollenbeck Canyon https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2021/2/hollenbeck-canyon
Morning at Hollenbeck Canyon

We took a nice morning hike thru east county's Hollenbeck Canyon Wildlife Area yesterday.  Distant fog in the local foothills provided some atmosphere for an otherwise clear-sky day. Hollenbeck is not an exceptionally large park but you can build a 7-mile hike by linking some trails together.  Yesterday's hike was around 4 miles of lightly rolling hills and broad, compacted paths.  Since the area is only a 20-minute drive it's my most visited area for quick hikes that usually have some photographic potential. 

So, here we go! 

Katherine and Buddy start off

Prominent boulder that should have a name (Peñasco sin Nombre?)

Lots of fence lines in this one time ranch

I think only geologists and photographers have favorite rock formations

Gateway Greeter

Late morning sun 

Take us home, BuddyTake us home, BuddyHollenbeck Canyon
Take us home, Buddy



(JWSmith Photography) hike Hollenbeck Canyon morning pastural photography https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2021/2/hollenbeck-canyon Fri, 05 Feb 2021 17:32:55 GMT
Music in a turbulent year https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2021/1/music-in-a-turbulent-year Playin' the BluesPlayin' the BluesSpring Harp Fest - La Mesa, California, My friend Tracy sent me his 2020 list of favorite music and it got me thinking about how music was a needed salve for so many of us.  My journey was accompanied by music, new and old, as well as new audio equipment to enhance the listening experience.  From March onward I've been upgrading my stereo system bit by bit while upgrading my music library.  All this in an effort to bring out the subtle nuances in each measure of music.  I truly enjoy the sound of a brush against a cymbal or the pluck of a bass and I want it as close to 'real' as I can get (e-mail me if you're interested).  I'm fully digital having given away my LP collection back in the 80s thinking they'd never be played again. Don't smirk, did you know vinyl would make a comeback, well? 

But, let's remember it's the music that counts. Like photography where it's the final image that matters; with music it's the emotional connection to sound that keeps us listening. 

This year I've been using Bandcamp (click link to see my Bandcamp collection) to find new and interesting artists and HDTracks to rebuild my music library with high resolution copies of albums I've only had in .mp3 or Apple's .aac formats.  I'll limit this post to the artists and works I've discovered in 2020 otherwise we'll be here a month discussing albums that that have been around for 40 years or more.  

Here are some hi-lites from my downloads at Bandcamp. Thanks in part to Tracy Schultze and Alex Kunz as well as my own digging I've found some incredible songwriters and singers. I don't pay attention to release dates so some or perhaps all of these are pre-2020 releases but I found them in 2020 so don't give me grief over dates, okay?  All of these are worth a listen. Trust me. 

 - Maria Taylor, Lynn Teeter Flower
        I really enjoy the singer-songwriter genre, especially with acoustic guitar.  Beautiful voice here.
- Craig Finn, It's Never Been a Fair Fight (EP)
        Just an extended play but Finn has a unique voice that I enjoy as well as his lyrics
- Half Waif, The Caretaker
       Thanks to Alex for this one.  Excellence all thru the album
- Courtney Barnett, Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit
       R&R pure and simple
- Waxahatchee, Cerulean Salt
       I love finding a voice that's unique and Katie Crutchfield fits the bill. Her new release is Saint Cloud.
- Rachel Morais, Order in Chaos
       Fifteen minutes of beautiful piano (Thanks Alex!).  Need more from her, lots more. 
- Greyboy Allstars, Como de Allstars
       A San Diego band with lots of funk and latin sounds.  I heard it in a used record store (Yay for used record stores!) and found them on Bandcamp.  
Other 2020 music from new and used CDs I've purchased or hi-rez issues from the site HDTracks:

- Amy Rubarth, Sessions from the 17th Ward
        This is a binaural recording where they put mics on a mannequin's ears and create a recording as if you are there listening in the front row. Interesting and enjoyable listen while using headphones. Her cover of Tom Waits' "Hold On" is excellent and my favorite of the album. 
- Bright Size Life, Pat Metheny
        This is Metheny's debut album but I've never listened to anything by him before so it's new to me.  It's also an early recording of bassist Jaco Pastorius so you get a double dose of goodness in an easy jazz format.
- Lulac, Passerby
        Australian couple with a folksy, acoustic sound. A quietly beautiful sound. 
- Nickel Creek, Nickel Creek
        A threesome with some nice bluegrass from Vista in San Diego's north county, Nickel Creek is lively banjo, guitar and vocals.  Nothing especially great but enjoyable if you just want to explore some bluegrass.
- Yuja Wang, Ravel
        I was hesitant to add any of my recent classical buys but Wang's piano playing is pure fireworks. Find her on YouTube and you can see what I mean.  Her Piano Concerto in D (for the left hand) is worth the price of admission and I play this often. 
- The Beatles, The Beatles (White Album)
        Got the re-mastered White Album for Christmas, 'nuff said. 

That about wraps things up.  Have a look at Tracy's blog post and make your ears happy by following the links he's provided for other (better) curated lists. 

(JWSmith Photography) 2020 lists albums audio Bandcamp CDs HDTracks music https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2021/1/music-in-a-turbulent-year Sun, 24 Jan 2021 21:26:25 GMT
Mission Trails on a Foggy Morning https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2021/1/mission-trails-on-a-foggy-morning Crows in FlightCrows in FlightMission Trails Regional Park, San Diego

Crows in Flight
Mission Trails Regional Park, San Diego

I took Buddy (the dog) out for a morning romp in Mission Trails Regional Park this morning and was rewarded with a beautifully thick layer of low lying fog.  Scenes that would regularly be cluttered with background noise was now set out in front of a misty white backdrop.  

Some pics from my first 2021 outing with the camera.

Grasslands FogGrasslands FogMission Trails Regional Park, San Diego CrowCrowMission Trails Regional Park, San Diego

Thanks for the visit! 

(JWSmith Photography) fog Mission Trails Regional Park https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2021/1/mission-trails-on-a-foggy-morning Tue, 05 Jan 2021 20:11:49 GMT
2020 Favorites in an Unfavorable Year https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2020/12/2020-favorites-in-an-unfavorable-year I hope you are all doing well and have made it through the year reasonably unscathed. I wasn't going to do a Favorites this year but my friend Alex said he was certain that I had enough images to post a decent collection from the Year from Hell.  So I decided rather than post individual images and write a bit on each I'd just put together a slideshow.  I found 25 photos I'm happy with and have included them.  Twenty-five is significantly fewer than what I usually have to sort thru and select a treasured dozen for this post.  But, twenty-five it is and I should be happy with having that.  I almost forgot the architecture images I made during the early part of the year so those contributed a heaping tablespoon of flavor. 

I hope you enjoy them and I wish you all a fabulous 2021, we deserve it. 

Full Screen, Sound to 11, Mr. Sulu

Music: Motivational Piano licensed through AudioJungle

(JWSmith Photography) 2020 end of year favorites slideshow https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2020/12/2020-favorites-in-an-unfavorable-year Sun, 13 Dec 2020 19:52:32 GMT
That falling Tree https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2020/12/that-falling-tree SequoiaSequoiaYosemite National Park, California Redwoods and Pine
Sequoia National Park, California

So, the answer to the age old question, If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? is, No it doesn't.  As illogical as it 'sounds' the tree only vibrates the surrounding air during its descent and ultimate crash.  Only if a being with an operating tympanic membrane is within 'earshot' to receive the vibrations, transmit those vibrations to the middle ear, then to the fluid-filled cochlea where the auditory nerve feeds said vibrations to the brain will the tree's racket be 'heard.'   Beethoven, while composing his 9th Symphony, probably would not have heard it, so for him it made no sound. Unless someone or some thing is there to actualize the vibrations through their sense of hearing all it is is violently moving air. 

That was Christmassy wasn't it! 

I got to thinking about it while listening to my stereo this morning.  The loudspeakers reproduce sound via vibrating membranes that pulse the air according to the amplitude and frequency driving them.  There is no music until my brain interprets those vibrations. Until then it's just air in motion.  We spend a lot of money to vibrate air in a pleasing way.

Coming in 2021: Conclusive scientific proof on Why the Chicken Crossed the Road.  

See you then. 

Oh, and Merry Christmas! 

(JWSmith Photography) acoustics Christmas humor music sound trees https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2020/12/that-falling-tree Thu, 10 Dec 2020 20:38:45 GMT
Why Photograph This? https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2020/12/why-photograph-this The HoldupThe HoldupLa Mesa, California
The Hold Up
La Mesa, CA

Preface:  Years ago, the 40s perhaps, Charlie Chaplin secretly entered a Charlie Chaplin look-alike contest.  He placed 20th. 

So, why take this photograph.  Last summer I submitted it to an off-the-wall contest and forgot about it until yesterday. I checked their website and my submission wasn't given so much as a nod. Not everybody gets a juice box.  Yet, I really like it.  Perhaps I like it in ways too different from the guardians of Internet photo contests. You never know who these guardians are, do you? And, no one would ever buy it so it won't find its way upon a wall (except perhaps some automotive geek who appreciates jack-stands).  So, what good is it?  Of course, it needs no monetary value to be appreciated, least of all by its creator. 

It has an oddness about it that I appreciate.  I can guarantee that you'll never see it duplicated, anywhere.  It's not Delicate Arch or Half Dome which will be photographed for eons to come.  This scene is gone, history, no more.  Go ahead, try searching for nighttime car on jack-stands and see what it gets you.  That, for me, gives it some equivalent to value. 

What it has for me is light and shadow, the subject is somewhat irrelevant, though interesting in its uniqueness.  The light brings texture to the canopy, the shadow gives it a sense of the clandestine, something stealthy, secretive. 

I'm finding more and more that I gravitate to these types of scenes. They may not "Pop" or evoke oohs and ahhs but they have merit.  They fit more comfortably in photo books than on walls and seem happiest when surrounded by their like brethren on fine paper in a well executed book of prints. 

(JWSmith Photography) night photography thoughts unique subjects urban https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2020/12/why-photograph-this Fri, 04 Dec 2020 18:47:56 GMT
Reading Music V https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2020/12/music-v You Can Keep Your Hat OnYou Can Keep Your Hat OnRed Rock Conservation Area, Nevada
You Can Keep Your Hat On*
Red Rock Conservation Area, Nevada

What do JS Bach and Radiohead have in common? Nothing I suppose except that Alex Ross can write intelligently about them both and with an interest peaking certainty.  Alex Ross, the music critic for New Yorker magazine, is a polished genius when it comes to music and displays his full range in Listen to This, a collection of essays that starts with Bach, moves through Radiohead, soprano Marion Anderson, Verdi, The LA Philharmonic, Björk, and ending 325 pages later with Brahms. I haven't read anyone with such wide-ranging expertise since plowing through Arguably by Christopher Hitchens. Hitchens' work centered around politics and culture while Ross digs deep into music, any and all. 

*Thanks to Joe Cocker for the image title :-)


(JWSmith Photography) Alex Ross books essays Music https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2020/12/music-v Tue, 01 Dec 2020 19:25:21 GMT
Sunrise https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2020/11/sunrise Morning LightMorning Light Morning Light
Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, California

Listen to the Wind Blow, Watch the Sun Rise
                                          - Fleetwood Mac

(JWSmith Photography) Anza-Borrego desert sunrise tree https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2020/11/sunrise Sat, 28 Nov 2020 17:22:53 GMT
Reading Music IV https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2020/11/reading-music-iv PoppiesPoppiesChula Vista, California Poppies
Chula Vista, California

1959.  A huge year for jazz. On The Shape of Jazz to Come, Ornette Coleman presents a new form, free jazz, essentially asking whether jazz needed any form or structure at all.  Charles Mingus arrived with his Grammy Hall of Fame album Ah Um; Dave Brubeck's Time Out with its West Coast Jazz coolness and odd time signatures sold a million copies mostly due to its hot single Take Five.

Then, in August of '59 Columbia released Miles Davis's Kind of Blue.  The Davis quintet, made up of what will become a Mt. Rushmore of Jazz greats, produced the iconic jazz album.  Even people who didn't listen to jazz owned a copy.  Every year it's the number one seller in jazz.  Over two sessions Davis, with saxophonist Cannonball Adderly, bassist Paul Chambers, Bill Evans on piano (with Wynton Kelly on piano for Freddie Freeloader), Billy Cobb on drums and the soon to be great John Coltrane on sax turned out a masterpiece for Columbia Records. 

Ashley Kahn's rather concise book, Kind of Blue: the making of the Miles Davis Masterpiece delves into the history, production and aftermath of the Davis masterpiece. The last surviving member of the group, drummer Jimmy Cobb, provides the Foreward and in it looks back on those Spring days at Columbia's 30th Street Studio. 

Take One: Kahn goes thru each track on the album using the master tapes and It's interesting when he relates what went on during these recording sessions--everything from the types of tape used (Ampex or Sony) to the back and forth commentary between musicians, engineers and producers. 

Fun Fact: During the first session (April 22nd) an unnoticed motor problem on the master tape machine caused the tape to record slightly slower than 15 inches per second. The mistake was transferred to hundreds of thousands of album pressings over thirty years. In 1992 engineer Mark Wilder decided to use the 'safety' copy as it would have been fresher than the overly used master. He noticed a difference in tone when he compared it to the album and brought in a trumpet player he knew to verify. It was confirmed that the album was just a quarter tone off.  No one, not even Davis recognized it.  All copies since have been cut from the safety reels so if you have a newer version you're okay.  If you have an LP from the 70s it may be fun to buy a new copy and see if you can tell a difference.  I doubt I could. 

Another Interesting factoid for the photographer's reading this: The album cover was made by a young Jay Maisel who goes on to a fame all his own. 

Give Kind of Blue a listen. Even if you've never heard the album you may recognize the first track, So What. I'm not in love with Kind of Blue though I feel I understand its status and can recognize its greatness.  I listen once or twice a month perhaps but what I am thankful for is that it introduced me to pianist Bill Evans whose music I've grown to truly enjoy. 



(JWSmith Photography) books jazz Kind of Blue Miles Davis music reading https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2020/11/reading-music-iv Tue, 03 Nov 2020 17:46:08 GMT
Reading Music III https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2020/10/reading-music-iii The Authority of WaterThe Authority of WaterLa Jolla, California The Authority of Water
La Jolla, California

I arrived late for the Joni Mitchell bandwagon. I'd heard the overplayed top-40 songs from their initial release well into their "Classic Radio" days but two of her masterworks, Blue and Hejira, had escaped my attention until, well, until they were considered classics themselves.  My interest in Joni's music wasn't as a fan-- I'd listen when it played, wouldn't switch the channel, tapped my foot and hummed a few bars, but that was about it.  

Then, Blue happened.  Sometime around the turn of the century (it's so cool that I can use that phrase) I came across the song California and decided to look into it and discovered the album, Blue.  Now I'm hooked, a fan for life. More of her ancient albums started taking their place in my CD collection (my LP story will have to wait), Court and Spark, Ladies of the Canyon, etc.  Then, just a few years ago, I came upon Hejira and now that and Blue stay in regular rotation on my stereo. 

As I mentioned a while back I asked for a Joni Mitchell bio for my birthday. The one I received was, Joni Mitchell, In Her Own Words by Malka Marom.   Marom is a one-time singer who turned journalist and over many years did three long interviews with her now friend Joni.  Those interviews were turned into this very personal and reflective book where Marom will ask a question or comment on an aspect of Joni's life and then allow Joni to run with it and wander about, verbally considering her life and times. 

She's a very accomplished artist and seems to love it as much as songwriting.  If you've seen many of her albums you'll notice that there are a few with her painted sketches as cover art.   

The book is about personal friendships, performances, her creative process and her long career.  In the early chapters she reflects upon her childhood, parents, music, her painting, and life in the Canadian plains. She doesn't discuss much of the polio that left her left hand somewhat weakened and how it caused her to use "open tunings" to accommodate her weakened condition.  Not being a musician I have no idea what open tunings are or how they're used but it gave Joni's music a unique sound and I'm grateful for that sound. 

Now, go find Blue wherever you find your music and listen.  Then, listen again. 



(JWSmith Photography) Books Joni Mitchell Music Reading https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2020/10/reading-music-iii Thu, 22 Oct 2020 16:02:04 GMT
Reading Music II https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2020/10/reading-music-ii Snow TwinsSnow Twins Snow Twins
Mt. Washington Hotel, New Hampshire

     Beethoven was a 1-Trick pony.  He did some magnificent, historic and earth shattering tricks but he really was just a composer of music.  Perhaps in the same way Michael Jordan was just a basketball player, Rembrandt was just a painter, or Bobby Fischer was just a chess player. But what if Jordan had one leg, or Fischer suffered short-term memory loss, or Rembrandt was blind, what then?  Beethoven was deaf when he created his later symphonies and remarkably his most famous, the Ninth.  He was going deaf for most of his creative life. The single most important sense for a musician would be his or her hearing. And yet, the most celebrated piece of music in human history was created by a deaf German composer.  If Beethoven had only written his Ninth Symphony he'd still be considered a genius. The fact that five of his nine symphonies are considered masterpieces and stand as some of the greatest musical achievements in our history is simply astonishing. Not only was he deaf but he suffered from stomach and bowel disorders, some brought on by too much wine. A horrid diet and Inadequate nutrition kept him in physical pain for much of his adult life.  It was the turn of the 19th century so no hearing aids available along with insufficient medical knowledge, surgeries or medicines to alleviate his myriad conditions.  But still he composed. 

Beethoven was a composing machine. Socially inept, overly arrogant (well, he was Beethoven), argumentative, stubborn, aloof and whatever other adjectives you can invent to describe someone you wouldn't want to spend 10 minutes with.  Some of the appearance of aloofness and ineptness came from his increasing deafness which he was reluctant to acknowledge publicly. 

Yet, he was always pondering, always composing, forever hearing his Muse. 

How do we feel about singularly minded geniuses like that? Looking back we can admire him and excuse his peccidillos as we didn't have to suffer him.  

Yet, that's pretty much all he did, his whole life. The music he left us was beyond anything we've heard since.  His ninth symphony is so phenomenal, so awe inspiring that the European Union uses the 4th movement (Ode to Joy) as their anthem.  Quote the first 4 notes of his Fifth Symphony and any child over 6 can most likely respond with the next 4. His music has entwined itself into our DNA, slowly infused for over 200 years. Unless you're a classical music fan there is probably no other composer whose music you can recognize with just a few notes. His music is as easily recognizable as "Happy Birthday." 

For quite a while I was looking for an intelligent biography of Beethoven without having to take a master's course in music theory or be able to read a score.  John Suchet wrote the bio I'd been looking for and succeeded in presenting the maestro as a human being.  Even without the minutiae describing the motifs and themes of his music it still comes thru via his incredible life. 

This read was part 2 of my dive into musical readings for the last third of 2020.  I've finished a Joni Mitchell bio as well as the making of the historic Miles Davis album, "Kind of Blue".  Those thoughts forthcoming. 

(JWSmith Photography) Beethoven biography book music thoughts https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2020/10/reading-music-ii Sat, 10 Oct 2020 18:30:50 GMT
Reading Music https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2020/9/reading-music River of GrassRiver of GrassHollenbeck Canyon, San Diego, CA River of Grass
Hollenbeck Canyon, San Diego, CA

Ultimately, all music acts on its audience through the same physics of sound, shaking the air and arousing curious sensations. 
-Alex Ross, The Rest is Noise

Earlier, in August probably, with my birthday approaching in September, I was asked if there was anything in particular I'd like.  I asked for a Joni Mitchell biography.  I planned on spending a good bit of the remainder of 2020 reading about music and musicians, musicians as artists not celebrities. 
Before Joni arrived I picked up a book on the 70s' era of progressive rock, prog-rock.  Having lived thru the 70s I was oddly unfamiliar with the term.  By that time I was in high school and well aware of the comings and goings of rock and roll and after seeing the blurbs on the book I recognized the bands referenced but still the term prog-rock was unfamiliar. To me it was all just, Rock.

The book, torn from an ELP lyric, The Show That Never Ends, accounts the time when music went from 3-minute love songs (boy meets girl, love lost, love gained, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, etc.) to 10-20 minutes orchestrated soundscapes. This was the era of Yes, Emerson Lake and Palmer (ELP), Genesis, The Moody Blues, Jethro Tull, Pink Floyd, and the ones who kicked it all off, King Crimson.  Crimson's album, The Court of the Crimson King, was not on your typical AM radio station playlist.  This was FM music played by college and underground stations with the freedom to cut loose 15 minute tracks with music unheard of 'til then. Prog-Rock groups used strings, mellotrons, massive synthesizers, timpani, long guitar riffs and equally long drum solos. It was new, it was played in large arenas with expensive light shows.  It wasn't dance music which is what may have helped kill it. 

Prog-Rock didn't last long. By the 80s it was on its way off the charts and into "Classic Rock" categories.  Punk and Disco took center stage.  Prog pops up on stations occasionally but it's rare to ever hear a cut from The Court of the Crimson King.  My 8-track copy (Google 8-Track if you're unfamiliar) is long gone but I do have the CD so I can still visit the King's court now and then. 

Joni's bio arrived and now sits on-deck in my to-be-read list.  I just finished a bio of Beethoven that I'll comment on in my next post.  

Stay well. 

(JWSmith Photography) music progressive rock R&R thoughts https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2020/9/reading-music Sat, 26 Sep 2020 16:33:12 GMT
Some books purchased while self-quarantined https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2020/8/some-books-purchased-while-self-quarantined 2020 Quarantine Collection

Over the last few months, while sequestered, I came across a few works of which I was happy to purchase and felt the need to say a few words about each.  
Each volume is around 30 pages and are from a widely dispersed group of artists: San Diego to Paris with stops in Ohio, Baltimore and the California desert. Each offering a unique view of their world and, in the case of Jodie Hulden, a world gone by. 

Social Distancing by Matt Day is a day-to-day look at Chillicothe, Ohio. I really enjoy these quotidian views of hometowns like Matt provides.  I watch his YouTube channel and enjoy his quiet and contemplative look at photography.  Matt's a film guy, Leica mostly, and it's easy to skip the gear talk in favor of his artist's approach to photography. Often he'll bring out a stack of books he's picked up and give a brief review, thus sustaining my interest in his channel. The profits from his book, Social Distancing, were donated to a local food bank, all the more reason to buy the book. 

American Landscapes by pj finn.  PJ resides in the southern California desert near Joshua Tree National Park and has an eye similar to Matt Day for expressing his locale thru photography.  Although PJ's views are wider, expansive and certainly more arid he shows the same aesthetic for visualizing his surroundings and bringing you into his world with imagery laid bare.  What you get is what he sees and there's a stark honesty about how he sees his environment. Having been to similar places in Anza-Borrego and the Mojave deserts I feel a connection to these images; they resonate. 

Still by Patrick Joust. I came across Patrick Joust's work via Ibarionex Perello's podcast, The Candid Frame.  He was an interesting interviewee and since he was from Baltimore I felt the nudge of a distant connection.  I grew up in Maryland and visited Baltimore a number of times so I hoped to have a connection remindful of a past life. His work didn't do that but I found it suggestive of a part of my history nonetheless.  Patrick works at night, in the inner city, with a large format camera (4x5 I think). Some of his scenes make you nervous for the photographer as he works in places that don't look completely safe.  The color images are on the dark side with spot of light from storefronts or homes that cast an eerie glow.  If nighttime street scenes are what you're looking for then Patrick Joust is your guy. 

Les Chaises by Lo Kee.  I found Lo Kee (pseudonym) on Flickr and continue to enjoy his B&W work in the streets of Paris. Naturally they tend to be low key exposures. He produces images one finds wandering the streets of a any major city but it seems more special being Paris.  Les Chaises is a small book of the many chairs he finds in what looks like city parks throughout Paris. I love collections like this and typically become bored with my own attempts before I have large enough collection to consider publishing.  Lo Kee has made a few volumes of selected subjects like this and though I went with chairs I could have chosen any of them and been equally impressed and satisfied. 

Left Behind by Jodie Hulden. I've saved this collection for last because it gave me the most surprise and pleasure upon receiving it. This atmospheric collection of images from Bodie State Park in California's eastern Sierra is just a beautiful book.  Simple in its composition and layout, graceful in its delicate tones, it summons a time we'll never see again.  A one time mining town that was abandoned and left as was for most of the buildings. Bodie has been preserved; thankfully so for artists like Jodie who have mined its textures, colors and history.  There is an introduction by George DeWolfe followed by 30 beautifully lit, nearly pastel images that work so well together.  I hope I can do as well some day.  

(JWSmith Photography) Bodie California books Jodie Hulden Lo Kee Matt Day Patrick Joust photo books photographers pj finn https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2020/8/some-books-purchased-while-self-quarantined Wed, 12 Aug 2020 21:16:57 GMT
Tree Bones https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2020/8/tree-bones Bones with Avian GlyphsBones with Avian GlyphsMono Lake, California Tree Bones and Avian Glyphs


The Life of the Dead is Placed in the Memory of the Living - Cicero
I Intend to Live Forever, or Die Trying - Groucho Marx

(JWSmith Photography) Cicero death immortality Marx quotes https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2020/8/tree-bones Sun, 02 Aug 2020 15:53:53 GMT
Book or Movie? https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2020/7/book-or-movie Mission Trails Regional Park, San Diego A while back I had an interesting e-mail conversation with Tracy Schultze about movies and TV series adapted from books.  The specific show was Man in the High Castle (Philip K. Dick) that was on Amazon Prime. The discussion awakened some of the thoughts I've had brewing inside for years as I was once a film buff and always a reader.  


I’ve come to accept that books and their adapted films are two valid and valued art forms with their own positive and negative characteristics. The book, of course, will be the primary source and where we go for the authentic narrative. But, film can be a masterful art form and, if done right, offers an enriching experience to an author’s work (a soundtrack for one!). What I get from a film version is the director’s re-telling of a story as he/she experienced it and with his or her artistic input. Some do it better than others and some directors I trust with story more than others but I have no qualms about film adaptions. For the most part I welcome them.

WRT High Castle I only saw the first season and enjoyed it enough to watch more but just haven’t gotten to it. I’ve not read the book(s?) and actually I’ve only read one of DIck’s books so I’m not in any way qualified to say whether this adaptation is good or bad. I just know i enjoyed the film. It’s a common complaint that a film isn’t true to the source but that’s the nature of film making. I’ve read LOTR twice, once just a few months before Jackson’s trilogy started, and found his movies exceptional and I’ve watched them multiple times. I sincerely doubt anyone outside of academia is more well versed in Tolkein’s narrative than Jackson and his team. They loved the books probably more that I do so I trust them to present as close to an authentic telling as possible within the bounds of film making. Of course I saw the missing bits and some changes but it was not distracting in the least and I’d be very willing to both read the book and see the movies again and again.

The same goes for the Ice and Fire series (adapted to Game of Thrones). I read the first three books before seeing any of the HBO series and I read the next two after seeing a season or two but other than I now have Peter Dinkledge imprinted on me as Tyrion along with the actors playing Arya, Cerci, Jamie and the rest I understood why some plot lines were cast aside in favor of expedience or pacing the films. I wanted to see Lady Stoneheart come on screen and grumbled a bit when she didn’t but I’ll always have the books if I want to follow that plot line. I don’t see it as a reason for rejecting what is really an excellent series in favor of some purity test. Take each for what they offer and allow them to compliment each other rather than oppose.

You can extend this argument to nearly all of the classic films that were adaptations but who wants to judge Gone with the Wind or The Maltese Falcon against their respective novels? Just enjoy them for what they are—entertainment.

I’ve always been a book-first, movie-second person but over the years (many, many years) I’ve adjusted that attitude a bit. There are hundreds of movies I’ve seen and loved where I never read the book. So, Judy Garland will forever be Dorothy Gale and Anthony Perkins will always be Norman Bates. And, if I should ever get around to reading the books I doubt I’d be annoyed if they were described differently in the pages. It becomes sort of a chicken-and-egg thing (whichever entered my life first is the ‘real’ version).

I’m rambling now. This question of book vs. movie has rambled around in my head for years so this gave me an opportunity to spill some of it. Probably more than you expected or wanted.

(JWSmith Photography) books movies https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2020/7/book-or-movie Mon, 27 Jul 2020 18:30:33 GMT
Donations to SPLC and EJI https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2020/7/donations-to-splc-and-eji Last month I announced that I would be giving my profits from sales on Fine Art America to the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Equal Justice Initiative.  Well, the sales weren't as numerous as I'd hoped and the total profits were $26 from cards and boxes of cards. Two or three people really went in on this and helped out with multiple buys.  Yet, the money didn't come rolling in, did it.  

What I'm going to do is send these contributions in addition to my own contributions so each organization gets $50 to further their good work.  

Thanks to all who contributed or passed on the post so others may see and contribute.  You've done a good thing. 


(JWSmith Photography) donations EJI FAA SPLC https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2020/7/donations-to-splc-and-eji Wed, 08 Jul 2020 15:14:30 GMT
A Nice Surprise https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2020/6/a-nice-surprise Ghost JeepGhost JeepLa Mesa, California Ghost Jeep
La Mesa, CA

Hi Joseph,

I'm happy to tell you that your photograph
Ghost Jeep
won a Gold Award in the San Francisco Bay International Photography Awards.

The competition was highly competitive, and the jurors only gave awards to 100 photographs. We will soon be sending you a list of all of the Gold, Silver, and Gallery award winners. Your photograph will appear with the other award winners in a feature on Bokeh Bokeh Photo. Also, we will share your photograph, along with your website or email address, with our panel of jurors, and also with our past jurors.

We had intended to display the Gold and Silver Award winners electronically, and display prints of the Gallery Award winners, in the ACCI Gallery during the Exhibition in September. However, due to the pandemic, the public exhibition is canceled.

Again, congratulations, and thank you for contributing your work.

My best regards,
David Garnick, Director
San Francisco Bay Month of Photography


Back in April I submitted to a few competitions that I thought fit my style. I'm not a competition hound so I'm not sure what motivated me to submit, validation perhaps. I've been feeling more confident in my work and less concerned about whether it's "good enough" so maybe I went into this with a chip on my shoulder, daring some judge to knock it off.  

The first organization to finalize did just that. A form letter of condolence; flipping that chip with casual nonchalance, plink! 

BAYMOP was the second to finalize their competition and I was fortunate enough to place. I'm still waiting for two more to close and see if any good words come from them.  

I can't see doing this again but one never knows. The entry fees, though not steep, are still a cost that has little return and I do realize they are a money-maker for the organizations doing them. I feel I was very selective in these submissions and did what little research I could before clicking the "Send" button. 

Art should not be a competition but at times I think that unless you play the game you'll never be seen by anyone outside your normal circle. I have maybe a dozen B&W images that I hold dear and felt the need to send some out, on their own, to see how the world responded.  

Also, please keep in mind that until 4 July I'm donating all profits from my Fine Art America sales to the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Equal Justice Initiative.  That post explaining it is here: A Simple Request


(JWSmith Photography) competitions photography https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2020/6/a-nice-surprise Mon, 15 Jun 2020 18:02:27 GMT
A Simple Request https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2020/6/a-simple-request Hi,
  Today it's just a simple request.

  From today through July 4 I will be donating 100% of profits from the sale of my artwork on Fine Art America to the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Equal Justice Initiative, equally divided. Both SPLC and EJI* are well established, worthy organizations. 

  I hope you will consider buying something to support this effort. The purchase of even a single greeting card will send $1 their way.  Of course a 60" print will contribute even more but I'm not greedy so buy what you will; support what you can. 

  Of course you can always send them money directly and I encourage you to do so. I'm merely offering an incentive to make the effort. 

  If you find that you don't like any of my work then buy a card you don't like and send it to someone you dislike. A worthy organization will be grateful. Someone you dislike may also be grateful. 

  How this works:  On the 15th of each month Fine Art America sends me a payment for sales from the previous month, i.e. my July 15th payment will be for sales from May 15th to June 15th. So, donations to the above organizations will occur on July 15 and August 15.  On those dates I will post whatever donations I've received. 

  I would appreciate it if after reading this you send it off to others who may wish to contribute.  If you think this is a bit wacko then send it to someone who you think is a bit wacko, they'll understand.

  Thank you for considering this offer.

  Stay well,

  Fine Art America site
*If you want to learn more about the beginnings of the Equal Justice Initiative then watch the film Just Mercy.

(JWSmith Photography) donations EJI FAA SPLC https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2020/6/a-simple-request Thu, 04 Jun 2020 15:09:39 GMT
La Mesa Automotive https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2020/5/la-mesa-automotive Geoff Dyer, in his book, The Ongoing Moment, talks about universal photographic tropes, things that hold a photographer's eye.  Subjects such as winding roads, fences, windows and even barber poles all crop up in photographic collections.  I find that interesting cars and trucks draws my eye.  In my walks around La Mesa this spring I've come across a number of pieces of automotive art and I've collected a few here. 
Picking up BeerPicking up Beer deVilledeVille Halfa Low RiderHalfa Low Rider The Surfer Moves InThe Surfer Moves In Chevy TruckChevy Truck
The HoldupThe Holdup Driveway ConeDriveway Cone

These photos and others can be found in a magazine I produced called, Walking La Mesa.  Click the image and you can see a .pdf version. 

(JWSmith Photography) California cars La Mesa neighborhood trucks walking https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2020/5/la-mesa-automotive Wed, 20 May 2020 15:46:44 GMT
The Stage https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2020/5/the-stage Stand in front of an empty stage long enough and the players will gather and assume their roles. 
                                                                                            -Paraphrased from Robert Doisneau

(JWSmith Photography) Amsterdam Doisneau people photography quote street https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2020/5/the-stage Sun, 10 May 2020 01:44:54 GMT
Open Umbrella https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2020/4/open-umbrella
Open UmbrellaOpen UmbrellaChula Vista, California The best thing one can do when it’s raining is to let it rain.
                                                                    - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


Another sunny day here in southern California.  I don't miss the rain but I do miss the cool days and meandering clouds. I'll have to check the calendar but I think this is day 2,391 of our self-quarantine-shelter-in-place-stay-at-home-wash-your-hands-binge-Netflix regimen. I've been well behaved during this time and occasionally reward myself with ice cream. I now feel a competition, a conflict, within myself to continue this conduct until the end (whatever 'end' should mean) and limit myself to what I can do through the simple act of walking about in La Mesa. Katherine and Kristin have performed generous acts of heroism in keeping food, drink, and entertainment in the house and I'm supremely grateful for that. Oh, I have started my car a few times over the last 2,391 days just to ensure myself it remembers how to perform internal combustion but I've not advanced the tires a single inch. For some bizarre, virus inspired reason, I'm proud of that. 

(JWSmith Photography) Chula Vista coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic rain thoughts on quarantine umbrella https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2020/4/open-umbrella Tue, 28 Apr 2020 19:13:21 GMT
Happy Earth Day https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2020/4/happy-earth-day Evening LightEvening LightPetrified Forest National Park, Arizona The care of the Earth is our most ancient and most worthy, and after all our most pleasing responsibility. To cherish what remains of it and to foster its renewal is our only hope.
                                                          ― Wendell Berry

Happy Earth Day! 

(JWSmith Photography) Arizona conservation Earth Day nature quote Wendell Berry https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2020/4/happy-earth-day Wed, 22 Apr 2020 20:45:59 GMT
Tryin' to get a letter thru https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2020/4/tryin-to-get-a-letter-thru BewareBewareLa Mesa, California I had nothing to do on this hot afternoon
but to settle down and write you a line

Thanks to Rod Stewart for the caption. And, to be totally honest it's anything but a hot afternoon here, I just happened to be listening to this song when I figured it was time to send out a little note with little or nothing to say.  Hope you're not disappointed. 

Buddy the Dog.  No need to be wary of him

Last Tuesday we were fortunate to receive Buddy from a family friend who could no longer support multiple dogs and two horses.  He's a fine lad, a fine Lab. 

(JWSmith Photography) Buddy dog lyrics music Rod Stewart https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2020/4/tryin-to-get-a-letter-thru Sun, 19 Apr 2020 20:37:32 GMT
Another...yeah, another... https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2020/4/another-yeah-another Picture WindowPicture WindowLa Mesa, California Every Picture Window Tells a Story Don't It (apologies to Rod Stewart)
La Mesa, California

Another day, another day, another day...

The walks continue, the little photo vignettes of La Mesa continue.  

Yesterday was Easter Sunday and we had Kristin over for dinner, outside, under the garage awning, protected from the light drizzle that's been our constant companion for the last 10 days.  We sat far apart and stuffed ourselves with slices of a delicious ham and assorted sides.  Lots of mimosas and red wine too, just 'cuz. 

The above photo amuses me. The window has some reflective coating or shading layered on so it produced a clear reflection of the house across the street. My favorite part of these photo walks is finding scenes like this. Not fine art or something you'd proudly hang in the office but it will work well with others of it's kind in a little magazine/book I want to make when this Covid business is out of our lives.  Hoping I can get 30 or so decent images from these walks. 

...another day...

Oh I'm being followed by a Palm Shadow—Palm Shadow, Palm Shadow (sorry Cat Stevens)
La Mesa, California

Truckin' (more apologies, more bad behavior, thanks and apologies to The Grateful Dead)
La Mesa, California (where else?)

And your flag decal won't get you into heaven anymore (Rest in Peace, John Prine)
you know where


(JWSmith Photography) COVID La Mesa photo walk social distancing song titles walk https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2020/4/another-yeah-another Mon, 13 Apr 2020 19:08:20 GMT
It's come to this https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2020/4/its-come-to-this Well, being home under COVID-19 quarantine for what feels like a full baseball season, and with a week-long rain still pouring from the skies, I've dug out my old and incomplete stamp album and took a few photos.  This sheet is from the 1934 series of National Parks. Little pieces of art. 

Top Left to Bottom Right
Yosemite   Yellowstone
Grand Canyon   Mt. Ranier
Mesa Verde  Crater Lake   Acadia
Zion   Glacier   Great Smoky Mountains

(JWSmith Photography) National Parks photograph stamp collection stamps https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2020/4/its-come-to-this Fri, 10 Apr 2020 18:49:05 GMT
Football Projects - Baseball Explorations https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2020/4/football-projects---baseball-explorations Second Base
Santee, California

Okay, this may strain your credulity a bit but I've been listening to one of my favorite George Carlin routines and feel his comparison between baseball and football is analogous in photography to projects and explorations.  
Yeah, really.
Go ahead and disagree, ignore me if you like, but first listen to George and then you can cast me adrift whilst chuckling uncontrollably.

I'd written about photo projects before and I've referenced Guy Tal's essay on photo explorations. I settle comfortably in the dugout of explorations (Carlin's baseball) as I feel that explorations are more loosely defined, given to free association, and liberated from the constraints of a project (Carlin's football). As George says, baseball games are timeless, they can go on forever. Explorations are like that. If I take a fascination with portobello mushrooms and decide to explore them photographically it may last two days or go into extra innings and last a year. The exploration will last long enough to suit my personal level of contentment—and then I eat them! 
Should I take the football analogy toward my favorite fungi I'd have a rigid timeline with confining boundaries, critical path analysis and due dates. My god, reports may be required!  It's much too tightly structured for what should be a welcoming, gratifying, even pastural, pursuit of an art.  Surely you understand this. 

ZebrasZebrasChula Vista, California

(JWSmith Photography) analogies baseball explorations football George Carlin photography projects https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2020/4/football-projects---baseball-explorations Mon, 06 Apr 2020 15:00:00 GMT
Walking in La Mesa - Pt. 4 or 5 https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2020/4/walking-in-la-mesa---pt-4-or-5 We Miss YouWe Miss YouLa Mesa, California We Miss You
La Mesa, CA

Another day, another walk.  Yesterday Katherine and I took a long walk in search of the La Mesa Stairs.  My friend and local photographer Tracy Schultz, having seen that I'm doing regular walkabouts with my camera, asked if I had ever photographed them. No, but it's a really good idea. They're kinda famous in these parts (even though they call them Secret Stairs) but I'd never seen them in person and didn't even know where they were (thus the secret part?).  
I found a map of the stairs' locations (there are 3 sets) on the internet and with that in my hip pocket, off we went.  The stairs are in the Mt. Nebo area of La Mesa.  Mt. Nebo sounds like it's from a children's story but it's a real place.  Because Mt. Nebo, like most Mts, is cone shaped, the streets run in switchbacks or circular routes up the hill. The stairs provide walkers with shortcuts by slicing through the switchbacks in the same way those nasty people do on mountainous trails where switchbacks are common and self-made shortcuts are made by thoughtless hikers (why yes, I am a tad bitter).  The stairs are also used for exercise as they're steep and fairly long which is probably why, upon arriving after a 4.5 mile walk, we saw this:

La Mesa Stairs
La Mesa, CA

There was a sign at each entranceway:

La Mesa Stairs
La Mesa, CA

Nonetheless we had a good 9 mile walk, it wasn't too hot as we had overcast skies the whole day, and I managed a few images along the way.

La Mesa, CA

Today's recommendations:
   For some incredibly good music with a folksy and sometimes humorous touch, John Prine's Sweet Revenge.  John is currently in the hospital suffering from COVID-19 and in critical condition so give him a listen, it'll be good for your ears (apologize for the Amazon link as I'm trying to avoid them).
   On the movie scene we rented 1917 the other night and I highly recommend it. And, if you're into movie soundtracks the music by Thomas Newman is worth a listen. 
   You'll need something to eat while listening to John and watching movies so try this:  Yotam Ottolenghi's Shakshuka

Bye for now, stay well and Remember...

(JWSmith Photography) John Prine La La Mesa Stairs La Mesa Walk Mesa Mt. Nebo neighborhood recipes recommendations street photos https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2020/4/walking-in-la-mesa---pt-4-or-5 Wed, 01 Apr 2020 18:03:43 GMT
Eights go East and Fives go North https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2020/3/eights-go-east-and-fives-go-north
The Eights go East the Fives go North
La Mesa, California

Metropolitan area with interchange and connections
Fly-by-nights from Riverside
And out of state plates running a little late
But the sailors jockey for the fast lane
So 101 don't miss it
There's rolling hills and concrete fields
And the broken line's on your mind
The eights go east and the fives go north
And the merging nexus back and forth
You see your sign, cross the line, signalling with a blink
Tom Waits, Diamonds on My Windshield

If you're from San Diego all this makes sense.  If not, give Mr. Waits a listen.  These lyrics come from the album, The Heart of Saturday Night


(JWSmith Photography) bridge highway La Mesa lyrics overpass San Diego Tom Waits https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2020/3/eights-go-east-and-fives-go-north Mon, 30 Mar 2020 15:44:45 GMT
La Mesa Walks https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2020/3/la-mesa-walks Jolly's Car ServiceJolly's Car ServiceLa Mesa, California
Morris Minor Pickup
La Mesa, California

Things I see while walking about La Mesa during this extended self-quarantine.  

The Morris Minor belongs to a guy around the corner who works on British cars from his home.  I'll usually see an old Volvo or Saab there too but it's the Triumphs and MGs that I find interesting. 
The trolley tracks are seen from a bridge (duh!) at Grossmont Station and I just liked the bold yellow stripes. 
The remaining photographs are from a walk thru an old, disused and troubled alley that runs for nearly half a mile between two blocks of typical, 1950s suburban homes.  You get an interesting view of people's back yards and what they let fall into abandon.  Most yards were much nicer than these but I find myself attracted to abandoned and decaying things so that's what I photographed.  If you look at the same home from the front (the public street view) they look well kept, trimmed and neat—typical American suburbia. They save the good stuff for the back I suppose.
The lawnmower in the final shot longs for a return to its owner, to be of use once more.  It sits at the back gate as a dog does; waiting for its master's return, "I know he's in there and if I wait long enough he'll open the gate and let me in."

Over the last 8-10 years I've accumulated a number of images that I've grouped into the category of Americana.  Some of these fit nicely into that group and eventually I'll put them all together and tie them up with a rusty piece of wire. 

Grossmont StationGrossmont StationLa Mesa, California Trolley Tracks
La Mesa, California

La Mesa, California Abandoned Childhood
La Mesa, California

Pink HousePink HouseLa Mesa, California The Pink House
La Mesa, California

La Mesa, California Backyard Barbecue
La Mesa, California

BackyardBackyardLa Mesa, California
Umbrella and Bucket
La Mesa, California

Sky HoopSky HoopLa Mesa, California
La Mesa, California

La Mesa, California

This weeks recommendation for music you should listen to: Emily Baker - All at Sea (Link is to Bandcamp, safe place to find music)

And, for your next Netflix binge: Broadchurch - 3 seasons to glue your eyes to. David Tennant (onetime Doctor Who) and Oscar winner Olivia Colman (The Favorite). It may take a season to align your ears to the accents but I find it a fascinating detective mystery. 

Something delicious to make: Mermelada de Jitomate by Pati Jinich.  Delicioso!

Stay well all.

(JWSmith Photography) americana California Coronavirus COVID-19 isolation La Mesa music Netflix quarantine recipe suburbia https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2020/3/la-mesa-walks Thu, 26 Mar 2020 19:18:28 GMT
SD Symphony Shell https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2020/3/sd-symphony-shell Symphony ShellSymphony ShellEmbarcadero, San Diego, California The Shell
San Diego, California

What I think will be eventually nicknamed "The Shell" is being built on Embarcadero South on San Diego Bay.  Our San Diego Symphony has played there for many summers doing a pops event. One year I took the girls to hear them play music from Lord of the Rings.  On the 4th of July they do the standard finale with Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overature (c'mon, you know, the fireworks music!) Our symphony is quite good yet doesn't seem to get the recognition of the majors.  That's okay, I kinda like our quiet corner of the country.  And now we'll have a venue that rivals the best.  I'm sure of it. 

A little addition to my post during this time of self isolation:
      Music you should be listening to:  First Aid Kit - The Lion's Roar
      Movies you should be watching:  Dark Waters
      YouTubers you need to watch if you like Photography:  Sean Tucker, Ben Horne, Adam Gibbs
      Podcasts to please your ears if you're a photographer: Breathe Pictures with Neale James (sorry no link, check your podcast app)

Stay well. 


(JWSmith Photography) music San Diego symphony The Shell https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2020/3/sd-symphony-shell Mon, 23 Mar 2020 15:00:00 GMT
Walking La Mesa https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2020/3/walking-la-mesa Ghost JeepGhost Jeep Ghost Jeep
La Mesa, California

The last few days of self quarantine have encouraged us to take some long walks around the neighborhood. Taking the camera makes the walks less boring and I tend to look for compositions that normally would have escaped my attention.  I think of how Garry Winogrand would find these oddities in front of his lens and capture those daily life scenes.  Garry wanted to remove the photographer from the scene and have it appear as if the scene just happened without an interpretation by the photographer; thus, to be invisible to the viewer of the image. Many of his images looked awkward or mundane.  His intent is that you just happened upon the scene without it being 'shown' or composed for you by the photographer.  That is not my intent...ever.  I prefer a composed and edited image. 

BejeweledBejeweledLa Mesa, California Bejeweled
La Mesa, California

AND! If you're stuck at home take some time to make this soup!  Cozy Autumn Wild Rice Soup  It was served at the last Print Club Meeting and got good reviews. 

(JWSmith Photography) Garry Winogrand La Mesa recipe Social Distancing soup recipe walks https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2020/3/walking-la-mesa Fri, 20 Mar 2020 18:06:28 GMT
The NFL owes me https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2020/3/the-nfl-owes-me Forsaken
La Mesa, California

I found out today that on Monday the Indianapolis Colts acquired Philip Rivers, long time quarterback of the San Diego Chargers.  This is of little importance to me as I've been gradually backing myself away from NFL fandom but still, I felt a slight tinge of sorrow on hearing this. 

Here's a little vignette on the Life-is-a-Circle theme:

When I was growing up I was a big fan of the Baltimore Colts and Johnny Unitas was my favorite quarterback of all time, still is.  Well before I landed in San Diego Unitas was either traded or went free agent and ended up as a San Diego Charger for his final year of play. Perhaps he knew I was coming and wanted to be here? Anyway, not long after I arrived in San Diego (Unitas was well retired by then) my Baltimore Colts, under the cover of night, fled Baltimore for Indianapolis to become the Indianapolis Colts.  I was heartbroken.  
Over time the San Diego Chargers earned my loyalty, passion and some of my money.  I raised my daughters to be Charger fans and Philip Rivers became our QB of choice.  Two years ago the San Diego Chargers left home to become the LA Chargers.  Burned again.  I still kept one eye open for whatever Rivers may be up to but in all reality I was done with football.  Then today I learn the he's off to Indianapolis, just like my beloved Colts.  It may be a lopsided circle I've drawn but for me it does have the Circle-of-Life feel to it.  

Stay Well. 

(JWSmith Photography) football Johnny Unitas Philip Rivers San Diego Chargers https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2020/3/the-nfl-owes-me Wed, 18 Mar 2020 20:44:35 GMT
Lunch Hour with COVID https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2020/3/lunch-hour-with-covid Lunch hour with CovidLunch hour with CovidLa Mesa, California
Lunch Hour with COVID
La Mesa, California

From 1660 to 1669 Samuel Pepys kept a diary during a time of great turmoil in England.  That period covered The Great Plague of London which lasted for two years and Pepys' diary is one of the best resources for day-to-day life during that period. 

In an effort to get outside and still keep our social distance Katherine and I took a seven mile walk around La Mesa and I was thinking of Sam's diary each time I came upon a scene like the one above.  Many shops had small, sometimes handwritten notices on their doors apologizing for the closure and hoping we'd understand. 

Just two blocks from home (and getting pretty hungry) we came upon our favorite local restaurant.  We were sad to see they were closed and cleaning up their spaces just before shutting down for that unknown length of time necessary to get beyond the pandemic.  

Stay well all. 

(JWSmith Photography) chairs COVID-19 La Mesa quarantine restaurant urban https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2020/3/lunch-hour-with-covid Wed, 18 Mar 2020 19:41:44 GMT
Another Book https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2020/3/another-book  

Go LeftGo LeftCampo, CA


I've put another book on my shelf.  One of my own this time and one that surprised me in how much I enjoy it.  The images are all in color which is a change for me and I'm quite happy with it.  If you click on the book you can flip through some pages via my Blurb book site.  It's a nice 12x12", coffee-table sized book and the prints came out just as I wished.  Blurb did a good job on this one. 
The title comes thanks to Cedric Canard, a regular follower who provides gracious commentary on my posts. I had once complained to him that I really didn't see any themes in my work and he made the perceptive leap to, "Well, randomness can be a theme also."  So, thus was born a title, Random Acts of Color
It's unfortunate that it's so expensive to print single copies or I'd try to sell them.  Price breaks start at 10 which doesn't help so I stick with vanity copies for my own shelves. 

(JWSmith Photography) Blurb books color photo photography https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2020/3/another-book Mon, 16 Mar 2020 15:46:22 GMT
Benny's Garage https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2020/3/bennys-garage Benny's GarageBenny's GarageBoulevard, CA Benny's Garage and General Repairing
Boulevard, CA

She's got electric boots, a mohair suit
You know I read it in a magazine
Bennie and the Jets

When the Jets finally turned on Bennie and walked out she had to find other work.  Electric boots and mohair suits are not exemplary resumé items so she wandered the earth in search of solid, life fulfilling work.  In Boulevard, CA she found it.  A slight name change and an obscure location near the desert lands of Southern California kept her out of the limelight. It was here she toiled for years; her once polished fingernails now mean and frayed and a permanent smudge of grease tattooed her brow. 
"I can be me here," she once told an interviewer. "I like the work, it's honest, and I never find myself in the tabloids."
Economic downturns strike even the once famous and Benny's had to close its doors in late 2008.  As for Bennie, no one knows. 

(JWSmith Photography) B&W Bennie and the Jets Benny's Boulevard Garage stories https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2020/3/bennys-garage Mon, 09 Mar 2020 17:37:09 GMT
Decay https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2020/3/decay Hula skirt in RustHula skirt in RustPacific Southwest Train Museum
Every part of me then will be reduced by change into some part of the universe, and that again will change into another part of the universe, and so on forever. - Marcus Aurelius

One of my favorite Youtube channels is Like Stories of OldIn these videos Tom van der Linden imparts his own, or ancient, philosophy in essays that use movies as a video accompaniment and to give life to the thoughts he's expressing.  Every one is interesting in some way.  The two I'm sharing here are because I found a nice harmony with the image above which I've tied to a Marcus Aurelius quote from the Shawshank video.   The image is of some running rust on the side of a train car found at the Southwest Train Museum in Campo, CA.  Forever changing and returning to the universe.

(JWSmith Photography) decay Like Stories of Old quotes rust stoicism videos Youtube https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2020/3/decay Thu, 05 Mar 2020 18:28:59 GMT
Printing and Paper https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2020/2/printing-and-paper Pinnacles National Park, California
Pinnacle and Glowing Pines
Pinnacles National Park, California

The above photo was taken during a hike in Pinnacles, NP last November.  All morning we were surrounded by glowing pines, radiated by side and back lighting.  Near the crest of our hike I found this short, squatty and angular pinnacle that was being warmed by that same morning sun.  It wasn't until a day ago that I re-discovered this image and it's since become a favorite.  Aside from the glow of the pines they also show an eagerness to lean inward, pushing the eye upward to the pinnacle which has a peak that mimics the tips of the pines.  I find that the whole scene works. 

The image has a nice range of tones so I decided to use it to test some papers from a Hahnemühle sample pack that I've been holding so as to do some comparisons. I am not a scientist so this is not a clinical trial nor in any way a deep, technical analysis of paper properties or ink (yes, disappointing, I know).  It's what I see when I look at these images under normal conditions (daylight) at normal viewing distances without the assistance of bourbon or scotch.  All were printed on my Canon P100 using Canon ink. 

Here are four prints I made before running out of Grey ink. All are individually soft proofed to achieve my desired result. 

Each image has a bit of sepia toning that becomes more obvious with the warmer papers (Baryta especially). I use SilverEFX to do some light split toning and then remove the toning from the hi-lites (in effect the paper) and leave the toning in the shadows and mid tones. It's a look I like for whatever odd reasons I may have rolling around in my head (YMMV). 

Top Left: My go to paper, Hahnemühle Photo Rag.  I use this paper for most of my B&W landscapes.  I'm building a National Parks portfolio using this paper.  As you can see it's cooler than the others.  It may also appear less contrasty but I assure you it's a beautiful print and the iPhone pic doesn't seem to reveal the sepia as much as is there in person (call for an appointment). 

Top Right: The happy surprise. Bamboo - From the new "Natural" line from Hahnemühle I had one sheet from a sample pack.  I like everything about it.  Warmth, detail, texture are all pleasing.  For an image like this the warmth is welcome. The deep blacks and shadows are just right to this eye.  This is a winning paper for images that crave a warmer look and textured feel.  I really don't want another paper in the arsenal but Bamboo will be hard to ignore. 

Bottom Left: Fine Art Baryta Satin finished last in this comparison.  It's very contrasty and the deeper blacks and shadows seemed to get a bit mushy (artsy term, mushy). The sheen doesn't work for this type of image. Not sure where I'd use this paper but I doubt I'll be using it again. 

Bottom Right: Photo Rag Baryta.  I'm not a fan of Baryta for B&W prints but this paper held its own here. It came in third but if you let it stand on its own without the others to compare to I think you'd like its look.  Less sheen than its neighbor (Baryta Satin) and the darker tones seem to have less heft (and mushiness if you can stand me using that term again).  I prefer a more textured paper for this type of image so the smoothness counts against it somewhat. 

So, what did I learn by spilling so much ink?  1) Bamboo paper is a worthy contender for images where I want more warmth and texture than I get with Photo Rag; 2) I'm still not a fan of a smooth Baryta finish and for B&W work I won't be considering them anymore, perhaps a color comparison will change my mind; 3) Photo Rag will still be my go to paper, possibly because I'm heavily invested in it and want to maintain a consistent look and feel; 4) All but the Baryta Satin stand tall on their own when not in comparison with others. 

Thank you for reading this far (you have, right?).  

(JWSmith Photography) Hahnemuhle National Park paper comparison Pinnacles printing https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2020/2/printing-and-paper Fri, 21 Feb 2020 17:41:42 GMT
The slow evolution of projects https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2020/2/the-slow-evolution-of-projects Used BooksUsed BooksGig Harbor, Washington No Dearth of Books
Gig Harbor, Washington, 2009

The most prevalent way of working in photography right now is project oriented: you go after an idea. I like the old way, the intuitive approach. You follow your nose and take pictures and see what emerges. It happens after the fact.  - Mark Klett

The above quote was posted by my Twitter friend, PJ Finn* and it really resonated with me.  I don't do projects very often, like, never. I like to think in terms of projects but I don't go out and pursue them as such. Like Klett notes, I see what emerges by, through the years, gravitating to what interests me. 

I allow those ideas to ruminate and I'll continue to collect what is offered, little by little. They'll be filed away and sometimes forgotten.  Yet, over time that idea will reassert itself and I'll dig through the catalogues hoping I keyworded correctly and those images are available at the click of a button. When pigs fly perhaps. 

I'll find that over the years I've been drawn to and photographed subjects that now can be shaped into something resembling a project. As the few examples below might illustrate I like photographing Readers.  I can not pass by a person reading a book.  Without the camera I'll try to see what they're reading; with the camera I'll try to get a photo. And, like Mr. Klett said, follow your nose and see what emerges (ha! with cold season upon us that may be a bad metaphor).  As it turns out I have enough Reader photographs to begin thinking project

The ReaderThe Reader
The Reader
Pt. Loma, CA - 2012
KristinKristinPortsmouth, NH
Portsmouth, NH - 2015
ReaderReaderSan Diego, California
San Diego, CA - 2017
Paris, France Window Reader
Paris, France - 2018  Reader on the SeineReader on the SeineParis, France
Reader on the Seine
Paris, France - 2018

Reader in Silhouette
Boston, MA - 2008

*yes, I have Twitter friends, Flickr friends, and an occasional Instagram friend. They're all virtual until I actually meet them in person which does happen on the rare instance. 

(JWSmith Photography) ideas Mark Klett projects readers thoughts https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2020/2/the-slow-evolution-of-projects Fri, 07 Feb 2020 18:49:57 GMT
Towers in Fog https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2020/1/towers-in-fog Last week we had a nice fog covering the high spots of downtown San Diego.  Crisp and clear below a hundred feet or so and then...

On days like this a skyscraper really does scrape the sky. 

I've become a fan of these tall beings. They can be thin, glass shrouded and light on their feet like the Pacific Gate Building below or broad shouldered and linebacker massive like the Jail building in the second pic.  The third building, whose name I failed to note, is still a parking lot on Google Maps at the corner of Broadway and Pacific. 

We don't have many of the thick and heavy marble building like you see in DC or New York and this gives a different feel to our downtown. Our nimble giants let in more light and reflect the warmth and sunshine that San Diego is known for.  It's the difference between walking in a redwood forest and an aspen forest. 

UnendingUnendingSan Diego, California

JailhouseJailhouseSan Diego, California

BreakthroughBreakthroughSan Diego, California

(JWSmith Photography) architecture buildings cityscape fog marine layer San Diego skyscraper https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2020/1/towers-in-fog Fri, 31 Jan 2020 19:20:25 GMT
Cloud Season https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2020/1/cloud-season Twins over the HarborTwins over the HarborSan Diego, California San Diego Harbor
January 2020

It's cloud season in San Diego.  It won't last long.  In fact, today is cloud free with boring blue skies stretching forever. The last few days however, had some nicely drawn skies along the harbor and downtown.  Hopefully, for the next few months we'll see occasional cumulonimbus and cirrus floating by with hopes for a lenticular or two.  

Happy Hunting! 

San Diego, California Kami M with CloudKami M with CloudSan Diego, California Floating through GeometryFloating through GeometrySan Diego, California

(JWSmith Photography) cloud season clouds cloudy skies harbor photography San Diego https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2020/1/cloud-season Mon, 13 Jan 2020 15:00:00 GMT
A New Year Sale https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2020/1/a-new-year-sale The Exaltation of WildernessThe Exaltation of WildernessAnza-Borrego Desert State Park The Exaltation of Wilderness
Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, 2014

This image from near Canyon Sin Nombre (such a great name for having no name) is my first sale in 2020.  It's also the third time this image has sold. One was even 84" wide to a buyer in Portland, OR (I would love to see it mounted on their wall). 

Oddly, it's not a favorite of mine.  This was taken before I was doing a "Yearly Top xx" so I don't have it filed as such but I know that it never ignited that spark the way some images do.  One significant reason this image is even available on FAA is because Alex Kunz said he liked it, a lot. Now, I know that as "artists" we are supposed to follow our own path and ignore the critics yadda, yadda, yadda.  However, now and then a respected voice comes forth and provides an encouraging nudge in the right direction.  Alex, unsuspectingly, did that. 

The image was taken right after a hike with Alex in that canyon with no name.  I saw the setting light filtering through the cholla and decided to walk all the way across the road (now you know why the photographer crosses the road) and have a look.  Alex was doing something, no doubt important or artistic, by the car and I set up my tripod and composed a few images. A big tarantula crawled nearby but I can't find those pictures (no tarantula keyword?).  

I think we were still on G+ back then and I routinely posted it where I got a few typical responses but it was Alex's applause that encouraged me to try to take the image a bit further, to care about it more, and to see how it would do on Fine Art America.  After all, Alex was there (albeit across the road doing important or artistic stuff) and I have much respect for his work and his aesthetics in landscape photography.  If Alex liked it then perhaps others would also. So, I did as little editing as I could to still retain the vision of what I felt on-site and sent it on its way to Fine Art America where it's done much better than I would have predicted. 

(JWSmith Photography) Anza-Borrego desert FAA sales https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2020/1/a-new-year-sale Fri, 10 Jan 2020 17:38:11 GMT
2019 in Review https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2020/1/2019-in-review

Near the end of 2019 my friend Peter Tellone did a video of his "2019 Year in Review." I loved it and posted a link to the video in my blog. It's a rapid paced, full bore video of his year.  Well, I enjoyed it so much I thought I'd do the same.  Mine is not as long but I think it captures all the places, people and events that I photographed throughout the year.  It was an eventful year; Europe, New Hampshire for a family reunion, a new National Park (Pinnacles), Vermont, my transition to photographing urbanscapes and of course the ol' standards; Anza-Borrego desert, La Jolla shores, Sunrise Highway, Balboa Park and downtown.  
So, here it is, a rapid paced visit to 2019. Don't blink.

Volume 11 Mr. Sulu. 



(JWSmith Photography) 2019 slideshow Year in Review https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2020/1/2019-in-review Mon, 06 Jan 2020 17:07:59 GMT
High Desert in Winter https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2020/1/high-desert-in-winter Red Rock in SnowRed Rock in SnowRed Rock Canyon, Nevada Red Rock National Conservation Area, Nevada

The desert southwest can reflect its beauty in many ways but seeing it dusted in morning snow is, without a doubt, the desert at its best. You easily forget that just months ago this same scene baked in 100 degree temperatures. 

Mt Wilson with SnowMt Wilson with SnowRed Rock Canyon, Nevada Mt. Wilson with a dusting of snow

(JWSmith Photography) desert mountains Nevada Red Rock snow southwest winter https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2020/1/high-desert-in-winter Wed, 01 Jan 2020 17:45:47 GMT
The Reading Year https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/12/the-reading-year The website Goodreads gives you a yearly report of the books you read and a few stats about them.  I only got through 20 books this year but some were pretty long.  Those thick 500 pagers are like speed bumps, they slow me down and I'm a slow reader anyway.  

You can find the report here:  The Goodreads 2019 Reader Report


(JWSmith Photography) books Goodreads reading yearly reads https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/12/the-reading-year Sat, 28 Dec 2019 16:37:02 GMT
2019 Favorites - A Split Year https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/12/2019-favorites---a-split-year I surprised myself this year. Throughout the year I had been concentrating on B&W images and yet this year's favorites have an equal number of color and monochrome. No doubt it's a good thing to keep an open mind on what the composition needs rather than stamp a look on a subject when in reality it screams for something different.  

I'm once again thankful to Jim Goldstein for supporting these end-of-year efforts by so many fine artists and for hosting this link to my small corner of the internet. 

This year's crop ranges from urban architecture to a National Park landscape, from decaying barn to warmly lit staircase. It's a mixed bag for sure. You see, I have no focus. I find myself of the Garry Winogrand school of photography in that, No one moment is most important. Any moment can be something.  

Here then, are twelve moments: 

Barn DoorBarn DoorGuildhall, Vermont
Barn Door
Guildhall, Vermont
Pinnacle PinesPinnacle PinesPinnacles National Park, California
Pinnacles and Pines
Pinnacles National Park, California
Lemons and StairsLemons and StairsShaker Village, Kentucky
Lemons and Stairs
Lexington, Kentucky
Picket FencePicket FenceImperial Beach, California
Picket Fence
Imperial Beach, California
Bubble BoyBubble BoyAmsterdam, Nederlands
Bubble Boy
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Schönbrunn PalaceSchönbrunn PalaceVIenna, Austria
Schönbrunn Palace
Vienna, Austria
Leading ChairsLeading ChairsSan Diego, California
Leading Chairs
San Diego, California
VIennaVIennaVIenna, Austria
St. Stephens Cathedral
Vienna, Austria
Corner of the SkyCorner of the SkySan Diego, CA
Corner of the Sky
San Diego, California
Pillars in ShadowPillars in ShadowSan Diego, California
Pillars in Shadow
San Diego, California
Evening ReflectionsEvening ReflectionsSan Diego, California
Evening Reflections
San Diego, California
Nordstrom's GhostNordstrom's GhostSan Diego, California
Nordstrom's Ghost
San Diego, California

(JWSmith Photography) 2019 Amsterdam Austria California Favorites Kentucky photography Pinnacles San Diego yearly favorites https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/12/2019-favorites---a-split-year Mon, 23 Dec 2019 15:45:00 GMT
Merry Christmas & Happy New Year https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/12/merry-christmas-happy-new-year Mt WashingtonMt Washington Hope you all have a delightful holiday season!

We are off to New England for the holidays and to enjoy family and a winter wonderland.  

(JWSmith Photography) Christmas Mt Washington Hotel New England New Hampshire Peter Tellone snow winter https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/12/merry-christmas-happy-new-year Fri, 20 Dec 2019 16:35:45 GMT
Once more into the files, dear friends, once more https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/12/once-more-into-the-files-dear-friends-once-more Station #6Station #6Imperial Beach, California
Station #6
Imperial Beach, California

My friend and fellow photographer Peter Tellone posted an exceptional video today of his 2019 Photos in Review  and it reminded me that it's that time of year again.  I have not even begun to filter through the over 400 images I've ranked as 5-Star.  Ansel Adams said that a crop of 12 excellent images is a good year. Based on my 400 I guess Ansel was just an underachiever.  Those mighty 400 will quickly be whittled down to 30 or so over the next few weeks and then, more painfully, the count will be hacked and whacked and clubbed until it's at twelve. By the time I'm down to 50 I'll realize (once again as it's a yearly self-realization) that I awarded high marks to lots of substandard work, crap really. 

Stay tuned, it'll be early January before I have my twelve ready for company.  In the meantime grab a cup of coffee and watch Peter's video, it'll put a smile on your face. 

(JWSmith Photography) 2019 favorites end of year Favorites https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/12/once-more-into-the-files-dear-friends-once-more Sun, 15 Dec 2019 20:22:34 GMT
Back to the Sea https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/12/back-to-the-sea
With One's ThoughtsWith One's ThoughtsLa Jolla, California
Alone with One's Thoughts
Hospitals Reef, La Jolla, California

Yesterday it was raining for what must be the tenth day since Thanksgiving week.  Rather than head downtown to photograph a wet San Diego I figured it was time to leave the city streets and re-visit the reef in La Jolla.  I desired a clean, refreshing sea breeze, heart-pounding surf, and a dark and moody seascape. 

Since it was raining at home I expected a rainy and empty coast but what I got was a sky full of slightly angry clouds, a light mist, and people crawling all over the reef.  The coast being clear of rain was a good thing, leaving only large and roiling cloud formations; perfect actually.  The flow of tourists walking through my frame was annoying, this person however, really made the scene.  Thank you, stranger. 


Two more from yesterday: 

Emerald Sea and Pale Blue Sky

Sea 'n Sky in ConcertSea 'n Sky in ConcertLa Jolla, California
Sea and Sky in Concert

If you find these images attractive enough to purchase just click on the image and it will link you to my print store where you can buy as many copies as your heart desires.  It's Heart Healthy! 

(JWSmith Photography) alone clouds coast Jolla La ocean Pacific reef storm surf https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/12/back-to-the-sea Mon, 09 Dec 2019 17:52:55 GMT
Baltimore https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/12/baltimore Inner HarborInner HarborBaltimore, Maryland
Baltimore, Maryland

Baltimore's Inner Harbor features a world class aquarium and some interesting architecture that, from the water, makes for a nice panorama.  This image is from the archives, circa 2017. 

(JWSmith Photography) aquarium architecture Baltimore buildings cityscape harbor Maryland tourism urban https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/12/baltimore Sat, 07 Dec 2019 18:02:28 GMT
Taco Tuesday https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/12/taco-tuesday Well it happened.  The Mexican Fiesta is gone.  Destined to be another empty space that people walk by and wonder what used to be there.  They'll be certain something was there, and they'll say, "Geez, I know something was there but damn if I can remember what it was."  Unintentionally, this may be the only set of historical photos I have.  
Regarding the title, I'm not sure how far Taco Tuesday extends beyond southern California but for us it's a long standing tradition to have a taco on this otherwise unadorned weekday. And, the alliteration helps. Tonight I'll make turkey tacos since we seem to have an abundance of turkey in the fridge.  

Mexican FiestaMexican Fiesta

(JWSmith Photography) downtown forgotten past historical Mexican Fiesta Restaurant San Diego tacos urban https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/12/taco-tuesday Tue, 03 Dec 2019 15:46:32 GMT
Fine Art Sales! Save the Date https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/11/fine-art-sales
Framed and Unframed Artwork on Sale
(Sofa not included)

I don't advertise my work very often but there are a few yearly specials available at Fine Art America (the folks who host my artwork) that you may be interested in if you've ever wanted to own one of my images.

Last year I had a flurry of buys due to these offers but I didn't recognize the effect they had until it was too late to advertise.  So, this year I'm putting the word out and hopefully it's in time if you've been considering buying one of my prints.  

On November 23rd and 24th FAA offers Free Shipping on all U.S orders, a considerable savings on those big canvas prints!

On November 29th and December 2nd all wall art (Canvas, Framed prints, Posters, Acrylic etc.) is 25% off!

My Fine Art America site is located here:  Art Prints from JWSmithphoto  Once there scroll down to see images grouped by categories. 

(PS: If this doesn't interest you please pass it on to that rich uncle who used to pinch your cheeks when you were small.  It's a tiny bit of revenge.)

(JWSmith Photography) advertisement FAA promotion sale https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/11/fine-art-sales Thu, 21 Nov 2019 16:00:00 GMT
Pinnacles National Park https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/11/pinnacles-national-park     Pinnacles PanoPinnacles PanoPinnacles National Park, California Pinnacles National Park from the High Peaks Trail

   San Diego has a problem in its geography.  We have two routes north, the 5 and the 15 and one major highway east, the 8.  Going east is pretty easy, there's nothing big and obtrusive in the way.  Going north is another matter as there sits a metropolis as large as Jupiter whose gravitational pull begins to be felt 90 miles north of us:  Welcome to LA, Los Angeles, The City of Angels.  
   Imagine having a friend who lives up the street and between you and that friend is a massive oak tree full of tangly, gyrating roots and buzzing, angry bees.  Visiting that friend would take some additional planning and time management as you wouldn't want to pass by the tree while the bees were swarming or the roots were less than calm.  Right? 
  We left San Diego for Pinnacles at 4am as to approach our metaphorical tree and buzzing bees around 5:30am when the hive is just beginning to get active. Los Angeles is so enormous and spread out that on a good day, with five lanes of modern, northbound interstate, it can take two hours to get through the 80 miles from Irvine in the south (a city of its own actually) to Thousand Oaks at the north (another city of its own yet is impacted by LA traffic).
   However, once you escape the muck and mire you can begin to appreciate the beauty of this state.  The 101 (for some reasaon we always use the before a highway number, hence the 101, the 5 etc.) gives a great view of the bright blue Pacific and then cuts inland where we roll through ranch and farmland for miles upon miles eventually reaching vineyard country with many more miles of grapevines warming in the sun.  The pastoral scenery allows you to forget about that buzzing hive just an hour behind you.  
   Pinnacles National Park is the newest in our collection of natural grace. We went primarily to see condors and I really didn't know what else to expect but aside from condors there are some incredible rock formations, lengthy hiking trails, peaceful vistas and at this time of the year, fall color.  It's not a large park but it's packed with fascination. 

Pinnacles National Park, California
Katherine on the High Peaks Trail 
High Peaks TrailHigh Peaks TrailPinnacles National Park, California
Pinnacles up Close
ReservoirReservoirPinnacles National Park, California
Bear Gulch Reservoir

(oddly named as there are no bears in Pinnacles)
Pinnacles National Park, California The Star of the Show
Pinnacles National Park, California Larry, Moe and Curly waiting for thermals
JuniperoJuniperoPinnacles National Park, California Number 63 - Junipero

Report sightings by number to a ranger and she'll tell you the condor's name and other info
Pinnacles National Park, California Fly-by
This condor and a friend flew past us 30 feet to our right at eye-level.  The best I could do for a photograph as they came from behind and surprised us (surprised is putting it mildly, we were astonished!)
Pinnacles National Park, California
Condors sometimes disguise themselves as woodpeckers, ravens, jays to escape the public eye.  Can't fool me. 
Pinnacle PinesPinnacle PinesPinnacles National Park, California
Pretty sidelight on the Balconies Trail
Pinnacles National Park, California Camp

The two large oak trees that shaded the campsite also snowed leaves and acorns on us for 4 days.  Deer, turkey, quail and raccoons are all over the campground.  We had many visits from deer who would pay us no mind and hang out eating acorns while we made dinner or sat nearby. The bear box is for the nightly raccoon visits. 

(JWSmith Photography) California camping condors hiking National Park Pinnacles travel https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/11/pinnacles-national-park Mon, 18 Nov 2019 16:56:07 GMT
Europe 2019 https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/11/europe-2019 After finally getting Lightroom to export a slideshow to video the slides of our trip to Europe are ready.  I don't see it as your typical "what I did on my summer vacation," set of images.  I tend to photograph whatever light, texture and form attracts my eye and holds it, so it is my intent to present images of scenes you may have passed by or ignored but which for me were impressive thru their arrangements of light, texture, shadow and composition.  It is not so much a story being told as it is a collection of impressions taken over 3 weeks. 

Here it is and I hope you enjoy the next 5 minutes. 

Be bold! Run it full screen. 

Music: Ghostwriter by Rjd2


(JWSmith Photography) amsterdam austria bavaria cycling danube Europe germany london munich photography slideshow street travel vienna https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/11/europe-2019 Tue, 05 Nov 2019 17:48:43 GMT
Happy Halloween https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/10/happy-halloween Reflecting the StripReflecting the StripLas Vegas, Nevada Reflecting Las Vegas
Las Vegas, NV

Happy Halloween to all the goblins and ghosts in my life. 

(JWSmith Photography) cityscape Halloween Las Vegas Nevada reflections urban https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/10/happy-halloween Thu, 31 Oct 2019 15:54:58 GMT
Cerrado https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/10/cerrado CerradoCerradoSan Diego, California Cerrado
San Diego, California

Yesterday I found a disappointing scene. The Mexican Fiesta shop is cerrado. One of those forever places that over time becomes a landmark, the shop in Little Italy would always stop me and pose for another photo. Sitting inconspicuously in the corner of a parking lot, shadowed beneath a glass-walled behemoth it is lonesome and detached in its less than fortunate garb. Now the parking lot will no doubt grow another 5 spots and in another year people will walk by and try to remember what it was that used to sit there.


(JWSmith Photography) decay downtown Little Italy Mexican Fiesta restaurant San Diego taco shop urban https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/10/cerrado Tue, 29 Oct 2019 16:27:22 GMT
Amsterdam https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/10/amsterdam

It is not my intent to do a city-by-city tour of our European trip and I'll stop here if that's okay.  Amsterdam was both difficult and thoroughly enjoyable. Difficult in that it rained quite a bit and due to inner-city hotel costs and our desire to maintain something close to a reasonable budget we stayed on the outer edge and took light rail to its center each morning. Enjoyable in that it's a beautiful city, full of people and bicycles and people on bicycles and canals and bicycles in canals. It was my favorite for photography. We did a canal tour with Those Dam Boat Guys on a rain chilled day which turned into a personal tour because none of the other passengers showed up (yeah, we're tough. Wet and tough).  Our boat pilot, Adam (comedian in 'real' life), enshrouded us in industrial strength ponchos and off we went for an hour or so of history and comedy on the canals of Amsterdam. It's odd what snippets you remember from these little tours: Amsterdam pulls around 17,000 bikes from the canals each year. 17,000! Plus, a half-dozen bodies, mostly male, many with zippers down having fallen in whilst drunk and expelling the latest beer. They just took one step too far from the bar. 

After I made the reservations for Amsterdam I discovered it's the world's second most impacted city by tourism, second only behind Venice and you've no doubt heard the unfortunate stories of tourism's impact there.  I would love to go back but I'm not sure I would.   There is information here if you want to understand the impacts and how tourism can be more sustainable:  Sustainable Tourism

Free ParkingFree ParkingAmsterdam, Nederlands

Wet, Cold, Miserable; looking for a composition

(JWSmith Photography) Amsterdam bicycles canals europe photography rain tourism https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/10/amsterdam Thu, 24 Oct 2019 16:02:22 GMT
The Martin's Barn - Guildhall, VT https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/10/the-martins-barn---guildhall-vt Martin's FarmMartin's FarmGuildhall, Vermont Beauty and the Beast

It is both rewarding and at times surprising when what you envision at a scene actually comes to life. For this set I had to sit back and allow the images and my expectations for them to marinate a while, simmer a bit in their juices, and then stir.  

Today I stirred.

The photographs are of Martin's Farm in Guildhall, Vermont.  The Martin's are Katherine's longtime family friends who have some property in Guildhall that is being refurbished.  The house being refurbished was of no interest, especially when I had this magnificent barn to explore.  The clean, white door, unhinged and propped up against a beam, stood out like a pearl, anxious to be photographed against the weathered browns and slate grays of the barn. 

I'm always on the lookout for places like this but rarely find them and when I do I fail to execute the vision.  I think I got it this round.  These have all been printed on Hahnemühle Photo Rag paper and look splendid.  Print your work! 

Vermont BarnVermont BarnGuildhall, Vermont
The White Door

Barn DoorBarn DoorGuildhall, Vermont
Barn Door

Wndow VIews

The Beast's Maw

(JWSmith Photography) barn decay farm Guildhall photography Vermont https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/10/the-martins-barn---guildhall-vt Sat, 12 Oct 2019 20:28:26 GMT
London https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/10/london UndergroundUndergroundLondon, England We're so sorry, Uncle Albert
But we haven't done a bloody thing all day
We're so sorry, Uncle Albert
But the kettle's on the boil, and we're so easily called away

                         - Sir Paul

So, how'd you like London?
Tis that. 

Other than that, London has grown on me since we left.  And yet, the first thing that comes to mind when I think of London is how expensive it was.  The dollar to pound exchange rate didn't favor us so that may have coloured (yes, an added 'u') my thinking a bit.  Otherwise, it's a great city, a crowded city, a busy city; a city bursting with history and stories to tell.   An absence of planning for London (my error) left us with daily decisions as to where to go, what to do.  One thing we've found helpful is the Hop-on/Hop-off busses that run in most major cities.  We use it to scout the city for places to go later and places to avoid.  It's a very touristy thing to do but for the newcomer it's full of information about the city and from the open top it's privy to some nice angles for photography.  
We only went to one major attraction, The Tower of London (insert ominous music). The Yoemen Warders (aka Beefeaters) guard the place and serve as humorous guides and interpreters of the history of the Tower.  It's a visit worth making and we spent a good 3 hours or more wandering about on our own self-guided tour.  
Aside from visiting the Tower we walked a lot: Chinatown, the National Gallery's plaza, the Thames walkway from Big Ben to the Tower, the theater district and other places I have no name for. 
I'd go back without a second thought but I'd only want to do one major tourist site per trip.  The crowds are uninviting so it takes a truly stellar site to defeat the feeling of being crammed, cheek by jowl, in the throngs. 
We did get to spend some quality time with a good portion of the population on the Underground.  I was rewarded for this effort by the announcer's call to "Mind the Gap" which made me smile just a bit.  

London EyeLondon EyeLondon, England London EyeLondon EyeLondon, England
Of course it's cliche! But, there it is, there am I, what else could I do but take the picture.  

(JWSmith Photography) England London London Underground Mind the Gap thoughts tourist https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/10/london Fri, 04 Oct 2019 17:50:03 GMT
Tableau https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/9/tableau  

TableauTableauAmsterdam, Nederlands

[ short for tableau vivant (from French, literally, living picture) ] : a depiction of a scene usually presented on a stage by silent and motionless costumed participants

I like this image.  The title came to me even before I snapped the shutter.  Perhaps influenced by our recent visit to see Rembrandt's masterworks or that we were sitting in Rembrantplein with an imposing statue of the master accompanied by his Night's Watch just to our right.  Either way the composition is pleasing. They seemed to have purposely positioned themselves as if for a portrait. On the left an attractive, young couple have a discussion, make eye contact; the woman, fingers mingled, leans in as if to emphasize a point, the man, unthreatened, leans away, why? Next, a woman dressed in white, eyes closed, gathering sun on what I remember to be an overcast and rainy day. Leading then to a disinterested lad who nearly ends the composition; but a latecomer, arriving after I waited for the cross traffic to clear stands as a bookend reading something in Chinese, perhaps a guidebook explaining the importance of the man on the pedestal. 

(JWSmith Photography) amsterdam photography portrait Rembrandplein street https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/9/tableau Wed, 25 Sep 2019 15:00:00 GMT
The Musician https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/9/the-musician Accordian PlayerAccordian PlayerMunich, Germany

...there ain't no journey what don't change you some.
― David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas

Munich, Germany

(JWSmith Photography) accordion germany munich musician street performer https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/9/the-musician Sat, 21 Sep 2019 15:48:46 GMT
Summer Vacation https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/9/summer-vacation

35 days
7 flights
4 airlines
11 Trains
7 Trams/Metros/Buses/Undergrounds
4 Uber hires
4 Lyft hires
1 Rental Car
6 countries 
6 major cities 
17 different beds
12,861 air miles
347 cycling miles
1,924 photographs

So of course we had a good time! 


(JWSmith Photography) cycle tour europe KLM travel https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/9/summer-vacation Thu, 19 Sep 2019 01:51:03 GMT
The imperative of the fence line https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/8/the-imperative-of-the-fence-line Cuyamaca FenceCuyamaca FenceCuyamaca, California
Cuyamaca Fenceline

There is no doubt, in my mind anyway, that if you have camera in hand and come upon a fence, you'll take a photo.  Whether you're a serious photographer or not, you'll make an image.  The draw of the fence line is immediate and compelling.  A long wavy thread making its way through an otherwise empty landscape or a straight and simple line cutting across a farmer's field will hook you.  That eye-catching pattern is rooted in our psyche somewhere and we're urged to make some effort to explore.  Whether it's decaying and irregular or as regimented as a military parade, we stop and look, perhaps study.

Some of us seek them out, line them up, adjust our perspectives and make image after image.  For me they're purely aesthetic.  I have no knowledge or what constitutes a good fence, nor the correct components of a respectable one.  Many times I cannot tell what purpose the fence serves.  In wide-open spaces I'll drive for miles and right along side me is a fence running unbroken for just as many miles. Is it holding something in or keeping something out? 

In the west we have mostly fences of barbed wire, not altogether attractive unless they're falling apart and the broken posts dip left and right or fall down entirely and lie wasting away in a field.  Then, what was once serious and uncompromising, becomes softer, timeworn and venerable; much more photographic and the reason we stop.

Three AmigosThree AmigosHollenbeck Canyon
Three Amigos
San Diego's East County  

Fence and FansFence and FansNew Mexico
Fenced Fans
New Mexico

Fence, Trees, CloudsFence, Trees, CloudsShaker Village, Kentucky
Shaker Fence

American FarmAmerican Farm
Corn field kept safe behind a split rail fence

(JWSmith Photography) Fence fence lines photography thoughts https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/8/the-imperative-of-the-fence-line Sun, 04 Aug 2019 17:14:47 GMT
Sunrise Highway https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/7/sunrise-highway Our County has an incredibly rich and diverse landscape. With the horizonless, blue Pacific Ocean to your back, a short drive east will bring you to the foothills of rural east county, then a long, meandering climb places you in our local mountains via Sunrise Highway, the best of all roads.  For an encore, take a long descent into the the arid lands of the Anza-Borrego Desert. 

Ever since I first traveled Sunrise Highway I knew it would become my favorite scenic route in San Diego County.  I've lived here 40 years now and I'm still of that opinion as this is a striking and awe-inspiring stretch of road.  Its winding 35 miles of forests and overlooks runs along the Peninsular Range and in places holds grand and arresting views of Anza-Borrego Desert to the east. 

At one time, whenever visitors came, I'd get them up before dawn and drive out to Sunrise Highway to see the sun come up over the rugged foothills that tumble headlong and not-so-gently to the desert floor.  Afterward, we'd head down to the small desert town of Borrego Springs for breakfast burritos and coffee.  Then, as the morning heat closed-in on triple digits, it's back up to the cooler temps of Mt. Laguna, retrace our path along Sunrise Highway and head west to San Diego.  In an hour we'd be soaking our feet in the Pacific while eating fish tacos washed down with margaritas.  All this before sunset. 

One of my first photos from Sunrise Hwy.  
That tree is now gone, destroyed by wildfire as was the overlook platform I was standing on.  
The platform has been rebuilt but unfortunately the well positioned tree is gone forever. 
Pacific Crest TrailPacific Crest TrailMt. Laguna, California
The Pacific Crest Trail heading north to Canada
Morning ThunderheadMorning ThunderheadCuyamaca, California
At the north end of Sunrise Hwy, cumulonimbus clouds catch the morning sun
Marching Stones of Mt. LagunaMarching Stones of Mt. LagunaMt Laguna, California
Marching stones climbing out of the desert to cooler temps 
Anza-Borrego Desert State Park
Before the summer heat turns everything brown the foothills between the mountains and desert can be a lovely green
SunriseSunriseMt Laguna, California
My most recent image from my favorite morning overlook

(JWSmith Photography) Anza-Borrego Desert desert desert views road trip rural San Diego County Sunrise Highway https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/7/sunrise-highway Sun, 28 Jul 2019 20:08:34 GMT
Desert Rise https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/7/desert-rise Tequila SunriseTequila SunriseMt Laguna, California
Desert Rise
Anza-Borrego Desert


The sun rises early this time of year.  A 4:30am alarm and I'm up and on the road before 5am so I can get up to the desert overlook on Sunrise Highway in the Laguna Mountains before the sun peeks over the mountains.  Sunrise is 5:54 this morning and I make it by 5:40.  It's a pretty photo but lacks the drama I wanted from the recent desert monsoons we've been having.  Anza-Borrego has been getting rain for a few days and from my home I could see clouds stacked high and thick.  But, it didn't last and this morning I unfortunately discovered that the skies were only lightly decorated with some wispy clouds but no drama.  

(JWSmith Photography) Anza-Borrego desert Mt. Laguna sunrise https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/7/desert-rise Fri, 26 Jul 2019 17:27:26 GMT
Let's Do This https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/7/lets-do-this Let's Do ThisLet's Do ThisSan Diego, California
Let's Do This
Horton Plaza, San Diego, CA


Woke from a fitful sleep last night thinking about this photo.  No conceivable reason for that, it's not a photo I've ever published before, nor do I have any emotional tie to it.  Something subconscious maybe.  But, I thought that since it kept me awake from 2-3am I'd explore it here.   

It's a metaphor for sure; taken at Horton Plaza, a once-upon-a-time shining star of San Diego's downtown architecture, now just a white elephant. When shiny and new it was a fun and cheery place to take visitors. The open-air, Escher-like maze of stairways, corridors and archways created a Wonderland painted with hues and colors ranging across the spectrum.  Yet, it was never a mall that was easy to navigate; attempts to get to a store that you can see a level or two above but just can't decode the route to reach it were almost comical.  Well, a fun laugh the first time or two, but frustrating for regulars.  

The suburbs have built their own Wondermalls draining customers from the city so this downtown gem has met its unfortunate end. Now, over half its stores have closed, ghosts wander about, and Homer buckets lie abandoned on wet sidewalks.  

(JWSmith Photography) abandoned bucket decay doors Horton Plaza San Diego stores windows https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/7/lets-do-this Tue, 23 Jul 2019 16:39:19 GMT
Reasons to Print from Missy Mwac https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/7/reasons-to-print Missy's Reason #1 to Print What You Want to Preserve:
          Because 50 years from now, the most photographed generation in history will have no photos. 

The Devil inside MeThe Devil inside Me
The Devil Inside Me

I'm a big fan of Missy Mwac (https://missymwac.com) not only for her humor but for her evangelical persistence that we must print our work so it will be as meaningful 50 years from now as the above image of moi is today.  This devilish image was taken over 50-years ago and  I'm sure it was in print at some point but now it exists only as a Kodachrome slide.  Now stored carefully it was once housed with its brethren in a Carousel and occasionally projected by my father in a darkened room full of chuckling family members.  I'm sure I was mortified each time it appeared but now, well now I'm kinda proud of it and how it has managed to survive all these years.  Point being, It exists in physical and retrievable form and if stored carefully will become a cherished artifact for my great-great grandkids. Really, they'll love it. 

And, plans are, in the near future it'll be printed in book form to be even more easily accessible.  There I'll be, sitting on a shelf ready to be pulled down and perused as bedtime reading.  Great fun for the great-great grandkid.  

It's sad to note that our current generation of photo takers won't have the same opportunities.  Those millions of digital files, where will they be in 20, 30, 50 years?  Digital dust is my guess.  Hard drives fail, technology changes, cloud storage costs go up and people abandon their sites, hosts where all your favorite images rest go bankrupt and close their ports.  I used to store files on floppy disks, if you don't remember floppies then consider that 20 years from now people won't recall CDs or DVDs (which you thought would be safe).  

Like many other aspects of the Internet we offer up something for convenience.  In the case of photographs, it's the risk of them disappearing.  How could you possibly live knowing this image of me on a chilly Maryland Halloween will no longer exist?  

Get printing. 


(JWSmith Photography) Missy Mwac photographs printing technology https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/7/reasons-to-print Sun, 14 Jul 2019 17:12:02 GMT
Independence Day https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/7/independence-day  

Stars & StripesStars & StripesPaso Robles, California Patriotism is not short, frenzied outbursts of emotion, but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime. 
- Adlai Stevenson

Forgotten LandForgotten LandLake Morena, CA It is by the goodness of God that in our country we have those three unspeakably precious things: freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, and the prudence never to practice either of them.
- Mark Twain

Flag postFlag post

A patriot must always be ready to defend his country against his government. 
― Edward Abbey

(JWSmith Photography) flags Independence Day July 4 photographs quotes https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/7/independence-day Thu, 04 Jul 2019 18:39:09 GMT
Tacos, Trains and Turkey Vultures https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/7/tacos-trains-and-turkey-vultures Pacific Southwest Train Museum

I took an early morning drive to San Diego's east county on Saturday.  The Pacific Southwest Train Museum in Campo is only open on weekends and I wanted to get in a visit before the punishing summer heat arrived.  I saw it would be a nice, cloudy day which made it all the more appealing.  

I'm not a train fan, I can appreciate them but I'm not a fan. What I like is rusty, decaying, paint-flaking metal stuff. Lots of it at the train museum; texture is king. 

I did not get as many keepers as I'd hoped.  The one above is nice but many of the detail shots I made just didn't do it for me.  So, they'll remain sequestered for now. 

I arrived in Campo 2 hours before the museum opened so I just wandered about, driving up and down highway 94 looking for abandoned buildings and rusty, decaying, paint-flaking stuff.  

I stumbled upon this:

Campo, California

Trees full of Turkey Vultures, over 30 by my count.  I didn't know they flocked like this.  From what I could tell they were still waking up.  Very little movement, curled up as to maintain warmth, just blobs in trees from the angle I had.  I only had my 24-70mm so that's as close as I could get.  A nice little early morning surprise.

And then...Tacos! 

Tacos MexicoTacos MexicoBoulevard, CA

Tacos Mexico, an abandoned Mexican restaurant in Boulevard, CA.  I love Mexican food and find it hard to believe that any Mexican restaurant could fail in SoCal.  San Diego's east county is very rural, especially out in Campo/Boulevard area (just a few miles from the desert) so maybe they just didn't have the customer levels needed to survive.  Or, the food was just plain bad. It's not as though they had much competition. There are no fast food, drive-thru shops, nor many Mexican restaurants.  So, now it just sits waiting for the occasional wandering photographer to happen by. 

(JWSmith Photography) abandoned buildings Campo decay East County restaurant trains turkey vultures https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/7/tacos-trains-and-turkey-vultures Mon, 01 Jul 2019 17:18:33 GMT
One Man's Junk... https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/6/one-mans-junk OooogahhOooogahhCampo, California I have driven past the Campo Transport Museum over a dozen times without stopping but making note to one day pay a visit.  That day was yesterday. My friend and fellow photographer, Alex Kunz, had posted about his visit with the San Diego Photography Group a year or so ago and it sparked my interest but it wasn't until yesterday that the spark took hold. I invited Katherine with me on a drive out Highway 94 to find some new and interesting photographic subjects with the idea that the Transport Museum would be a nice way to end the search.  The pot-of-gold so to speak. 

The only person manning the place was 87 year old Frank Ball, a man with many stories (four seasons in Antarctica for one!) and who seemed to know the history of every vehicle in the lot. Frank and 5-6 other volunteers keep the place running and do the work necessary to turn heaps of rusting metal into beautiful works of automotive art.  Frank has a memoir in the works with a publisher and I've made a point to be notified when it hits the streets.  

Campo, California
Frank Ball, a most interesting fellow

To Do - SmileTo Do - SmileCampo, California
Machine Shop Still Life
Things to Do - Smile! 

GEO109GEO109Campo, California Dump Truck
Frank says this is only one of two remaining dump trucks used in the building of the Boulder Dam (officially the Hoover Dam)

Campo, California
Campo Feldspar Mill (Boulder Dam Dumptruck in foreground)
The museum is housed in the old Campo Feldspar Mill.  The tower was for filtering crushed feldspar which was conveyed to the top and gravity fed down through a series of filters until only the finest grains arrived at the bottom and then shipped. 

Campo, California Campo's Grand Prismatic Spring (not to be confused with Yellowstone's) 

Campo, California

el Norteamericanoel NorteamericanoCampo, California
el Norteamericano
ChainsChainsCampo, California

Clown Prison BusClown Prison BusCampo, California To be refurbished and shipped east as soon as possible

(JWSmith Photography) busses California Campo decay Frank Ball rust San Diego Transport Museum trucks https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/6/one-mans-junk Sat, 22 Jun 2019 18:10:09 GMT
Beatle, Bourbon & Thoroughbreds https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/6/beatle-bourbon-thoroughbreds If I ranked states on a preferred order to visit Kentucky would probably rank in the bottom 5.  Yet, how wrong I would be, at least for the Lexington area which contains some of the most beautiful countryside, great bourbon, unbeatable horses, an okay downtown and better food than I expected.  Lesson being that If you visit the right places then every state has something nice to offer.  

We were in Lexington because Paul McCartney was in Lexington.  Katherine's brother Steve, who lives in the Florida panhandle, offered to get the tickets if we wanted to go with them. Having never seen any of the Beatles this was a no-brainer.  Holly, Katherine's sis-in-law, is a horsewoman and they planned on visiting some farms to kick the tires on a few horses and possibly buy one. 

We rented an AirB&B for the four of us and spent the days before the concert touring the Wild Turkey distillery, watching Holly test drive a few horses, exploring Lexington and visiting the small town of Berea, an artist refuge outside of Lexington.  The post-concert days were spent at Claiborne Farm (home of Derby and Triple Crown winners and grave site of Secretariat, Swale, Bold Ruler and others) and a Shaker Village that proved more photographic than all the other places and thus gets my seal of approval. 

A few days after we sent Steve the money for the tickets I learned that McCartney would be in San Diego just 3 weeks after Lexington.  But, we would not have had nearly the fun we had visiting a new place and seeing what we saw.  If we saw him here (which I doubt we would have done) we would have just come home afterward and missed the experiences we had in Kentucky.  Something to remember next time I see an event in a distant town. 

Concert was in Rupp Arena, home of UK Basketball
Best concert ever?  Probably... no definitely. 
Wild Turkey Distillery, KY RickhouseRickhouseWild Turkey Distillery, KY Wild Turkey Rickhouse - The aroma, the perfume! 

Woodford Reserve - We just dropped in to the Visitor's Center for a bit
42 bottles of booze on the wall, 42 bottles of booze...

Claiborne Farm, KY Orb - Thoroughbred at Claiborne Farm
Winner - 2013 Kentucky Derby

War FrontWar FrontClaiborne Farm, KY War Front
$80 Million Horse from his $250,000 stud fee

Stall PlaquesStall PlaquesClaiborne Farm, KY
One stall's famous occupants
Bold Ruler was Secretariat's sire

Claiborne Farm, KY
Secretariat was embalmed and buried intact. Only five horses in this site were buried intact.  Traditionally only the head, heart and feet of a racehorse are buried as those parts best represent what makes a racehorse.
Claiborne Farm, KY Swale died at 3 years old after winning the 1984 Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes. He died 8 days after winning the Belmont.  His sire was Seattle Slew. 

Shaker HouseShaker HouseShaker Village, Kentucky
Off to Pleasant Hill, a Shaker Village 


Shaker BroomShaker BroomShaker Village, Kentucky
Shaker Village, Kentucky

BrushBrushShaker Village, Kentucky
Beauty rests on utility.  That which has in itself the highest use possesses the greatest beauty.
- June Spring, By Shaker Hands

Shaker Village, Kentucky


Every Village Needs One! 

(JWSmith Photography) bourbon Claiborne concert Farm horses Kentucky Lexington Paul McCartney Shakers Wild Turkey https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/6/beatle-bourbon-thoroughbreds Mon, 10 Jun 2019 20:04:29 GMT
Lake Murray https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/5/lake-murray Our nearby reservoir, Lake Murray, has a 6-mile paved walking/running/biking trail that nearly completes a circle around the lake but at the 3 mile mark you hit a fence guarding the dam and have to turn around. It had been a long time since I visited the lake but since it's a nice walk and the rains had ceased for the day I went for a visit with the camera.  

Reeds and RushesReeds and Rushes
The Rushes

A nearly forgotten respite


Clever.  I wish I'd had a ball to give

Well look! Balls.  Golfer litter.  I wrote to Mission Trails Regional Park about this but have not heard back.  
This is a drainage that runs along a trail above the road and between the park and the golf course.  There are hundreds more up and down stream. 
There was a mischievous notion to collect a dozen or so and hurl them back onto a nearby green. 

Cactus buds - Many groups of cacti along the path

A mangle of trunks tucked away in the brush

(JWSmith Photography) golfballs lake Lake Murray nature photography walk https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/5/lake-murray Fri, 24 May 2019 16:33:34 GMT
Print Sales https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/5/print-sales Every time a print of mine sells, I wonder, "Why?"  Why that particular one to that particular place.  Fine Art America only reveals the town and state of a sale so I know little of the buyer or the reasons for that purchase.  I'm more excited about a B&W sale than color because I'm pretty sure they aren't buying it to match the sofa. 

The below image sold today to someone in Norcross, Georgia.  Now, I admittedly jump to one or two conclusions about this sale that may be completely wrong and prejudicial but it's what went through my head.  Without looking at a map I imagine Norcross is rural with dirt roads and mailboxes strewn about similar to these.  Norcross has hills and maybe even stills.  Norcross has friendly people who wave as you drive by; there's a General Store in town run by a guy named Hank and dogs feel free to roam and sleep under benches that line Main Street.  The white church steeple is the highest point in town and the fire department is all volunteer. The American Legion is a favored gathering place.  On Fourth of July kids still run madly about with sparklers while dads stand in small groups, a can of beer in hand, talking crops and NASCAR, with one eye open for sparkler-induced fires. It's humid in Norcross, shades of green carpet the surrounding hills and, it's spring; flowers are everywhere. 

I imagine my print will hang in small-town America. 

Rural DeliveryRural Delivery
Click on the image to see it on the FAA page.   

(JWSmith Photography) GA Norcross photography Print Sales Prints rural America thoughts https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/5/print-sales Thu, 16 May 2019 15:22:06 GMT
Kelton House https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/5/kelton-house We have a small gathering of birds each morning and evening at our house.  Feeding time I suppose.  We have a few feeders and enough flowers to attract most of the common flyers and now and then an oriole or jay will come by.  Often enough we'll see a hawk of some sort circling overhead but nothing like that yesterday evening while I was reading* in the back yard.  There was enough activity last evening that I pulled out my D800, slapped on the 70-300mm and sat back waiting for the cover of Birding magazine to perch close by and perform some rare avian behavior.   Having no clue what rare avian behavior looks like I just photographed whatever flew by or posed interestingly and long enough for a picture. 

Crow Ballet in monochrome

Antenna Dove

Far off Oriole

Close by Oriole

Hummer Humming

Fading Sunflowers


*Arctic Dreams by Barry Lopez for the curious

(JWSmith Photography) birds home Kelton La Mesa photography https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/5/kelton-house Tue, 14 May 2019 16:51:14 GMT
Pareidolia https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/5/pareidolia Capitol Reef National Park, Utah
The Pugilist

Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

(JWSmith Photography) boxer pareidolia pugilist rocks https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/5/pareidolia Wed, 08 May 2019 15:00:00 GMT
A kaleidoscope of books https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/4/a-kaleidoscope-of-books Since we're speaking of books (we were talking books, right?) I thought I'd display a shelf of them photographed thru a kaleidoscope with an iPhone.  Katherine bought me the kaleidoscope in Jerome, AZ last January.  I thought the books (Franklin library editions of the literary canon) looked like stained glass you'd find in a cathedral someplace in old Europe. 
The Franklin Library editions are decent editions, good paper, solid binding, gilded pages and a typeface that's easy to read.  I've read many of them; I've ignored just as many.  In a spasm of literary lust I subscribed because I got one or two free and they were titles that are now forgotten but must have been a tasty lure at the time. They'd probably look better in a dimly lit, dark mahogany bookcase surrounded by overstuffed reading chairs and a hefty globe resting in a floor stand.  These editions will have to settle for a painted pine bookshelf which they don't seem to mind.  Books are content if kept dry and bug free. 

(JWSmith Photography) books iPhone kaleidoscope https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/4/a-kaleidoscope-of-books Tue, 30 Apr 2019 15:00:00 GMT
Independent Bookstore Day https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/4/independent-bookstore-day Today is Independent bookstore day! Visit one today and buy something special. 

Consumers control the marketplace by deciding where to spend their money. If what a bookstore offers matters to you, then shop at a bookstore. If you feel that the experience of reading a book is valuable, then read the book. This is how we change the world: we grab hold of it. We change ourselves.

― Ann Patchett, bestselling author and co-owner of Parnassus Books


(JWSmith Photography) Ann Patchett books bookstores https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/4/independent-bookstore-day Sat, 27 Apr 2019 15:00:00 GMT
Spring Harp Fest - La Mesa, California https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/4/spring-harp-fest---la-mesa-california Saturday was the Spring Harp Fest in little La Mesa.  Lots of Blues, hard-hitting harmonica and guitars and some really great musicians working their craft.  I don't do much musician photography but I do like the expressive postures and looks you get when they're really into it.  I only took my 85mm because it has the widest aperture I own (f1.8) and I knew I wanted to shoot wide open to kill the annoying and cluttered backgrounds. Because of that I had to sit right up in the explosive and loud front but found that if I sat between the largest stage speakers my ears didn't ring as much.  My best photos came, not unexpectedly, from the most expressive group on stage: The 145th Street Band (first 5 photos).  The last two are Harmonica John and The Moneymen (Chris Wott on harp and Michael Head on Guitar). 
The harmonica was the star of the show (it is a Harp Fest after all) but it's really, really hard to photograph a harmonica in action. As you can see here it's covered by the musician's hands with only a mic exposed.

Jammin'Jammin'Spring Harp Fest - La Mesa, California, Playin' the BluesPlayin' the BluesSpring Harp Fest - La Mesa, California, D Full Step Bend

Blues ManBlues ManSpring Harp Fest - La Mesa, California, Blues GuitarBlues GuitarSpring Harp Fest - La Mesa, California, Spring Harp Fest - La Mesa, California,

Harmonica John with his rack of harps.
Spring Harp Fest - La Mesa, California,

Harmonica John with his rack of harps

Chris Wott, Harp; Michael Head, Lead Guitar - The Moneymen
Spring Harp Fest - La Mesa, California,

Chris Wott on Harp and Micheal Head on Lead Guitar

(JWSmith Photography) 145th Street Band bands Harmonica John La Mesa music musicians Spring Harp Fest The Moneymen https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/4/spring-harp-fest---la-mesa-california Sun, 21 Apr 2019 16:43:12 GMT
The Remembered Earth https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/4/the-remembered-earth This quote by N. Scott Momaday reminded me of Ben Horne and his approach to Zion and Death Valley, places he visits every year and by doing so gives life to Momaday's appeal to concentrate his mind upon the remembered earth

las vista es gratis mi amigolas vista es gratis mi amigoAnza-Borrego Desert State Park, California Once in his lifetime a man ought to concentrate his mind upon the remembered earth.  He ought to give himself up to a particular landscape in his experience; to look at it from as many angles as he can, to wonder upon it, to dwell upon it. 

He ought to imagine that he touches it with his hands at every season and listens to the sounds that are made upon it. 

He ought to imagine the creatures there and all the faintest motions of the wind.  He ought to recollect the glare of the moon and the colors of the dawn and dusk.  

N. Scott Momaday

(JWSmith Photography) Ben Horne Momaday quote https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/4/the-remembered-earth Wed, 17 Apr 2019 15:00:00 GMT
The Landscape by Edmund Carpenter https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/4/the-landscape Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona The landscape conveys an impression of absolute permanence.  It is not hostile. It is simply there--untouched, silent and complete.  It is very lonely, yet the absence of all human traces gives you the feeling you understand this land and can take your place in it.  

 Edmund Carpenter

(JWSmith Photography) Arizona desert Edmund Carpenter landscape remoteness https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/4/the-landscape Mon, 15 Apr 2019 15:00:00 GMT
Art in Residence - Sandra Herber https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/4/art-in-residence---sandra-herber The last image in this series comes from Sandra Herber, a Canadian living in Toronto who has some of the most engaging prairie-scapes I've seen. It's what initially drew me to her work.  She also has some outstanding winter imagery of those vast plains that help to heighten the minimalist nature of her work.  All of my favorite photographs of hers edge along the minimalist style.  I first came across her work on Flickr

The below image, In the Field probably has more detail and texture than many of her works in the Canadian plains.  I liked it for the juxtaposition between the texture of the field and the smooth, featureless sky.  The best part, however, is the small, almost insignificant barn in the dead center.  It too is featureless other than its precise geometry.  But it's her focus and why the image exists.

The morning sun highlights the foreground grasses giving them a nice warm glow under a grayish sky and you can almost imagine a tornado building in that sky; something the barn has seen multiple times, yet still stands. 

Sandra has a fun new series of photos of ice fishing huts taken last year.  I know, ice fishing huts, really? Yes, really.  Have a look, it'll make you smile:  Ice Fishing Huts.

Sandra's website is here:  Sandra Herber Photography and her Flickr pages can be seen from the links set in the paragraphs above.  

In the Field - Sandra Herber

(JWSmith Photography) art Art in Residence photography Sandra Herber https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/4/art-in-residence---sandra-herber Fri, 12 Apr 2019 15:00:00 GMT
Art in Residence - Jeremy Barrett https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/4/art-in-residence---jeremy-barrett When I started this series I mentioned that I'd be showing prints from local and not-so-local artists.  Here's the first of the not-so-local artists, Jeremy Barrett from the UK
Jeremy and I met through Flickr.  I have a clear fondness for the British landscape and Jeremy is a master at it.  He was one of the first UK photographers I followed regularly on Flickr and I look forward to his woodland, Infra-red, and seascape works.  The below image is from Glencoe, Scotland.  The Scottish landscape seems to offer the photographer a plethora of image possibilities, always dramatic, always mysterious,  always powerful and compelling.  But, I think it's a location you'd have to visit again and again to get right, to understand it, to feel it. 

Jeremy's image from Glencoe is rich with all that mystery and drama mentioned above.  The rocky foreground shows a small stream flowing through the craggy rocks, leading the eye to a sharp peak.  A peak with attitude: Forceful, dominant, daring.  It's an imposing peak that punctures the sky.  Though the color palette is nearly monochromatic the motion of the water provides life and movement and with the sky frames the image with color and light. 

I was fortunate to meet Jeremy and his wife, Sarah in New Mexico in 2017 where Jeremy was showing a dozen or so of his prints in an exhibition in Santa Fe.  Katherine and I took a nice drive out to one of my favorite areas and met two very nice people and experienced some impressive artwork.  Having met Jeremy convinced me that I should own a piece of his work.  I chose the one below, Peak to Peak, from Glencoe.  

I tried to buy it anonymously but that didn't work.  Jeremy saw what I was trying to do and sent me an e-mail admonishing me for the attempt, called me a nutter (a nutter is an artist of the highest calibre in Brit-speak, or so I'm told) and sent me a high rez file of the image.  I made a print that I'm quite happy with even though it may miss some nuance of the artist's intent. 

As always, go to the source to see the original and just use my iPhone pic as a tease.  This Glencoe image is on Flickr at:  https://www.flickr.com/photos/vuzephotography/36248420525/in/dateposted/

Jeremy's website with all his exceptional work (check out the Infra-Red!) is here:  https://www.vuzephotography.co.uk/

And, finally, Jeremy's blog post on the Santa Fe exhibition is here: Santa Fe Exhibition

Peak to Peak - Jeremy Barrett

(JWSmith Photography) art Art in Residence Glencoe Jeremy Barrett Scotland UK https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/4/art-in-residence---jeremy-barrett Fri, 05 Apr 2019 15:00:00 GMT
Art in Residence - Jim Dunigan https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/3/art-in-residence---jim-dunigan This may be the most 'fun' image I've purchased from one of our local photographers. If this image doesn't scream California!, I don't know what would.  

William (call me Jim) Dunigan lives in Ramona, CA, in the foothills east of San Diego but west of the mountains and desert; it's San Diego County's Middle Earth, sort of.  Much of Jim's best work is from the coast and this gem is no exception.  A beautiful Rambler Classic, perhaps a '61, sits nicely aligned between two stretches of palms working their way out to the Pacific.   That onion dome at the left of frame locates us at Swami's in Encinitas.  In 1920, Yogi Paramahansa Yogananda founded the Self-Realization Fellowship, and Swami's became the nickname for the world class surf spot. 

But that's all behind the wall.  What's in front is a clean, blue AMC Rambler; crisp lines, paint as vibrant as when it was new, and metal as smooth and shiny as the day it rolled off the floor. The Rambler's surroundings echo the car's crisp white and clear blue. 

This car belongs there! 

The palms extend the frame vertically into the California sky and frame the composition's edges while the famous Pacific Coast Highway gives it a firm foundation with two nicely drawn lines to add texture to an otherwise bland base.  The horizontal lines continue up through the car and stop at the wall where the wall's top pattern offers a transition between the pure white of the wall and the clear sky at the base of the palms.  Without the wall the car would just blend into the hidden greenery, now it pops. 

Everything here supports that cool, blue Detroit steel.  I'm wondering if Jim swept the curb surrounding the car as it too is spotless. 

Jim's wonderful work, his knack for color and composition and his extraordinary B&W work can be found in three spots that I know of:  Fine Art America, Flickr, and his website.  Go there and stay a while. 

Encinitas, CA Rambler - William Dunigan

(JWSmith Photography) art Art in Residence Dunigan photography rambler https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/3/art-in-residence---jim-dunigan Fri, 29 Mar 2019 15:00:00 GMT
Lake Hodges and the Wallflower Grebes https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/3/lake-hodges-and-the-wallflower-grebes Last Sunday Katherine invited me to go with her to Lake Hodges in hopes of seeing the grebes do their funny mating dance.  I imagined dozens of award winning photos of grebes skimming across the lake's surface in synchronized lust.  Sometimes I have a really good imagination.  None of that happened, no skimming grebes, no award winning photos.  We did see a pair dancing for just a sec or two but they were far off.  Nonetheless, I did catch a few decent photos looking down from the hanging bridge that crosses the lake.  The white pelicans were large enough to capture at 300mm which is the extent of my lens. No grebes danced for us so no grebe photos.  From my perspective they were too small to be worth posting a picture. 

Some of my favorite photos are from the underside of Interstate 15.  From the parking area you have to pass under the highway to get to the lake and there are some interesting shapes and reflections going on around sunset.  

Lady of the OverpassLady of the OverpassLake Hodges, California Lady of the Underpass

Highway SunsetHighway SunsetLake Hodges, California Sunset under I-15

Reflecting BranchReflecting BranchLake Hodges, California
An Interesting Stick with Abstract Reflections

CatfishCatfishLake Hodges, California

(If you're a biologist I know the colors look... um, different.  Just go with it.)

Fence with YellowFence with YellowLake Hodges, California Wire Fence at Sunset
(Not a pretty fence but heck, it's sunset)

White SquadronWhite SquadronLake Hodges, California White Pelican Squadron

  End of DayEnd of DayLake Hodges, California
End of Day

(JWSmith Photography) Interstate 15 Lake Hodges nature pelicans sunset urban https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/3/lake-hodges-and-the-wallflower-grebes Wed, 27 Mar 2019 18:29:25 GMT
Art in Residence - Ben Horne https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/3/art-in-residence---ben-horne I'm happy to say I've met Ben on a few occasions.  Over the last few years we've met at a local coffee shop where he hand delivers his yearly portfolio set.  It's a simple thing, this meeting, but it's a chance to talk to an artist.  Not all of us are so lucky to have a YouTube star living just over the hill.  Yet, "star" does not fit the persona of the Ben Horne I've enjoyed meeting.  He's the soft spoken, introspective person we see traipsing through the canyons of Zion seeking that magical reflected light, his personal quest in the deep canyons of Utah.  

But, his quest doesn't stop at the edge of the canyon, it continues all through our morning coffee; His eyes will suddenly grow wide as he points, "Look, Reflected Light on that wall!" Then, not five minutes later, "There's some nice Reflected Light coming off that panel truck!" It goes on like this for the next hour. You have to give him credit for his laser-like focus.  Picture Sauron's eye zeroing-in on the Ring. 

Each year I try to write something as a testimonial for Ben's annual portfolio.  This year, for the image I chose for this series, I wrote this:

I thought for sure my favorite this year would have been from his Zion Day 1 video, “A Quiet Moment,” but I was wrong. This year it’s “A Love Story.” Two trees, one bleached and stripped bare, accepting the enduring embrace of another, whose denuded branches offer needed, lasting support. As he often says in his videos Ben likes an image that tells a story, this one will be telling its story for years to come. It's a beautiful image; graceful in its composition; indelible.

Ben's a large format photographer.  And, though it's not for me, I do admire the dedication and energy it takes to haul an 8x10 field camera through the desert sands of Death Valley and the canyons of Utah for a week or more twice a year.  His videos are not loud and boisterous, they're quiet and contemplative, reflecting the landscape in which he works.  It's why I enjoy them and look forward to each journey.  

It's a trivial thing but in the first video of each trip he'll start off with a pre-dawn drive as he leaves San Diego and he passes off-ramps from I-8 that I use when I enter and exit my La Mesa neighborhood.  It's silly, but I look forward to seeing that small section of highway.  During these early morning clips Ben reflects on the upcoming trip and lends his insights on how he approaches his work and perhaps underlying that, his approach to life. 

As in the previous profiles please go to the source to get the artist's rendition of their work and don't rely on my poor iPhone skills.  See Ben's work here:  Ben Horne - Large Format Wilderness Photography

A Love Story - Ben Horne

(JWSmith Photography) Art Art in Residence Ben Horne photography https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/3/art-in-residence---ben-horne Fri, 22 Mar 2019 15:00:00 GMT
First Lines - XX https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/3/first-lines---xx Here's the 20th and final edition of First Lines.  I think 20 is enough fun for anyone.  I have some more and I think I'll make an end-of-year book from the collection, but for now I'm moving on to look for other ideas.  Thanks to all who played along and congratulations on all your correct guesses.  

The caption is the first line of a popular R&R song.  Have a guess in the comments.  I'll hold all comments for a day or two so you don't see correct or incorrect attempts.  This should be familiar to all who ever owned a radio, something easy to end the series.  Enjoy.

Giants among UsGiants among UsSan Diego, California
One Pill Makes You Larger

(JWSmith Photography) first lines lyrics music photography https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/3/first-lines---xx Thu, 21 Mar 2019 15:00:00 GMT
Art in Residence - Lori Carey https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/3/art-in-residence---lori-carey I wish I took it.  That was my first thought upon seeing this in Lori's Twitter feed.  She had entered it into a Vermont gallery contest and it was selected for their exhibition (A Sense of Place).  Couldn't agree more with their selection.   I just stared at it for what seemed an entire afternoon and a few months later (don't know why it took months) I bought it from her website.  Her well-written blog entry on this image (which also took an honorable mention in an LA Photo exhibition), is here: Breaking the Rules - What Remains, Honorable Mention.  

There is a strong sense of place here.  It's not much of a building, a corrugated metal structure not much larger than a shed, all alone on Carrizo Plain.  A beaten path leads around it but oddly not to it.  My guess is that you park the tractor in front and walk to the structure, yet there is no worn path to the structure's entrance leading me to believe this ancient building has been left abandoned for years.  As far as I can tell the empty landscape goes on for miles beyond the frame.  It's a dark, cheerless scene but not foreboding; a bit sad.  Had Lori taken this on a bright, sunny California day it would take on an entirely different persona.  Let's be glad she was there when she was. 
It's the kind of building all but a photographer would pass by.  Nothing to see here, right? Lori did. She saw the perfect geometry of a slanted roof placed on strong vertical lines and set against a lightly textured sky. The dark and muted color palette blends the landscape but pushes the muscular building forward to stand visually fixed against it, dominant. 

It's a beautiful image.  I'm glad I own it.  I wish I took it. 


(JWSmith Photography) Art in Residence barn Carrizo Plain Lori Carey photography https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/3/art-in-residence---lori-carey Fri, 15 Mar 2019 15:00:00 GMT
First Lines - XIX https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/3/first-lines---xix Here's the 19th edition of First Lines.  The caption is the first line of a popular R&R song.  Have a guess in the comments.  I'll hold all comments for a day or two so you don't see correct, or incorrect, attempts.  I think this one will stump quite a few.  At first I thought it was too obscure but then just a few days ago I heard it on the radio. 

Death GripDeath GripCuyamaca, California
When I die and They Lay Me to Rest

(JWSmith Photography) first lines lyrics music photography https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/3/first-lines---xix Thu, 14 Mar 2019 15:00:00 GMT
Garry Winogrand said... https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/3/garry-winogrand-said I went downtown last night and due to the silliness of moving our clocks around twice a year I was in town an hour before the sun did something interesting and so wandered about aimlessly and uninspired until the light struck at the proper angles.  When it did it was as though it apologized for being late and provided me some nifty shadow and light compositions. 

No one moment is most important. Any moment can be something.
                                                                                                             - Garry Winogrand

The AppearanceThe AppearanceSan Diego, California
Reflected LightReflected LightSan Diego, California EdgesEdgesSan Diego, California Pillars in ShadowPillars in ShadowSan Diego, California

(JWSmith Photography) cityscapes quotes San Diego Winogrand https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/3/garry-winogrand-said Mon, 11 Mar 2019 18:20:08 GMT
Art in Residence - Alex Kunz https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/3/art-in-residence---alex-kunz There's a tired and worn maxim that photographers don't buy other photographer's work.  It made me wonder if Lennon & McCartney ever bought an album by The Rolling Stones or Aretha Franklin; did Steinbeck ever buy a Hemingway novel; or, is this something particular to photographic art?  It may be, and if it is I think it would be most present in photographers neighboring each other.  After all, I may as well just go where he/she took that image and make it myself, easy...right? Not so easy.  Not so do-able. 

The below image is by my friend and fellow photographer, Alex Kunz.  It's from Algodones Dunes in the southeast corner of California and a bit over 2 hours from my home.  An easy trip, a trip I've been meaning to take for years, a place I pass on my way to Arizona / New Mexico a few times a year.  And, a trip I've yet to make.  But yes, I could have made the trip, taken a few dozen photos and probably had been happy for doing so.  And yet, I wouldn't have captured what to me is that kernel of soul in a dune filled landscape.  Not the way Alex did. 

A fine and terrible thing about landscape photography is that the subject is ever changing and in the case of dunes it's not just the clouds and light, it's the entire landscape! Daily, no hourly, it drifts and flows like a bitter sea. It is nature in transition and forces patience and uncertain luck to be there at the right time and in the right place.  Thus, the reason I was seized by this scene and was keen to own it as I'm not that patient and rarely that lucky. 

The work is titled Sands of Time and can be found in Alex's print store (go there so as not to judge it by my iPhone pic).  His well written blogs and artwork can be found on his website:  Alexander S. Kunz

Sands of Time - Alexander S. Kunz

(JWSmith Photography) Alex Kunz art Art in Residence art support photography https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/3/art-in-residence---alex-kunz Fri, 08 Mar 2019 16:00:00 GMT
First Lines - XVIII https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/3/first-lines---xviii Here's the 18th edition of First Lines.  The caption is the first line of a popular R&R song.  Have a guess in the comments.  I'll hold all comments for a day or two so you don't see correct, or incorrect, attempts.  A nice acoustic guitar this Thursday. 

Morning CloudburstMorning CloudburstAnza-Borrego Desert State Park
Just Yesterday Morning, They Let Me Know You Were Gone

(JWSmith Photography) first lines lyrics music photography https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/3/first-lines---xviii Thu, 07 Mar 2019 16:00:00 GMT
Art in Residence - Peter Tellone https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/3/art-in-residence---peter-tellone Last year I decided to do some "support the arts" buying and picked up a handful of images from local, and not-so-local, photographers.  Though 2018 was a purposeful effort it started a few years earlier when I bought this canvas work by my friend Peter Tellone (I'm still waiting for him to become famous). 

Katherine and I were looking for a bold print to occupy a wall off the kitchen and visible from everywhere in the front of the house. She wanted red and nothing I had was either red enough or bold enough.  Peter's work, entitled Pacific Beach Pier Sunset fit the bill perfectly.  Big, bold colors, plenty of red, a nice yellow in the eye of the circular abstract.  Its striking 36" square of red and yellow hangs in our nook and I see it each morning as I write and work on images. Follow this link to Peter's print store. 

For the next few Fridays I will be doing a short write-up of a piece I've picked up in the hope it encourages some to support local artists and pass the word on what you're seeing out there.  

Pacific Beach Pier Sunset - Peter Tellone

(JWSmith Photography) Art in Residence arts support buying art Peter Tellone photography https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/3/art-in-residence---peter-tellone Fri, 01 Mar 2019 16:00:00 GMT
First Lines - XVII https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/2/first-lines---xvii Here's the 17th edition of First Lines.  The caption is the first line of a popular R&R song.  Have a guess in the comments.  I'll hold all comments for a day or two so you don't see correct, or incorrect, attempts.  Actually, this song played a prominent role in a both loved and hated movie that runs each Christmas. 

I May Not Always Love You

(JWSmith Photography) first lines lyrics music photography https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/2/first-lines---xvii Thu, 28 Feb 2019 16:00:00 GMT
Arthur Miller https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/2/arthur-miller Ghost of NordstromGhost of NordstromSan Diego, California

I'm trying to create the poem from the evidence - Arthur Miller

(JWSmith Photography) Arthur Miller buildings cityscape geometry Horton Plaza Nordstrom's urban https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/2/arthur-miller Sun, 24 Feb 2019 16:51:02 GMT
First Lines - XVI https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/2/first-lines---xvi Here's the 15th edition of First Lines.  The caption is the first line of a popular R&R song.  Have a guess in the comments.  I'll hold all comments for a day or two so you don't see correct, or incorrect, attempts. 

When the Truth is Found

(JWSmith Photography) First Lines lyrics music photography https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/2/first-lines---xvi Thu, 21 Feb 2019 16:00:00 GMT
The Color Wheel https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/2/the-color-wheel It's cold here in San Diego. 

Okay, let's take a moment for you to roll your eyes, snicker a bit, and tell your screen that I wouldn't know cold if it bit me in the arse, because YOU know cold and San Diego ain't it.  

But it is cold and I spent some time indoors playing in the color wheel and built this little slideshow to amuse myself while out of the frigid, bone-chilling, three-dog-night temps we have going <insert laugh track>. 

I like color but I never feel I do it well.  It feels like a new pair of slacks that looked great on the mannequin but are a centimeter too short in the leg and rise above my shoe tops. Nothing I do gets them to fit right.  So, I break out the SilverEFX and jettison the RGBs into pixel wasteland.  

The slideshow has music by Miles Davis so if you prefer you can close your eyes for five minutes and listen to some of the finest music we humans have ever created.  Regardless, it's my gift to you, Miles included. 


Stay Warm. 


(JWSmith Photography) color Davis jazz Miles photography San Diego slideshow https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/2/the-color-wheel Tue, 19 Feb 2019 16:00:00 GMT
Wednesday in Jerome, AZ https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/2/Wednesday-in-Jerome-AZ A MetaphorA MetaphorJerome, Arizona
Hitting you over the head with a metaphor

John Steinbeck begins his story of Cannery Row with:
            Cannery Row in Monterey in California is a poem, a stink, a grating noise, a quality of light, a tone, a habit, a nostalgia, a dream. 

He could have written something similar about Jerome, Arizona.  Emphasizing in particular the sense of nostalgia, with some remembered dreams salted through. 
Jerome has managed to re-invent itself from a played-out copper mining town to a tourist mecca for those seeking ghost tours, arts and crafts, a few wine tastings (Yep!) and a place to soak up some history of the American West.  At its beginnings were the copper mines, empty long ago of any profitable ore, followed by an exodus, partially motivated by multiple fires and a nasty habit of the town sliding down Cleopatra Hill, on which it is built.  I'm not sure how many current residents were born and bred in Jerome but there are enough folks here to keep the tourist trade going, the motel and cafes operating, and to apply a fresh coat of paint when necessary. 
And, despite its ragged, decaying exterior Jerome was an enjoyable place to visit.  I think the biggest surprise was the number of day-trippers the town attracted.  Here it is, an out-of-the-way place, on a Wednesday morning, in the off season, and it's pretty crowded.  Luckily, Jerome is not so gentrified as to have a Starbucks or hipster burger joint, yet it is upscale enough to house a world class kaleidoscope shop.  Really, world class kaleidoscopes, of which I am now a proud owner thanks to Katherine's furtive purchase while I was out taking photos of the local color (some of that color is in the above photo). 
You would hope that Jerome doesn't become another Sedona, La Jolla, or even Steinbeck's Monterey (which he wouldn't recognize today) but there's always that off chance... Let's hope for restraint. 

Jerome, Arizona Jerome, Arizona

(JWSmith Photography) Arizona decay Jerome metaphors road trip small towns https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/2/Wednesday-in-Jerome-AZ Sat, 16 Feb 2019 17:08:01 GMT
First Lines - XV https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/2/first-lines---xv Here's the 15th edition of First Lines.  The caption is the first line of a popular R&R song.  Have a guess in the comments.  I'll hold all comments for a day or two so you don't see correct, or incorrect, attempts.  Something with a photo from a past ComicCon.  
Happy Valentine's Day! 

Finished with My Woman 'cause She Couldn't Help Me with My Mind

(JWSmith Photography) Comicon CosPlay First Lines lyrics music photography https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/2/first-lines---xv Thu, 14 Feb 2019 16:00:00 GMT
First Lines - XIV https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/2/first-lines---xiv Here's the 14th edition of First Lines.  The caption is the first line of a popular R&R song.  Have a guess in the comments.  I'll hold all comments for a day or two so you don't see correct, or incorrect, attempts.  A quick thanks to Cedric Canard's post on Desire/Bliss for the idea.  I had the song/picture combo ready for a few months but his post spurred me on for it's arrival today. 

Now that I've Lost Everything to You

(JWSmith Photography) First Lines lyrics music photography https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/2/first-lines---xiv Thu, 07 Feb 2019 16:00:00 GMT
Nighthawks https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/2/nighthawks NIghthawksNIghthawksSan Diego, California Yep, I ripped-off Hopper's title.  It was the first thought that crossed my mind when I saw this pop up in Lightroom.  It's a mistake, this photo.  A few of the best are.  The most famous photo of Rita Hayworth was due to a mis-fired flash bulb that provided some alluring shadows.  This one happened when I wasn't paying attention to shutter speed and pulled the camera down before the aperture closed.  I do like it though. It has a bit of Leroy Neiman in the background (maybe you have to look cross-eyed and squint a bit to see it). 
This image and the ones that follow came about due to San Diego's heavy rainfall of the last 5 days.  We've really gotten wet out here, it's a good wet, a welcome wet, a wet we'll forget all about come August when we're thirsting for more.  Katherine, Fuji and I went downtown to find reflections in puddles and glistening sidewalks that are plentiful after a good soaking.  I had forgotten how much I enjoy night photography in the city, lots of saturated colors, odd lighting, and people at all angles and designs. I need to do more. 

13 Faces13 FacesSan Diego, California Jumpin' Jack (in the box)
There are 13 faces in this image, can you find 'em?

(JWSmith Photography) cityscape downtown night night life San Diego urban https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/2/nighthawks Wed, 06 Feb 2019 19:51:32 GMT
Some New Photobooks https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/2/some-new-photobooks
Two new photo books came my way toward the end of last year.   The Road by David Brookover and A Vision Shared, a collection of Farm Security Administration (FSA) photos from the Depression and Dust Bowl era.  

David Brookover is a successful landscape photographer of the Ansel Adams variety from Jackson Hole, Wyoming.  If you're going to be a successful landscape photographer of the Ansel Adams Variety then Jackson Hole is a good place to hail from.  Brookover spent a significant amount of time in Japan and has a print from there in this collection as well as the aesthetic throughout his work.  It's a seductive collection of (primarily) western landscapes that make you happy to see this classic form hasn't totally evaporated.  The volume comes from the gallery, signed by David.  Each plate has a title, date, location, and the type of paper for the gallery print.  It's a handsome edition of 56 prints, well produced, good paper, fine prints.   You can see a video interview with David on Art of Photography's Ted Forbes YouTube channel. 

A Vision Shared is a large volume and there's a lot to it.  Published by Steidl and edited by Hank O'Neal. The B&W photos run from 1935 to 1943 and
is probably the only volume you'll need to have a solid overview of the FSA's massive collection.  Contained are some of the best portraits you'll find in any photographic genre.  Many of the classic images from that era appear, except for one notable absence:  Lange's Migrant Mother.  There are two images from Lange that lead up to the iconic image but that's it.  Odd that it would be missing unless there was some legal issue involved. 
Each photo has a short caption but some have a more lengthy paragraph, probably from notes by the photographer. This is the first Steidl edition but it's a reprint of a book done in 1976 that I know nothing about.   This edition has all the standard elements of a book, and I mean ALL of them:  Index, Table of Contents, Forward, Intro, Conclusion, Afterword, Acknowledgements, Commentary.  I haven't read the entire book but it's the imagery that counts and it's exceptional. 


(JWSmith Photography) A Vision Shared books David Brookover photobooks https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/2/some-new-photobooks Tue, 05 Feb 2019 17:53:44 GMT
Crevice https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/2/crevice Evening LightEvening LightPetrified Forest National Park, Arizona abyss, breach, canyon, chasm, chink, cleft, crack, cranny, cut, division, fissure, fracture, hole, interstice, opening, precipice, rent, rift, slit, split

The American Southwest is a spacious crevice


(JWSmith Photography) arizona crevice desert Petrified Forest photography synonyms https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/2/crevice Fri, 01 Feb 2019 16:00:00 GMT
First Lines - XIII https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/1/first-lines---xiii Well we made it to the 13th edition of First Lines.  The caption is the first line of a popular R&R song.  Have a guess in the comments.  I'll hold all comments for a day or two so you don't see correct, or incorrect, attempts. 

Horse With No NameHorse With No NameGreat Basin National Park, Nevada
On the First Part of the Journey



(JWSmith Photography) First Lines lyrics music photography https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/1/first-lines---xiii Thu, 31 Jan 2019 16:00:00 GMT
The Play of Form https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/1/the-play-of-form The Play of FormThe Play of FormAnza-Borrego Desert State Park, California

Everything dreams. The play of form, of being, is the dreaming of substance. Rocks have their dreams, and the earth changes....
                                                                                                                                     ― Ursula K. Le Guin,  The Lathe of Heaven

(JWSmith Photography) anza-borrego desert fog geology hike LeGuin quotes https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/1/the-play-of-form Mon, 28 Jan 2019 16:00:00 GMT
First Man https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/1/first-man MoonMoon

We watched First Man last night.  With one hand I was able to count the decades which have passed since that historic flight.  This July it will be fifty years since Armstrong's step. It was only 47 years prior to that that Lindbergh flew solo across the Atlantic, another first.  Of the twelve men who touched the lunar surface, four are still with us, including Buzz Aldrin, the second man on the moon.   In 1972 Gene Cernan (d. 2017) of Apollo 17 was the last man to leave his footprint. 
It's amazing that NASA scientists, engineers, astronauts and administrators have not lost a single person on the moon or drifting in space, though many have died in the years of lunar exploration.

Someday in the distant future we'll maroon Matt Damon on Mars but that's another story. 

(JWSmith Photography) First Man moon moon landing movie https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/1/first-man Sun, 27 Jan 2019 17:22:39 GMT
Creation Unfinished https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/1/creation-unfinished Creation UnfinishedCreation UnfinishedAnza-Borrego Desert State Park

“In the beginning, God created the earth, and he looked upon it in His cosmic loneliness.

And God said, "Let Us make living creatures out of mud, so the mud can see what We have done." And God created every living creature that now moveth, and one was man. Mud as man alone could speak. God leaned close to mud as man sat up, looked around, and spoke. Man blinked. "What is the purpose of all this?" he asked politely.

"Everything must have a purpose?" asked God.

"Certainly," said man.

"Then I leave it to you to think of one for all this," said God.

And He went away.” 
            ― Kurt Vonnegut, 
Cat's Cradle

(JWSmith Photography) Anza-Borrego creation desert Kurt Vonnegut quote https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/1/creation-unfinished Fri, 25 Jan 2019 16:00:00 GMT
First Lines - XII https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/1/first-lines---xii Twelfth edition of First Lines.  The caption is the first line of a popular R&R song.  Have a guess in the comments.  I'll hold all comments for a day or two so you don't see correct, or incorrect, attempts.  I've been told some of these are way too easy.  
As I was Walking Down the Street One Day

(JWSmith Photography) First Lines lyrics music photography shadows https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/1/first-lines---xii Thu, 24 Jan 2019 16:00:00 GMT
Something Special https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/1/something-special Every now and then the Internet brings you something special, something heartwarming, something unforgettably human. 

Today was one of those times.

A New View of the Moon from Alex Gorosh on Vimeo.

(JWSmith Photography) Claire de Lune moon telescopes video https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/1/something-special Tue, 22 Jan 2019 16:00:00 GMT
San Diego, California https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/1/san-diego-california San Diego, CaliforniaSan Diego, CaliforniaSan Diego, California It rained here last week and even sprinkled a bit last night.  I think we're done with rain for now but it was a pleasant and welcome visit.  After the heaviest of the storms had passed I took a walk along our harbor to see if I could find some interesting images in the puddles that struggled against the sun's resolve.  The above image is from an exceptionally large puddle; so large we named it, San Diego Bay

(JWSmith Photography) bay harbor photography rain reflections San Diego https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/1/san-diego-california Mon, 21 Jan 2019 17:56:05 GMT
First Lines - XI https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/1/first-lines---xi Eleventh edition of First Lines.  The caption is the first line of a popular R&R song.  Have a guess in the comments.  I'll hold all comments for a day or two so you don't see correct, or incorrect, attempts.  I've been told some of these are way too easy.  Must have been tougher last week 'cuz I only got one correct guess.  Cedric knew the Police's Canary in a Coal Mine.

Bob's CigarBob's Cigar
Virgil Caine is the Name

(JWSmith Photography) cigar First Lines lyrics music photography https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/1/first-lines---xi Thu, 17 Jan 2019 16:00:00 GMT
Desert Treats https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/1/desert-treats Maybe it was the strange and unfamiliar setting of the desert in fog that heightened my attraction to the scenery and the resulting images I've produced.  I had been on the Domelands hike with Alex twice before and always came back with images I was happy with but this time it had an added appeal with the dense morning fog, the pleasurable company of Shuwen and Katherine, and it being the first desert hike of the season.   Here are two more images from that morning walkabout.  

Anza-Borrego OcotilloAnza-Borrego OcotilloAnza-Borrego Desert State Park Lone Ocotillo and a slowly moving fog

Arroyo, Fog, CloudsArroyo, Fog, CloudsAnza-Borrego Desert State Park
Looking Back
Turning around on the climb to domelands an arroyo leads the eye to an enveloped Mortero Wash.  Look closely and you can see wind turbines on the top of the Jacumba Mountain range

(JWSmith Photography) Anza-Borrego arroyo colorado desert desert hiking Jacumba Mountain Range Mortero Wash photography https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/1/desert-treats Fri, 11 Jan 2019 19:09:34 GMT
First Lines - X https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/1/first-lines---x Tenth edition of First Lines.  The caption is the first line of a popular R&R song.  Have a guess in the comments.  I'll hold all comments for a day or two so you don't see correct, or incorrect, attempts.  I've been told some of these are way too easy.  This one my be a tad difficult.

GullGullBandon Beach, Oregon
First to Fall Over When the Atmosphere is Less than Perfect

(JWSmith Photography) bird First Lines lyrics music photography https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/1/first-lines---x Thu, 10 Jan 2019 16:00:00 GMT
Anza-Borrego in fog https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/1/anza-borrego-in-fog Romancing the DesertRomancing the DesertAnza-Borrego Desert State Park We had a cool and mysterious landscape to travel through on our hike this Sunday.  The Anza-Borrego Desert, that arid and sometimes hostile landscape, was transformed by an inversion layer into a beautifully muted panorama with much of the deep background hidden or softened by the dense fog.  

Alex, Shuwen, Katherine and I arrived at the trailhead around 1030 and made our way back to the sandstone domes a few miles away.  For the entire outbound route we enjoyed mist and fog that played with the light and colors of the desert.  I've never been in Anza-Borrego with these conditions and found it mesmerizing.  

MothershipMothershipAnza-Borrego Desert State Park

The mud hills that ripple through the badlands are covered in a thick blanket of fog that crept up the hills, came and went, and filled then vacated the landscape. 


(JWSmith Photography) anza-borrego desert domelands fog hike https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/1/anza-borrego-in-fog Tue, 08 Jan 2019 22:02:45 GMT
Slick https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/1/slick

From the Open Culture web site: 

Sometime in the summer of 2016, this isolated track of Grace Slick’s vocals for White Rabbit--probably the most famous Jefferson Airplane song and definitely one of the top ten psychedelic songs of the late ‘60s--popped up YouTube.

I've loved the song for all its decades but have never heard Slick's haunting vocals isolated.  If you're familiar enough with the song (and who isn't) you'll begin to mentally insert the instruments, resist that temptation. 

She has an extraordinary voice and you owe it to yourself to spend a few minutes in audio bliss. 

Volume up, headphones on, Feed Your Head...

Isolated Grace - Grace Slick's isolated audio from White Rabbit (YouTube)

Open Culture Link for full article

(JWSmith Photography) 60s Grace Slick music song White Rabbit https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/1/slick Fri, 04 Jan 2019 16:00:00 GMT
First Lines IX https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/1/first-lines-ix Ninth edition of First Lines.  The caption is the first line of a popular R&R song.  Have a guess in the comments.  I'll hold all comments for a day or two so you don't see correct, or incorrect, attempts.   Should be an easy one so no clues this week. 

Waitin' on a TrainWaitin' on a TrainSan Diego, California
Busted Flat in Baton Rouge, Waitin' for a Train

(JWSmith Photography) First Lines IX lyrics music photography trains https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2019/1/first-lines-ix Thu, 03 Jan 2019 16:00:00 GMT
My Reading Year https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/12/my-reading-year It was an average year as far as quantity.  As for quality, I found some new authors, learned some new and interesting history, and laughed a bit. Wendell Berry and David Lebovitz have joined others as a welcome and lasting part of my reading life.  Crime and Punishment was by far the longest and most difficult to get through but I found that it sticks with me and I may go for another piece of Russian lit next year. 

From latest to earliest, the books read in 2018.  Some additional stats and links to the books are here:  Books Read

Here's wishing you Good Reading for 2019

(JWSmith Photography) books reading https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/12/my-reading-year Mon, 31 Dec 2018 16:00:00 GMT
Anne Lamott https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/12/anne-lamott Almost everyone is screwed up, broken, clingy, scared, and yet designed for joy. 
                                                                                                                                - Anne Lamott

(JWSmith Photography) Anne Lamott dunes Great Sand Dunes quotes https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/12/anne-lamott Fri, 28 Dec 2018 16:00:00 GMT
First Lines VIII https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/12/first-lines-viii Eighth edition of First Lines.  The caption is the first line of a popular R&R song.  Have a guess in the comments.  I'll hold all comments for a day or two so you don't see correct, or incorrect, attempts.  Singer/Songwriter selected for this one, someone who died too soon.  

Well, Peter Tellone got in with the first answer again last week:  Eleanor Rigby, The Beatles.

Uptown got its Hustlers

(JWSmith Photography) First Lines lyrics music photography https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/12/first-lines-viii Thu, 27 Dec 2018 16:00:00 GMT
Great San Dunes NP https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/12/great-san-dunes-np Sand and SnowSand and SnowGreat Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado    It's only a 3-4 hour drive from Clayton, NM to Alamosa, CO where I stayed during my visit to Great Sand Dunes National Park.  A short day compared to the day-long drives I had previously. 
   Before getting to Alamosa I stopped by the park since I still had ample daylight.  It was Dec. 5 and the visitor center was closed due to President Bush's memorial service and national day of mourning so I went out to the dunes to explore with the 20 or so others that were romping about.  At first I wasn't too impressed with the dunes, I knew right off that I preferred White Sands National Monument.  Of course the sand had prints all over it and I really didn't have the time nor ambition to dive deep into the park to find virgin sand.  The mountains offered a beautiful backdrop but the color of the sand was somehow off-putting from a photographic sense.  Perhaps the contrast was lacking but the dunes seemed dull.  There was little light to speak of which I'm sure contributed to the stale feel.  I was hoping that the snow that filled the shady, scalloped indentations in the dunes would offer something special but I couldn't find it. 
   I headed back to the park early the next morning, back into the dunes trying to find a composition in the morning light.  I found the one above but it's not satisfying in a way that the right light and conditions could provide.   
   When the visitor's center opened I went to get my National Park Passport stamped and bought a patch.  I buy a patch from all the National Parks I visit and have accumulated quite a few now.  I'll also browse the book section looking for photographic books of the park or area.  I found one that I really liked and was tempted to buy (sorry, can't recall title or photographer).  The photography in that volume brought me to the realization that in order to do the park, any park or location justice photographically, you have to spend many, many days, weeks, months in a place.  You must see it in all seasons, all types of weather, all hours of the day.  It seems (and is) obvious but that realization took a few years to really crystallize.  I always knew that, other than those areas close to home, I'd never capture any landscape in all conditions and all seasons.  The draw of new places, new scenery, was too seductive, too much the siren's call. It took a long time for this idea to resonate deeply enough to change my thinking:  Instead of trying to "see it all," try instead to see it deeply (Ben Horne, if you're reading this, I imagine you're wearing that knowing smile). 
   I dashed south from Great Sand Dunes after overhearing the ranger give her morning report and learning that the storms which pummeled California were arriving and the higher elevations would be getting snow.  Time for warmer climes; time to go home. 

(JWSmith Photography) Colorado Great Sand Dunes National Park photography Road Trip https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/12/great-san-dunes-np Wed, 26 Dec 2018 16:00:00 GMT
2018 Favorites - a baker's dozen https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/12/2018-favorites---a-bakers-dozen

Baker's Dozen
Noun: a group of 13; a dozen plus one: from the former practice among bakers and other tradespeople of giving 13 items to the dozen as a safeguard against penalties for short weights and measures.

Another year, another dozen (+1) and once again the very generous Jim Goldstein has given us room on his site to post our yearly favorites for his 2018 Your Best Photos Blog.   I had no specific projects this year but we did do a lot of traveling, probably more than any of the previous years of displaying favorites.  I did two long road trips out to the Arizona, New Mexico region, one in January with Katherine and the most recent one a long solo tour in December; in June a 15-day trip to France to cycle in the Loire Valley and some Paris sightseeing; April had us in Paso Robles for a few days (a location that always provides some photographic rewards); a September cycling trip in the Bend, Oregon region opened up some new vistas for me. Taking the scenic route to Bend, traveling north on Hwy 395 we stopped in Bodie State Park for the first time; and throughout the year, the usual trips within San Diego County.  Two new and beautiful National Parks were checked off: Crater Lake and Great Sand Dunes, both worth a return trip.  To top it all off a very special trip to Las Vegas to meet a very special someone.

These images are available for purchase thru my Fine Art America site, just click on the image and you'll be taken to the store.

So, here we go, starting in our local east county...

1. Resigned 
Santa Ysabel Open Space.  A nice walk among the oaks with storms brewing in the distance.  ResignedResignedSanta Ysabel, California
2. Bodie Truck
My first visit to this venerable California Ghost Town/State Park.  Much more there than I had expected with deteriorating buildings at every angle.  No ghosts however. 
Bodie TruckBodie TruckBodie State Park, California
3. Bodie Reflections
Another from the Bodie visit.  Each window seemed to have a reflective story to tell of olden days and past lives. 

4. Oak in Oak Arch
This is the second time this arching oak has made a yearly favorites list.  I visit this old friend each time I'm in Paso Robles and twice now I've found the early morning light favorable. 
Oak in Oak ArchOak in Oak ArchPaso Robles, California
5. Kerr-McGee
Our January 4-T trip inspired by Little Feat's song Willin' (Tucson to Tucumcari; Tehachapi to Tonapah).  Tucumcari was a cornucopia of compositions if you prefer decaying buildings, signs, and in some cases residents.  Kerr-McGeeKerr-McGeeTucumcari, New Mexico
6. Wall and Tower
New Mexico has fantastic ruins from ancient pueblo times.  Abó is a pueblo ruin that is preserved as part of the Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monuments. 
Wall and TowerWall and TowerAbo Ruins, New Mexico
7. Oak in Morning Light
Another from Paso Robles, CA.  A cold and early morning jaunt into the backroads of central California's wine country brought me to this scene.  Where, unfortunately, I broke the release button on my tripod's ball head.  Lots of hand held shots from then on.  Oak in Morning LightOak in Morning LightPaso Robles, California
8. Hill and Cloud
Resulting image from a long and somewhat frustrating five state trip during the winter of 2018.  I found this composition in Petrified Forest National Park.  Hill and CloudHill and CloudPetrified Forest National Park, Arizona
9. Valet Parking
I loved this art display.  Found in Goldfield, NV, one of those in-between places between two out-of-the-way places: Tonapah and Rhyolite, Nevada.  The International Car Forest of the Last Church is an art display of a few dozen cars and busses sometimes placed nose down in the earth and full of colorful graffiti.  Perfect fodder for a photographer, especially on stormy days like when we arrived.  
Valet ParkingValet ParkingInternational Car Forest of the Last Church, Goldfield, NV
10. Urban Umbrella
I love these quotidian scenes that one comes across but does not always capture the eye.  Sixth Street in San Diego near Balboa Park, an umbrella hangs nonchalantly from a 1st floor balcony.  The upper floors created a pattern of horizontal lines broken by the irregular shape of the umbrella. Perfect for monochrome.   
Urban UmbrellaUrban UmbrellaSan DIego, California
11. Alone at Crater Lake
We didn't get much time in Oregon's Crater Lake National Park but did have the fortune to come across this single pine sitting precariously on an outcropping with nothing but the vast lake as a backdrop.  Some trees get all the best views. 
Alone at Crater LakeAlone at Crater LakeCrater Lake National Park, Oregon
12. Sitters and Stairs
Cruising the River Seine on a tour of Paris brought us to this scene.  I've seen these stairs in many a photograph and always found them compositionally enticing. With the mid-day sun striking the sitter at the bottom of the stairs I knew I had something to work with.  Some dodging and burning brought out the best in the image.  A favorite of this year's crop. 
Stairs and SittersStairs and SittersParis, France

13. Arrival
Last and certainly not least, my new granddaughter - Naomi Elyse Sandoval (she's the little one, sleeping).  Her first day in the world and I'm certain we'll all be better for it.  Naomi - Day 2Naomi - Day 2Las Vegas, Nevada

Merry Christmas, Everyone!  Here's wishing you and your family a very Happy New Year! 

(JWSmith Photography) 2018 desert favorites France National Parks New Mexico Oregon Paso Robles photography southwest https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/12/2018-favorites---a-bakers-dozen Sun, 23 Dec 2018 18:00:00 GMT
Rita Blanca https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/12/rita-blanca Two towns forever linked by dust.  America is truly a fascinating place if you keep your mind and eyes open and receptive

     The Rita Blanca National Grasslands sounded so promising.  Over the last year I had read three books that led me to this place.  Two were on the Great Plains and the third about The Dust Bowl.  I'll list info at the end but suffice it to say they convinced me I had to at least step my toe into this great and historic land and Rita Blanca seemed a good place to introduce myself.  With the Homestead Act of 1862 easterners and Europeans poured into the area. The resulting overproduction, stripping of grasslands and general mismanagement led to the dust bowl and eventual purchase and restoration of lands by the government and administered by the Soil Conservation Service.  Now the Forest Service protects around 230,000 acres of grasslands within six counties.
   Don't blame Rita for any negativity you see seeping from this journal entry.  It's not her fault.  As mentioned in previous entries my planning lacked vigor and precision and I undoubtably could have found and experienced much more than I did.  Anyway, onwards...
   The previous day I had driven from Bisti Badlands across the state to Clayton, New Mexico; a 6.5 hr drive reaching my hotel in the cold, dark, and wide-open spaces of northeast New Mexico.  I got up early, defrosted the windshield from the night's December frost (hehe, San Diegan having to find the defrost button), and took off for what I had hoped were the amber waves of grain of song and story.  See them? Look closer, there, in the photos above...amber waves of grain! You can't? No?  Well, neither could I.  After all, it was early December, not technically winter but tell that to my frosty windshield this morning.  The amber waves were at low tide, cut to the ground and resting in a grain elevator someplace.  I took some photos but nothing of significance.  The two here are for illustration. 
   Oh, I was so let down.  With no plan as to where to go or how to get there I was afloat, unmoored, drifting (as much as a 2,000 lb. car can drift. It's a weak metaphor but go with it). I aimed for Boise CIty, OK.  As you can see from the photo above the road was as straight as a ruler, and windy.  Windy, windy, windy. And tumbleweeds: I've seen tumbleweeds before but really, I only thought I'd seen tumbleweeds before.  These tumbleweeds traveled in packs; gangs of tumbling, prairie terror. They traveled in numbers more numerous than wolves in packs; herds of tumbleweeds and they owned the road.  They have a collective, heat-seeking intelligence that could zero in on a car's grill with the accuracy of a bee to flower.  You want photos!?  I wasn't going to step of of the car and pose them, but you can if you wish.  Take Highway 56 between Clayton, NM and Boise City, OK.  They're out there...waiting, watching.
   I drove to Boise City, Oklahoma because it is accepted as ground zero for the Dust Bowl of the '30s.  A horrendous time in the American West. If you ever want to understand this place and time read Timothy Egan's The Worst Hard Time.  See if you can't find a few parallels in today's attitudes and behavior, it shouldn't be hard.  I didn't spend any real time in Boise City.  I went to the historical museum but it was closed, I drove about but saw little of interest other than some construction work being done on what appeared to be a historic looking building, could have been city hall.  I gave it minimum effort not feeling nearly as inspired as I had hoped (and should have).  
   Off to Great San Dunes National Park. I returned westward the way I came, through the leaping and vaulting terror of tumbleweeds ricocheting off my car.  I'm convinced they wanted in. 

Three books you really should read:   
    The Worst Hard Time - Timothy Egan
    Bad Land - Jonathan Raban
    Great Plains - Ian Frazier

(JWSmith Photography) Boise City New Mexico Oklahoma Photography Road Trip https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/12/rita-blanca Fri, 21 Dec 2018 16:00:00 GMT
First Lines - VII https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/12/first-lines---vii Seventh edition of First Lines.  The caption is the first line of a popular R&R song.  Have a guess in the comments.  I'll hold all comments for a day or two so you don't see correct, or incorrect, attempts.  This one should be easy if you were in the US for the British Invasion. 
Last week's must have been too easy.  The first 3 guesses were right with Peter Tellone grabbing top spot:  California Dreamin', The Mamas and the Papas

Ah, Look at All the Lonely People

(JWSmith Photography) First Lines lonely lyrics music people https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/12/first-lines---vii Thu, 20 Dec 2018 16:00:00 GMT
Audibles on the Road https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/12/audibles-on-the-road

I read listened to three books on my recent road trip.  I've never listened to books before on these trips, I usually will play a few podcasts from NPR's Radio Lab or Ted Talks or listen to Sirius, but never a book.  And, for better or worse, I actually had enough drive time to listen to Michael Lewis' The Coming Storm twice.  

Not sure if these count as having read books and thus would go into my Goodreads list.  For now they'll remain as they are and not as books I've read.  Years ago I read (in paper form, turning pages) Desert Solitaire and for this trip it made a delightful companion.  It's a shame that Abbey is no longer around to read his own work as is Vance and Lewis.  

I recommend all three.  Hillbilly Elegy is not my usual cup-o'-tea but I did appreciate hearing from a culture I'm not familiar, nor really that interested in.  It was eye opening in many regards.  It's an intelligent look at a part of the country those of us on each coast tend to ignore.  Vance is a past resident of Kentucky coal country and left to join the Marines, go to Yale, and in his 30s, write this memoir.  Yet, don't look at this as an "Look at me! I survived poverty!" story; it's about a culture that remains hidden, isolated, and seems to prefer it that way.  An outsider could not have written this. 

The Coming Storm may have been my favorite of the three.  As he did in Moneyball and The Big Short Lewis allows us a small but probing peek into part of our society we rarely get. The National Weather Service deserves so much more credit than they receive.  Having heard of the lobbying efforts of Accuweather's owner, I now avoid it whenever I can as they seem to believe (and lobby for) paying for weather info, the same weather info that the National Weather Service provides via our tax dollars.   If you still believe the US Govt. wastes your tax dollars (and it does, iMO) hearing the NWS's story may assuage that frustration.


(JWSmith Photography) audio books books road trip https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/12/audibles-on-the-road Wed, 19 Dec 2018 16:00:00 GMT
Bisti Badlands https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/12/bisti-badlands Bisti FormationsBisti FormationsBisti Badlands, New Mexico Rock formations in the Bisti Badlands, also known for its Navajo name De-Na-Zin Wilderness

Day 3 found me here, not far from Shiprock, in the New Mexico wilderness area known for its fantastical rock formations - The Bisti Badlands.  Photographically, I have little to show for my 3-4 hour visit and 4 miles of hiking in slippery mud and snow.  I found nothing of the wind and rain eroded formations that you'll see populating Instagram or Flickr or your Facebook feed.  This area is a maze of rock formations, hills and stream beds all created through the magic of erosion.  The car park was empty when I arrived and empty when I returned so I was out there alone for my visit and could feel the detachment from... well, from all living things? Nothing but the wind moved out there.  It was rare to even hear a bird or see the ubiquitous crows.  At first it was a bit nerve-wracking but eventually a calm settled in and the quiet became softly assuring. 
I was let down by my own inability to find the iconic formations: the balanced rocks, the wings, all remained hidden.  It's my own fault as I lacked preparation. To begin with, I had a difficult time finding it, taking two wrong turns down dirt roads that, yes, led to the badlands but not the area I wanted.  The Bisti Wilderness is over 40,000 acres so more than one local road would take you there.  It's best to do the research.  I didn't. I eventually grabbed my Photographing the Southwest  book with directions and advice for finding and photographing the area (Yes, I know, I know).  Lack of preparation became even more apparent when I was a mile or so into my hike and realized I had no idea where to turn within the aforementioned maze.  The iconic formations were obviously much deeper into the badlands than I was prepared to go. 
Getting lost was on my mind.  I walked in snow when I could so I could leave tracks.  I scrubbed arrows into snow when I made a turn or crossed a stream bed.  It seems unnecessary now, once back home, but having not been there before it seemed suited to the circumstances.  Funny, but on the walk back I probably only saw 25% of the tracks I left. :-)
Adding insult to the photographic injury was during the hike back the sun had begun to melt the frozen mud and my boot treads had become clogged with slick mud causing me to walk mud-on-mud.  Thus, (see what's coming?) my left foot slipped out from under me and my rump dropped 4 feet (at 32.2 ft/s) onto the semi-frozen earth. Ugh.  I had my tripod-mounted Nikon resting on my shoulder so it bounced a bit on my right clavicle before finding its own path to the ground. 

Shoulder and camera okay? Check.
Butt okay? Sorta but I'm gonna hurt tomorrow as every joint in my body was rattled. 

Since I'm writing this from a comfortable spot in La Mesa, CA you can see I made it back in one piece. 

I have a little ritual I perform when approaching the trailhead from a lengthy hike.  a) Oh, I see the car!; and as I get closer, b) The car is unmolested, good!; then c) The car starts, Excellent! 

Yeah, a bit weird, but I bet you do something similar. 

(JWSmith Photography) Bisti Badlands New Mexico Photography Road Trip Winter https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/12/bisti-badlands Mon, 17 Dec 2018 16:00:00 GMT
First Lines - VI https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/12/first-lines---vi Sixth edition of First Lines.  The caption is the first line of a popular R&R song.  Have a guess in the comments.  I'll hold all comments for a day or two so you don't see correct, or incorrect, attempts.  Mothers and Fathers should have an advantage here. 

Last week's answer - Credence Clearwater Revival's Have You Ever Seen the Rain
Gathered for the ViewGathered for the ViewAlabama Hills, California                                                                                                  All the Leaves are Brown

(JWSmith Photography) first lines lyrics music songs https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/12/first-lines---vi Thu, 13 Dec 2018 16:00:00 GMT
Shiprock https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/12/shiprock Shiprock - Hi-KeyShiprock - Hi-KeyShiprock, New Mexico Shiprock, New Mexico

I guess you have to go, at least once, and that may be it for me, just the once.  Shiprock has become something of an icon in NW New Mexico.  I suppose it's much the doing of the Instagram crowd.  Like most of this trip I was there at a bad time.  That road you see fronting the volcanic fin was too muddy for travel.  I guess the Subaru could have made it but I wasn't about to chance it.  It was pretty lonely out there.  
I went with a hi-key look for this image.  There are so, so many standard images of Shiprock out there that I needed something different, a look I'd not seen as often and the snow and clear skies helped.  Shiprock really needs weather to bring out its best. 
This capture is more for documenting the visit than any attempt at artistry.  It was stop #2 on my winter road trip; on my way to Farmington for the night with plans for Bisti Badlands the next morning.  

(JWSmith Photography) desert hi-key landscape photography road trip Shiprock https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/12/shiprock Wed, 12 Dec 2018 16:33:06 GMT
Road Trip https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/12/road-trip Hill and CloudHill and CloudPetrified Forest National Park, Arizona I could have gone home after taking this photograph. 

It was one of the first scenes I photographed upon arrival in Petrified Forest National Park.  I arrived in northeastern Arizona with still enough light to make a quick run through the park.  Within 30 minutes this cloud was visible from a good distance and I fixated upon it hoping the road would cooperate and bend enough to provide me with a suitable composition.  Seems it did.  After a nine hour drive and 30 minutes of looking I had what will probably be the best image of the trip and, in pure American Tourist style, I took it from the car window parked on the side of the road.  Edward Abbey is spinning. 
Yet, I like it a lot.  It will probably be on my 2018 Twelve Favorites list that I'll post in a few weeks.  I would have gone home then had I known that.  It would have saved me many, many miles, some frustration, muddy boots and jeans, a little disappointment and, of course, money in the form of gas and hotel stays. 
I'll use the next few blog posts summarizing the trials and tribulations of my latest, and what may be my last, long distance road trip.  I've made runs out to the Colorado Plateau for the last 6 years.  Sometimes two trips a year, spring and fall.  This one was too long and too late in the year to be as enjoyable and productive as those in the past.  Lessons learned.  

(JWSmith Photography) Arizona Colorado Plateau desert photography Road Trip southwest https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/12/road-trip Sun, 09 Dec 2018 18:03:37 GMT
First Lines - V https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/12/first-lines---v Edition 5 of First Lines.  The caption is the first line of a popular R&R song.  Have a guess in the comments.  I'll hold all comments for a day or two so you don't see correct, or incorrect, attempts.  This one needs an umbrella. 
Umbrella ManUmbrella ManBalboa Park, San Diego, California
                                                                                                 Someone told me long ago...

(JWSmith Photography) First Lines lyrics music photography project songs https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/12/first-lines---v Thu, 06 Dec 2018 16:00:00 GMT
Before We Plow https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/11/before-we-plow RanchlandRanchlandSouthern Arizona ...before we plow an unfamiliar patch
It is well to be informed about the winds,
About the variations in the sky,
The native traits and habits of the place,
What each locale permits, and what denies.
Virgil, The Georgics


Don't think from the above quote that I sit around all day in dimly lit, wood paneled, libraries reading ancient Roman poets.  It's just that this year I've read an unusual amount on America's Dust Bowl of the 1930s and our Great Plains in general, and this quote, found while reading Wendell Berry's What are People For?, struck a chord. 
I think the arrogance of the time interests me.  The thought we could dominate nature, the insanity in the belief that "rain follows the plow," that Manifest Destiny meant we could destroy millions of acres of grassland without consequence.  Virgil's warning has been around for centuries and yet somehow we missed this vital clue in our responsibility to the earth and to future generations. Recent arrogance with regard to climate change says we're missing clues once more. 


Every disaster movie begins with a scientist being ignored
poster in a 2017 March for Science

(JWSmith Photography) arizona arrogance climate change grassland nature Virgil https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/11/before-we-plow Fri, 30 Nov 2018 16:00:00 GMT
First Lines - IV https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/11/first-lines---iv Edition 4 of First Lines.  The caption is the first line of a popular R&R song.  Have a guess in the comments.  I'll hold all comments for a day or two so you don't see correct, or incorrect, attempts.  From a mostly acoustic group from a mostly revolutionary time. 

DepartingDepartingBalboa Park, San Diego, California I came upon a child of God

(JWSmith Photography) First Lines lyrics song https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/11/first-lines---iv Thu, 29 Nov 2018 16:00:00 GMT
and the value of nothing https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/11/and-the-value-of-nothing

It's very important for good art to be expensive - Simon de Pury, Auctioneer

Ninety-Nine percent of Artists don't have money - Jerry Saltz - Art Critic

I watched The Price of Everything again last night.  Not sure why but it fascinates me.  The astronomical prices modern art demands is so far out of my life experience that perhaps it's the opportunity to peek behind the curtain for ninety minutes that compels me to watch.  I would not for a moment want to live there, except perhaps, a day with Larry Poons would be fun.  Larry has a weathered, down-to-earth appeal and wears clothes that I could afford. 

The Price of Everything is a well produced HBO documentary of the highly financed art world.  For my limited experience in these matters it seems balanced; there are the good, the sorta bad, but not many ugly.  It's not a condemnation of a finicky art world, HBO draws open the curtain and lets you hear from people who have a passion for such things as perfect balloon figures, gazing balls, and (some really beautiful) abstract painting.  I think they know they get mocked and made fun of and I really don't think they care.  The film is not there to make fun of them and doesn't try.  I like that about it.  Some of these very rich have a true passion for art; then, some buy for pure investment.  If you have any amount of liberal social conscience in you you'll cringe at times when you see the amount of disposable income being directed toward these pieces. 

I came away feeling a bit sad and angry for the artists themselves.  Fortune does not seem to favor them, at least not initially. One artist was shown a video of her piece being auctioned in the secondary market for nearly a million dollars, none of which goes to her.  It was flipped, like real estate. 

Jerry Saltz made an interesting observation.  He lamented that much of the art being auctioned will never be seen in public during his lifetime.  These pieces will hang in private apartments in London, New York, Shanghai, and never be seen again.   He seemed truly sad and made me consider the value of these pieces to our cultural heritage.  Where does the Mona Lisa belong? Venus de Milo?  But I also heard from Amy Cappazzello of Sotheby's who appreciates museums but also bemoans the fact that many museums, due to space limitations, will store great works for years, rarely allowing them to see the light of a well lit gallery.  Both cases are sad in a way. 

                              This has the value of a house, I like it, but, it's not a house.  Artist, Gerhard Richter, pointing at one of his pieces


Note: the above piece can be purchased for much, much less than a house. 

(JWSmith Photography) art art world documentary The Price of Everything https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/11/and-the-value-of-nothing Sun, 25 Nov 2018 20:15:05 GMT
First Lines - III https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/11/first-lines---iii Edition 3 of First Lines.  The caption is the first line of a (very) popular R&R song.  Have a guess in the comments.  I'll hold all comments for a day or two so you don't see correct, or incorrect, attempts.  This one is a well respected tune from a well respected artist. 

Last week's answer  - Sympathy for the Devil, The Rolling Stones.  Pretty easy. This one should be just as easy. 

And a big Happy Thanksgiving to all! 

concerto in B&Wconcerto in B&W
                                                                     Once upon a time you dressed so fine 

(JWSmith Photography) first lines music portrait songs https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/11/first-lines---iii Wed, 21 Nov 2018 16:00:00 GMT
Interview with SD Voyager Magazine https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/11/interview-with-sd-voyager-magazine
Peter Tellone recommended me for an interview with SD Voyager Magazine and the interview is now available on their website at: http://sdvoyager.com/interview/meet-joseph-smith-jwsmithphotography-la-mesa/

And, a big Happy Thanksgiving to all my friends, family and future friends and family.  I think that covers it. :-)

(JWSmith Photography) interview SDVoyager thoughts on photography https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/11/interview-with-sd-voyager-magazine Tue, 20 Nov 2018 18:49:49 GMT
First Lines - II https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/11/first-lines---ii Second edition of First Lines.  The caption is the first line of a (very) popular R&R song.  Have a guess in the comments.  I'll hold all comments for a day or two so you don't see correct, or incorrect, attempts.  This one should be much easier than the last. 

Solution to Part I - Thunder Road, Bruce Springsteen, 1975

Please allow me to introduce myself

(JWSmith Photography) First Lines II lyrics music songs https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/11/first-lines---ii Thu, 15 Nov 2018 16:00:00 GMT
Prints https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/11/prints Last week I was introduced to William Turner* photo paper from Hahnemuhle.  Alex Kunz and Peter Tellone raved about it over lunch at a pizza restaurant in the foothills east of San Diego, where all great discussions should take place.  We were waiting for the gallery owner in Santa Ysabel to arrive so we could see the Robert Treat photography exhibition, Animistic Ground.  When I got home I pulled a selection of B&W images from my Lightroom catalogue and sent them off to Bay Photo for printing on William Turner paper. 

They arrived yesterday.  Two of which are fantastic and may have sold me for life on William Turner paper.  The other three range from excellent to okay.  Even with the 'okay' print I know why it's just okay and it's not because of the paper, it's because the image content does not work well with that textured of paper.  Here's the five images laid out:  From top going clockwise - Manzanita, Crater Lake Pine, Broad Trunk, The Bus Who Fell to Earth, and my favorite Synapse in Stone.  If you click on the titles you can see the image on my website which will be better than the iPhone pic you're looking at here.  

The print for Synapse in Stone is fantastic! It's a darkly toned image (think dark sepia) with heavy shadows.  The clear sky helps the image with this paper as the other skies which have more clouds may have too much texture in the clouds which seems to detract aesthetically. 

The Bus is my least favorite.  I added grain and texture to the image out of SilverEFX and the texture in the paper just amplified that to a point where it's not pleasing.  It's B&W, untoned, and I love the image but the paper hurts more than helps. 

The Crater Lake Pine is toned a light cyanotype and I think Bay may have color corrected it to more of a B&W.  The cloudy skies are smoother than in my original but I'm not sure that's the paper or the printing.  Regardless I don't think a big, textured sky works well (in these cases) with WT paper.  The one with big textured skies that comes closest to being in favor is Broad Trunk and I'm not exactly sure why.  It too is toned toward sepia but not as heavily as Synapse.  The clouds seem to hold up well but I think all three big sky pics would do better with a different paper.

My second favorite, Manzanita, is beautiful.  The contrast and detail really comes across in this print. It's a pure B&W image and note the clear sky. 

* J.M.W. Turner, English Romantic painter.  If interested,  Mr. Turner a biopic staring Timothy Spall as the title character in a so-so film of his later years. 

(JWSmith Photography) Bay Photo photo papers printing William Turner https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/11/prints Fri, 09 Nov 2018 16:00:00 GMT
First Lines https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/11/first-lines I do a lot of personal books via Blurb and thought I'd do a project based on the first line of a popular song's lyrics using photos I've made that resemble that line.  All will be Rock & Roll songs. 
Here's one that came to mind while on a walk yesterday.  Without help from the Internet can you name the song? 

The Screen Door Slams


(JWSmith Photography) lyrics music songs https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/11/first-lines Thu, 08 Nov 2018 17:53:53 GMT
Familiar Places https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/11/familiar-places I did something today I haven't done in well over a year.  I woke up at 5am and drove out to Mt. Laguna to see the sun make its morning appearance over the Anza-Borrego Desert.  This is probably my favorite spot and I stop nearly every time I'm on Sunrise Highway, even if it's mid-day; for me it's just that kind of place. 

My original intent was to do a large loop of nearly 100 miles around our east county as I've done a handful of times but instead I just took a hike out Pedro Fages trail to where it descends into the desert at Oriflamme Canyon and sat for a while.  It was cold in the shade and hot in the rising sun and eventually everything was in the mid-morning sun so I hiked back to the car and decided to head home vice making the large loop. 

(JWSmith Photography) anza-borrego desert Mt Laguna sunrise sunrise highway https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/11/familiar-places Sat, 03 Nov 2018 18:44:21 GMT
Those Pesky Icons https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/10/those-pesky-icons The BluesThe BluesGrand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

In an interesting coincidence two photographers whose work I admire have come to perhaps similar conclusions about iconic landscapes.  My friend Alex has written his goodbyes to Instagram and Flickr and in that essay discussed an aversion to iconic landscapes and, for similar reasons, sunsets (and I imagine sunrises should he live on the American east coast).  And, as if it were a coordinated effort, Thomas Heaton, a UK photographer whose YouTube channel I watch regularly discussed his Mesa Arch experience from a Moab seminar where he was leading workshops.  Both opinions leave one with the thought that the icon experience can be (and in my opinion, is) a frustrating journey and not always worth the effort.  Now that I've experienced a few icons I tend to agree.  I wrote about it in 2014 where I gave a moderate defense of icons but today, I'd pass them by.  Today, I'd do what Thomas suggests and find other viewpoints, other more intimate scenes; looking to seeing the landscape with my eyes and not those of a million Instagrammers. 

(JWSmith Photography) iconic icons landscapes photography https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/10/those-pesky-icons Mon, 29 Oct 2018 15:51:17 GMT
Road Work https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/10/road-work Cone & CrossCone & Cross My street is being paved today.  It's a modest, short connector between two more significant streets and has little importance other then me living on it.  However, the city feels it needs a facelift. There have been signs along the street for two weeks warning us to remove our cars or suffer the tow truck come 7am this morning.  All but one complied; the neighbor kid.  He noticed that there were no signs between two driveways so he parked his Prius there.  I won't fault the city for not placing signs along every foot of the street, some assumptions must be made.  Katherine called the neighbor and told them their kid's Prius was at stake, what with the tow truck driver hovering like a hungry buzzard and the lonely Prius looking so much like carrion.  Barefoot and disheveled he scrambled into his Prius and found a safe spot.  The buzzard flew off, still hungry.
The pavers have much to deal with.  Shortly after 7am a street sweeper truck came by and cleaned the now vacant street of all debris so the pavers have a clean canvas to work on.  Shortly after that the gardeners across the street blew leaves all over their clean canvas.  A watchful guy in a pickup let loose on the poor gardener and he had to blow all those leaves off the street and back into the yard. 

Fun stuff on a otherwise mundane Tuesday. 

(JWSmith Photography) daily life paving road https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/10/road-work Tue, 23 Oct 2018 16:45:27 GMT
Window Shopping https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/10/window-shopping
Bodie State Park, California

(JWSmith Photography) Bodie California reflections window https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/10/window-shopping Fri, 19 Oct 2018 17:40:23 GMT
A Universal Coffee Break https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/10/a-universal-coffee-break
Random Order coffee shop, Portland, OR

Here's one for Monte Stevens.  

When the Universe pauses for 1/120th of a second and says look at me, you should.  It happened for me at the Random Order coffee shop on Alberta St. in Portland, Oregon on the 4th of October.  An alignment of sun, window, coffee, camera and me all came to agreement for a brief moment. 

(JWSmith Photography) coffee Portland reflections https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/10/a-universal-coffee-break Fri, 12 Oct 2018 15:26:13 GMT
Reflecting Bodie https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/10/reflecting-bodie
On our way north to Bend, Oregon we stopped by Bodie State Park, a California landmark that is overly photographed but a fun place to explore at least once.  I had never been and had only passed the exit on Hwy 395 once before and now we're nearly 500 miles into the trip so it seemed silly not to make the stop.  I'm happy we did and given another opportunity to be 500 miles north of San Diego, I may go again.
It's much larger than expected; a real town, not just a few abandoned and decaying buildings.  People occupied themselves here, ore was dug, pies were made, children were taught.  Bodie has been called a ghost town but in the bright mid-day sun perhaps they are more transparent than at night because I saw nothing spectral. 
I felt a slight tingle of self-congratulations on finding this composition.  Just minutes earlier I was cursing the fact that every window I aimed thru had all these damn reflections to deal with.  Then, in an even-blind-squirrels-find-an-acorn sorta way, I saw that by shooting from one window and tightly focusing at the window across the room, I also had reflections of the town framing the target window.  Oh! pretty cool! Let's do it again, and again, and aga...

While post processing this gem I had all the cheesy and cliche titles running through my mind but decided on something prosaic; more to avoid your raised eyebrows and groans that were sure to be reflected (ha! see what I did there!) in the comments than to satisfy any need for a poorly drawn moniker. 

(JWSmith Photography) abandoned Bodie Ghost Town reflections https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/10/reflecting-bodie Wed, 10 Oct 2018 02:18:20 GMT
Bend Cycling Tour - 2018 https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/10/bend-cycling-tour---2018 Photos taken during the 2018 Bend, Oregon cycling tour.  Once the video begins you can click on the expand icon to go full screen and see a better presentation.  Thanks to all who made this journey and became friends in the process.  

    Joe & Kate

Music Step by Vampire Weekend

(JWSmith Photography) Bend Oregon Bicycle Adventure Club cycling Odell Lake Oregon Sisters Oregon slideshow https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/10/bend-cycling-tour---2018 Tue, 09 Oct 2018 07:20:01 GMT
Woody Says... https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/9/woody-says I don't want to achieve immortality through my work. I want to achieve it through not dying.  -Woody Allen


(JWSmith Photography) DC Subway Photo dying quote subway Woody Allen https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/9/woody-says Tue, 18 Sep 2018 15:12:21 GMT
Re-phrasing my Library - Part II https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/9/re-phrasing-my-library---part-ii Here we go again.  Just killing some time today and wandered about the shelves looking for interesting combinations.  Getting a quintain was pretty cool, not sure what the world record is.   
I also discovered via a friend that this is a "thing."  It's called Book Spine Poetry and if you google that you can find a few billion examples.  So, I'm not original, but it's fun. 

(JWSmith Photography) Book Spine Poetry books poetry https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/9/re-phrasing-my-library---part-ii Wed, 12 Sep 2018 23:27:15 GMT
Looking East https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/9/looking-east Three AmigosThree AmigosHollenbeck Canyon

Drive east from the coast and nestled between the blue Pacific and Anza-Borrego Desert, often unnoticed, rests San Diego's rural East County. Our backyard is the playground of many due to its mountains, open spaces, hiking trails and nature preserves. And, in the cooler months it becomes a photographer's canvas as clouds form and those once clear blue skies disappear for a time and allow us to capture a landscape that changes daily.  Fence lines, barbed wire, wind-blown meadows, cloudscapes; the abundant decay of old things, the abandoned cars, dead trees and the occasional rusty tractor all populate our eastern edge. 
In my continuing struggle to organize my images I've created an East County gallery.  You can find it here: East County

(JWSmith Photography) East County Photography San Diego https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/9/looking-east Sun, 09 Sep 2018 20:10:43 GMT
Re-phrasing my Library https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/9/re-phrasing-my-library Perhaps a more interesting way to organize my library?

Endless possibilities. 

(JWSmith Photography) book titles books library https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/9/re-phrasing-my-library Sat, 08 Sep 2018 23:09:32 GMT
Influence https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/9/influence                        
              My mind no longer has romantic abysses, but has become shallow, with many little gaps and cracks.  - Mason Cooley

Years upon years ago I saw the Marx Brothers' film "A Night at the Opera," a romping comedy centered around Verdi's Il Trovatore and was captured; not as much by the comedy, which I still enjoy, but by the operatic performances in the movie.  And, it was not the Anvil Chorus that did it, but the more dramatic and subtle Miserere;  Manrico and Leonora's duet where Manrico sings from a prison cell and Leonora sings a heart wrenching aria from the walls below his window.  It wasn't until years later that I found the full opera in a used CD store and, though not yet a fan of the genre, nor having listened to much opera, I was somehow compelled to buy it.  I've been a fan ever since. 
Often when I hear of people's influence in classical music the credit typically goes to the old Bugs Bunny cartoons that did a wonderful job of presenting the classics in a way that kids (and adults) could enjoy.  For me it will always be Groucho, Chico and Harpo. 



(JWSmith Photography) art influences opera https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/9/influence Sat, 08 Sep 2018 18:06:17 GMT
A Word from Guy Tal https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/9/a-word-from-guy-tal Juniper in Capitol ReefJuniper in Capitol ReefCapitol Reef National Park, Utah
In his latest blog post Guy Tal argues against revealing the locations of his photographs because other photographers use him as a stalking horse so they may also visit wild and elusive places so as to cut another notch into their Instagram belt (my phrasing). 

He's found that some of those
                        natural formations I discovered were destroyed by people, either by nefarious intent or by leading to overuse. 

He continues: 
Speaking about this concern with fellow photographers, outdoor writers, conservation advocates, employees of the National Park Service and of other agencies, a point commonly raised is this: to advertise and to “develop” these rare and wild places is a good thing because if more people see them, more people will become motivated to advocate for their preservation. Although not obvious, the first part of the argument, by virtue of being true, negates the second part, at least when it comes to truly wild and sensitive places. It’s true that social sharing, development, and increased use of a wild place means that more people will see it, but no people will ever again experience it as a wild place.

He's been called selfish for his refusal to reveal these locations to others so they may have the same joy he did even though they would miss the most important part, the joy of discovery. 

Now, I'm not by any means an adventure photographer or even an adventurous photographer.  Most places I visit have been trod upon for ages, they're new to me and I'm happy with that.  I totally agree with Guy's approach and if I never find that elusive spot with the perfect evening light hitting that perfect juniper then so be it.  I'm grateful he did because he revealed to me something beautiful. 

I've written about hunting iconic landscapes before and I know it's very hard to have driven over a thousand miles to the canyons of Utah and not stop at Mesa Arch and watch the sunrise, even if you're doing so with fifty others lined shoulder-to-shoulder.   I'm happy that Mesa Arch is accessible to the masses even though I know that eventually the masses will destroy it.  I'm beginning to see it and others as sacrificial lambs.  Mesa Arch will be destroyed so other less accessible landscapes and formations can survive, at least a while longer.  Even as I write this the idea sickens me but if ten thousand visitors a year are satisfied with (pick your icon) then the wild places Guy and other responsible nature photographers visit can last that much longer. 


(JWSmith Photography) destroying the land icons Mesa Arch wilderness https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/9/a-word-from-guy-tal Sat, 01 Sep 2018 16:39:40 GMT
Wandering https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/8/wandering View from Fonts PointView from Fonts PointAnza-Borrego Desert State Park, California My mind is led astray by every faint rustle. -Mason Cooley

When I was in grade school my mom started buying the Funk & Wagnalls encyclopedias at the grocery store.  They issued them, one a month, until the set was complete, I believe there were twenty.  They became a source of knowledge and learning throughout my schooling and when I moved on and had my own place one of my first purchases was a used set of Encyclopedia Britannica.  I lugged them around from studio to house to apartment to house; boxes of heavy books, treasured heavy books. 
Before the the Internet indexed the world's body of knowledge I would use these volumes to mentally wander about the world.  Sometimes, out of boredom, I'd open up one at random (say, T-U) and just flip through until something caught my eye and I'd read.  Then, something in that article caught my eye and I'd open the appropriate volume, and read. In an hour or so I'd have five or six encyclopedias open and strewn about the floor as one thing led to another. 
The Internet and HTML lightened my load considerably as I was able to eventually (and reluctantly) donate my Britannicas and move on to the CD and web versions.  The pace of inquiry and mental wandering sped up considerably but, at times, I miss those heavy, brown tomes. 

Which brings me to this.
I went for a bit of a mental wander yesterday.  On three occasions I heard the word dogma.  Now, I know what dogma means (after all I had Funk & Wagnalls as a kid) but I wondered if the narrators did as each usage seemed just different enough to cause me to mentally blink and raise a brow. 

Here, from Dictionary.com:  Dogma - 1: an official system of principles or tenets concerning faith, morals, behavior, etc., as of a church.
It comes from the Greek dokein meaning 'to seem good' or to 'think" which doesn't seem dogmatic at all.  And, within the entry was a small quote by Mason Cooley, "Under attack, sentiments harden into dogma."  Very good, Mason.
This quip led me to wonder who this Cooley guy was and why he'd be quoted.  Turns out Mason was an academic and aphorist.  An aphorist, imagine that. What a cool entry for a business card.   If you look him up (as you must do when wandering) you'll see he has quite a few aphorisms to his credit, like the one I've used above and will probably keep around as it seems to fit me. 


(JWSmith Photography) dogma encyclopedias Mason Cooley mental wandering https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/8/wandering Tue, 28 Aug 2018 17:29:37 GMT
The Mission https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/8/the-mission
The Mission is one of my all-time favorite movies.  Much of that love is due to the near holy melodies brought to the screen by Ennio Morricone.  His Main Theme is extraordinarily beautiful and the opening solo by the oboist could be not be more perfect.  Should I ever find myself captive on that notorious desert island I hope to have this piece for company.  I'd be okay then. 

Do yourself a favor - clear your mind for ten minutes and have a listen.  Here's the Munich Radio Orchestra conducted by the maestro himself: The Mission - Main Theme

(JWSmith Photography) Morricone movie music musical themes The Mission https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/8/the-mission Sun, 26 Aug 2018 23:59:02 GMT
Regrets https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/8/regrets A new book by David Orr discusses how we've forever been misunderstanding the meaning of one of America's most favorite poems.  Orr's new book "The Road not Taken" says Frost's poem references regrets, not pride.  It's been years since I've read the entire poem and I can see how Orr interprets Frost's poem as regret rather than bravado.  

Orr writes: The poem isn’t a salute to can-do individualism. It’s a commentary on the self-deception we practice when constructing the story of our own lives.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth; 

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day! 
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference. 

- Robert Frost (but you knew that)





(JWSmith Photography) new books poetry Robert Frost https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/8/regrets Thu, 23 Aug 2018 22:20:36 GMT
Oakzanita - The pseudo tree https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/8/oakzanita-thepseudotree There is actually no such thing as an Oakzanita.  It's a mash-up of Oak and Manzanita; two prominent members of our backcountry foliage.  Yet, here's Katherine in hero pose on the hike to Oakzanita Peak, the name giving added credence to a pretend bush.  In the distance are acres of manzanita, a variety of oaks, and other earth hugging shrub life that creates our chaparral; San Diego County's revered ecosystem.  To lend some European chic ours is considered a Mediterranean climate.  There are only five spots on our tiny blue dot like it.  Really. 
Our backcountry can be brutal in the summer months but gracious in the cooler days between December and May.  Hiking here gives you access to broad vistas since we have none of those rude pines, maples and elms to obstruct our view.  They may be tall and majestic but for wide vistas they're like the really tall guy who sits in front of you in the theater.

(JWSmith Photography) backcountry east county hike Oakzanita San Diego https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/8/oakzanita-thepseudotree Wed, 22 Aug 2018 22:21:52 GMT
Analogue Romance or Digital Technology? https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/8/analogue-romance-or-digital-technology

Last night it was still too warm to eat inside so we sat out back and munched our salads while discussing the lives of the various birds that feed in our yard.  The discussion drifted to-and-fro and landed on my morning ritual of getting my coffee and sitting at the computer working on photos or writing this journal or reading your journals.  I enjoy this period but I admit it's become habit.  She noted correctly that I'm 'talking' to virtual people whom I don't know; but in reality I'm talking to myself (geez, which is worse?).  These are my thoughts on my reaction to the world and there's not much else to it.  Somehow you've stumbled upon it and you're welcome to stay but it's for me really.  

I've often felt that injecting technology into the photographic arts has diminished the idea of what we consider "The Artist" when it comes to photography.  I asked Katherine, "If I came out here in the morning with canvas, paints and easel would it appear more like work or 'art like' and less like playing on the computer?"  She admitted it would seem different and I tend to reluctantly agree as I often think upon seeing a painter on the coast rendering a California seascape that she seems more the artist than a guy on a 21" iMac trying to lift the shadows from another California sunset image while sitting in his living room 10 miles and 2 hours from the original scene.  The digital realm has removed us from the Romance we once enjoyed with the quickly passing analogue days (those bygone days if you will).  I think of the writer who with furious angst rips the paper from the typewriter and flings it across the room to the half-filled wastebasket, misses, and there it lay with a dozen other wadded up sheets who met the same fate.  It would be very expensive for me to yank my 21" iMac and hurl it across the room, regardless of the amount of furious angst I was feeling.  The optics would not work nearly as well either; much too violent.  Yet, the digital analogy for my tossing wadded paper at a half-filled wastebasket is for me to strike with furious angst the Delete key-'click'.  Sorta misses the drama of the moment.  

(JWSmith Photography) analogue artists digital Romancing the Analogue https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/8/analogue-romance-or-digital-technology Mon, 20 Aug 2018 16:53:54 GMT
A Little Street Music https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/8/a-little-street-music A 5 minute video of some urban cityscapes.  It's the time of year in San Diego when one's eye turns to the urban landscape as the traditional landscapes lack any interesting skies and the light is overly harsh and unforgiving.  Plus, it's damn hot out! 

This should play well full screen, just click on the bottom right 'full screen' icon once it begins.


Street MusicA Little Street Music Music: Phil Larson, Licensed from EnvatoMarket

(JWSmith Photography) cityscapes people slideshow street urban https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/8/a-little-street-music Tue, 07 Aug 2018 17:34:14 GMT
Pentti Sammallahti of Finland - affordable art https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/7/pentti-sammallahti-of-finland---affordable-art

Not to beat a dead horse but I found this interesting and hopeful.

In The Economist: Pentti Sammallahti, Finland's top photographer sets affordable prices for his art.  

The Best Artist whose Work you can Afford - The Economist

(JWSmith Photography) art artwork Finland pricing https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/7/pentti-sammallahti-of-finland---affordable-art Tue, 31 Jul 2018 21:29:24 GMT
Acoustic Grace - The Singer/Songwriter https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/7/singer/songwriters---a-list Singer/Songwriters
    In a recent blog post my friend Doc Hubbard listed 10 albums of music that had an influence on him.  I made a comment or two and it was suggested that I create a list of my own.  Okay, I did. Sorta. 
    I had to break my selections of All-Time-Favorite albums into smaller categories for fear of missing a few dozen favorites because I was trying to pare down the selection to something under 100.  So, for this edition I'm going with Singer/Songwriters of the Troubadour style.  Of course nearly every band nowadays writes their own music (thus technically they're all singer/songwriters) but my list headlines those who tended to be solo artists (at least for the album selected) and mostly known for their acoustic styling and in the tradition of the singer/songwriter.  
     You may notice (I have) that all but one of these are from the '70s.  A nice decade to be alive and listening. It's not that I'm stuck in the '70s, I'm really not and I didn't purposely pick music from that era.  But, it's my era and I'm quite fond of it and, for me, it's where the singer/songwriter genre really shined.  These are in no particular order and yes, I'm missing your favorite album, heck, I'm missing some of mine too; so, before we begin, a brief shout out to Gordon Lightfoot, Van Morrison, Amy Winehouse, Emily Baker and all the other guitar toting troubadours. 


Joni MItchell - Blue (1971)

Perhaps my favorite album over the last three years.  On my last trip to the Colorado Plateau I had it looped for hundreds of miles.  I was not a big fan of Joni in her "Big Yellow Taxi" days but over time and as my musical tastes matured and became more housebroken I've fallen for her beautifully staccato vocals. 

Carol King - Tapestry (1971)

So, what else is there to say.  I don't know the stats but I'd guess this is the top selling album of all time.  It's the singer/songwriter equivalent of Davis' Kind of Blue in the jazz world.  King's vocals and lyrics are still every bit as listenable as they were when new.  It's been part of my life's soundtrack and I've owned it on scratched LP, hissy cassette, and finally CD; it's in my iTunes library now, burned from that CD.  I read her autobiography a while back and it's worth a read if you're into the evolution of music since the late fifties. 

Bob Dylan - Blood on the Tracks (1975)

Just another masterpiece from the author of so many masterpieces.  I'm not educated in music enough to give an intelligent reading of this beautiful album.  Isn't enough to say I like it above all his others?  Oh, and Jack of Hearts is great music to make dinner by. 

Leonard Cohen - Live in London (2009)

I wasn't even aware of Cohen until around 10 years ago. Of course I knew his music but never tied it to the man (a problem with no longer having liner notes!).  Then some co-workers were excited to announce they had tickets to see Cohen at a local San Diego theater.  Okay, so?  Over the next 30 minutes they educated me and I went home that night and found Leonard.  The real turning point for me was watching this performance on PBS(?) one night.  Then, just as I'm invested as a fan, he dies! Really, Leonard? I know I came late to the party but I'm here now. 

Neil Young - After the Gold Rush (1970)

Everyone goes for Harvest and I do love Harvest but Gold Rush does something special for me.  Like Tapestry I've had multiple versions of Harvest but still it's Gold Rush that I go to over and over.  A few months ago I had my iTunes set for Shuffle and I ended up listening to The Band's The Night They Drove Ol' DIxie Down and then immediately after, Southern Man.  It was surreal and hearing Neil shred the romantic patina from The Band's ballad was like setting the world right again.  Oddly, it's two Canadians debating the legacy of our civil war. 

Cat Stevens - Tea for the Tillerman (1970)

One of my first Favorite albums.  Cat Stevens has such a rich and lustrous voice, interesting lyrics, and agile fingers on the guitar.  Father and Son has been a favorite of mine for... well forever. 

Tom Waits - Closing Time (1973)

I found myself listening to this album at a friend's house and the next day went down to Tower Records and bought it.  His song, I Hope That I Don't Fall in Love With You, just resonated with me. The lead track Ol' 55, makes me wish I had an Ol' 55.  Waits has perhaps the most original, drunken, bluesy voice and it's perfect for his style and lyrics.  I can listen to this album in the early morning, over lunch, or during whisky hour, especially during whisky hour.  I have a few more albums by Waits but this is the one I return to.  I'm listening to it now.  

John Prine - Sweet Revenge (1973)

I have a friend who used to turn me on to new music.  He had an older brother who showed him the way and I benefited from those nuggets.  Leo Kottke and John Prine were the best of those nuggets.  Especially this album, Sweet Revenge.  It's funny, sad, challenging and above all a joy to hear. Prine, like Waits, has a unique voice that fits well with his lyrics and style.  I was immediately enchanted and humored by Please Don't Bury Me and Dear Abby and then over time grew to like the more somber ballads like Christmas in Prison.  This album still has legs. 


(JWSmith Photography) albums Bob Dylan Cat Stevens John Prine joni mitchell Leonard Cohen music singers songwriters Tom Waits https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/7/singer/songwriters---a-list Fri, 27 Jul 2018 19:23:27 GMT
A simple mental exercise https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/7/a-simple-mental-exercise JettyJetty

My post about the Brooks Jensen essay generated some thoughts by my friend and fellow photographer Alex Kunz.  His final comment woke me from my nap and put me in another introspective spin. 

Mental exercise: if you could see your own photographs being just as good as the ones you saw in that gallery in La Jolla, would you buy it if the price was similar to what you ask for on FAA? Or would you rather say "well for that price I'd rather hang one of my own" then? :-)

I see. 

There was a single image that I felt I would buy if the price were right; but within seconds I thought, no I wouldn't.  I said to myself, "That's fairly similar to what I have in my catalogue and I feel my work is just as good (eye-of-the-beholder stuff), so I'll just print my own."  The reasoning here, now that I've been challenged, is that the author of the gallery work is completely unknown to me.  Even now I can't recall his/her name.  But, if it had been a Michael Kenna, or Keith Carter and it was priced in the same range I charge for my works I'd snatch it up in an instant and ask for more.  But, I doubt it would have hung on those walls at that price long enough for me to finally discover the gallery and decide to visit.  

A point Alex made earlier in our discussion was that gallery works are not priced for general public (i.e. photographers) but for investors. A solid point and one I overlooked.  Someone with La Jolla money will buy this because he/she knows of the photographer and expects that artist to be a future Kenna or Carter.  It's like holding on to a Tony Gwynn rookie card hoping the kid will make good (btw, he did).  

(JWSmith Photography) art Brooks Jensen galleries mental exercise pricing art https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/7/a-simple-mental-exercise Wed, 25 Jul 2018 00:50:30 GMT
Fine Art and the Philosophy of the Producer https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/7/fine-art-and-the-philosophy-of-the-producer
Personification of 1871 by Paul Cabet - Musee d'Orsay, Paris

Recently I read an editorial in Lenswork Magazine by its editor/publisher Brooks Jensen.  In it he gently rants about how many unknown and new photographic artists ("some new MFA graduate no one's ever heard of" is how he describes them) set prices for their work far above their worth.  He's seeing gallery prices of $3,500 for work from these nobodies as if they were a Weston, Kenna or some other established master.  He goes on using some analogies (weak in my opinion due to mass production) to singers, writers, dancers and how the art produced by those mediums is much easier to purchase than that of a "fine art" print in a gallery.  Then the big question, Why? His answer: a collective desire for it to be true by so many newcomers, combined with the occasional historic luminary's price-splash in the press.  Okay, I'll go with that. 

But then he gets to, for me, the more interesting points: 1) Price is a means of limiting distribution.  It's obvious of course.   In the gallery world of photographic art the prices reach 1,000 times the cost of production (especially in the digital realm).  This is great for the galleries but is it great for the photographer?  He asks how selling fewer prints helps support a photographer's ability to purchase the next camera or do the travel necessary to make images.  2) Price is not only a measure of a buyer's value of a commodity but also a measure of the philosophy of the producer.  The idea being that if, as a photographer,  you value connection (with your audience, current and future) then price accordingly, so it connects with the many rather than the few.  

This brings me to my recent visit to a photographic arts gallery in La Jolla, CA, a tony, oceanside community north of San Diego.  As we walked through the clean, white spaces with walls neatly lined with modern fine art photographs I couldn't help but think of Jensen's essay and whether it would ring true when actually in a gallery and facing the full visual impact of well-framed, beautifully lit, perfectly printed images in a place where hushed voices seemed to be as respectfully obligatory as in a church.  It is impressive, as it's no doubt designed to be, in order to support the illusion of elevated artworks. Next to each print was a small pin with a number rather than a price or artist/image info.  It wasn't until later that I found the folder of price sheets: numerical order, artist, title, price; nothing below $3,800, topping at $6,000.  Oh my.

I'm reasonably familiar with the current photographic heroes but I don't make a point of tracking the up and coming artists so the fact that I'd never heard of any of the artists whose work was so elegantly hung on those arctic white walls can be taken with a large grain of salt.  Nonetheless, there was nothing hanging that I would pay $1,000 for, much less the asking price.  Someone will I'm sure, but I doubt it will be another photographer, which goes back to Jensen's essay. Most or all singers, writers, dancers, can afford the work of other singers, writers, dancers.  Why not photographers?  There was one print in the gallery that I liked very much but would never buy at that price.  In fact I imagined that I could pick a half-dozen of my prints and they'd be quite comfortable hanging next to these multi-thousand dollar prints (feel free to disagree :-) ).

So, what's the point? Other than I can't afford to buy fine art photography and that I empathize somewhat with Jensen's argument that it's all based on the collective illusion of value, it's this:  I've fallen into this exact temptation with my work on Fine Art America.  I've raised my prices a few times to come within the neighborhood of others whose work I feel I parallel.  Also, my prices are aligned to the size of the print which seems logical, but is it? My cost for each image is sunk. Once the image is uploaded I have no appreciable expenditure in money, energy, or time.  So regardless of the size of the image the cost of production for me is nil.  For FAA it increases with size (printing, ink, shipping etc.) and they account for that in their share of the sale price.  For me, an 20x30 is no more costly than a 8x10, just the profit increases.  Pricing by size is an accepted practice as the logic appears irrefutable (and it works) but I'm debating with myself as to whether I want to increase distribution of my work by leveling prices at an acceptable profit margin (say, a 20"x16" price point) which may increase overall sales (and thus connections) or remain status quo and stop reading Brooks Jensen. 


(JWSmith Photography) Brooks Jensen Fine Art Galleries Pricing https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/7/fine-art-and-the-philosophy-of-the-producer Wed, 18 Jul 2018 18:49:03 GMT
Our shortened attention span https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/7/our-shortened-attention-span So, below is a self portrait of Vincent Van Gogh that should be familiar to anyone not living underground for the last century.  I was fortunate enough to stand, ahem, face-to-face with it in the Musee d'Orsay just last week.  In a bustling crowd I was able to hold a spot straight on, a meter from this masterpiece.  Yet, it only took an instant for an iPad toting, middle-aged, Chinese woman to snuggle up on my right, stab her iPad outward and in front of my face, snap a picture of Vincent and then, just as swiftly, flitter off, no doubt to do the same with Starry Night or a nearby Renoir.  I could see the image on her screen and it was not as good as the one below (copied from Wikipedia). Of course her hastily composed snapshot had the frame and the context of the museum but geez, a quick pic of a modern masterpiece, taking zero time to actually look at the ORIGINAL work?  I know I stood there for 5 minutes just marveling at this work, and I'm no art aficianado or student of the impressionists. In fact, while there I wished for an art student to explain it to me. 

Why do we do this then?  Why ignore what is right in front of us, an original work from a master only to snap a photo and run off to repeat the process again and again?  Is it not real until we capture it, the value then occurring when we're home and can view the ersatz version on our phones or iPads?  Nothing those kids (and adults) caught on their phones will be any better than what I pulled from Wiki, most will be worse.  Why bother to visit the museum at all?  

It's the same at iconic landscapes, Tunnel View, Mesa Arch, Grand Canyon's south rim all get the same treatment.  I started this blog thinking I'd blame Steve Jobs but that's like blaming Samuel Colt for the country's gun violence. We have a tool and some will use it willy-nilly while others will create art or new methods of communicating. 

For me, I'm still moved that I stood in front of this work along with other masterpieces like Renoir's Bal du Moulin de la Galette and Poppies by Monet; works that I'd only seen in books and movies.  It's unfortunate that many will only remember it from what's on their phone. 


(JWSmith Photography) France masterpieces Museum Van Gogh https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/7/our-shortened-attention-span Mon, 02 Jul 2018 01:32:15 GMT
As Samwise once said... https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/6/as-samwise-once-said Well, I'm back. 

(JWSmith Photography) Chateau de Chambord travel https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/6/as-samwise-once-said Sat, 30 Jun 2018 20:48:45 GMT
A Steadfast rock and Maybe More https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/5/a-rock-and-maybe-more I call this photo Steadfast.  I have many rock photos but this is my favorite. This is a subtle, pre-Instagram style photograph. It isn't artistically blurry, it's certainly not blasting color and it presents itself modestly.  I've often accused myself of objectifying my subjects; seeing them as shapes and textures rather than who or what they are or understanding the life they've led and trying to photograph that inner being that all 'objects' have;  all the things critics from artistic sites and galleries wax on about in elevated tone and high-minded language.  Yep, guilty. 

Yet, this morning, for some unknown or hidden reason, I was caught by the beauty of this rock.   I'm sure that anyone watching me photograph it in Joshua Tree would wonder what the hell I was doing taking pictures of a big rock.  But you see, (as Guy Tal would say) it's more than a rock.  Its texture strikes me first, a soft morning light grazed its face so there's no harsh contrast and its tonal quality sets it apart from the darker ridge line in the background.  It's nice too that the ridge line rides the crest of the rock and those wispy clouds filling the frame seem just right. I do believe it has a quiet character.  Perhaps it does have an 'inner being.'  After all, it's been around longer than any of our fellow Sapiens so you'd think it would have developed some sort of 'beingness,' right?  It certainly has had a long time to think about itself and its surroundings.  The viewer is the one to decide if there's more here than a rock; I think I've found more. 

SteadfastSteadfastJoshua Tree National Park, California

(JWSmith Photography) https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/5/a-rock-and-maybe-more Sat, 26 May 2018 16:21:06 GMT
Riding a Wave https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/5/riding-a-wave An American Kestrel seemingly rides a wave of clouds in Ramona Grasslands and convinces me I need a longer lens. 

Kestrel Riding a WaveKestrel Riding a WaveRamona Grasslands, California

(JWSmith Photography) b&w bird clouds kestrel ramona https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/5/riding-a-wave Wed, 23 May 2018 16:21:10 GMT
Selection for PhotoPlace On-Line Gallery https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/5/selection-for-photoplace-on-line-gallery One of my B&W images was chosen for the on-line exhibit at The Photo Place Gallery.  The Photo Place Gallery has both a physical gallery in Vermont as well as an on-line presence.  

The site can be seen here with all the accepted entries, both for the printed gallery and the on-line exhibit:  The Photo Place

Urban UmbrellaUrban UmbrellaSan Diego, California

Sandrine Hermand-Grisel provided her juror's statement regarding B&W photography and what she looked for in building the exhibit. 

Juror’s Statement

Mysterious, intense, timeless, at times nostalgic, black and white photography is, to me, magical. These images remind me of why I fell in love with photography in the first place.

As a curator, I am intrigued by images with fresh ideas and vision. But as a photographer who loves black and white photography and who has spent a lot of time in the darkroom, I am drawn to both powerful contrasts and nuanced greys.

As a result, my selection for this exhibition is subjective and undeniably emotional. I wanted to showcase the vast range of possibilities that black and white photography offers, from images inspired by the pioneers of photography to fresh interpretations that digital techniques allow.

Jurying this black and white exhibition was a difficult but fascinating experience. Thank you for allowing me to discover so many incredible images. I was captivated by the stories you had to tell, your unique point of view and your creative choices.

Sandrine Hermand-Grisel

(JWSmith Photography) exhibition gallery https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/5/selection-for-photoplace-on-line-gallery Thu, 17 May 2018 21:24:32 GMT
PCT Section - Desert View to Pioneer Mail https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/5/pct-section---desert-view-to-pioneer-mail Yesterday, a long Mother's Day hike with Katherine and Kristin.  We completed another small stretch of the PCT starting at the Desert View Picnic Area and finishing up, tired and hungry, at Pioneer Mail, a 10.7 mile hike.  By ending at Pioneer Mail we connected this hike with a 25 mile, 3-day hike we did in 2015 and now have a contiguous 35-mile stretch in the books.  The map below shows the route, a pretty simple one.  I somehow stopped the mapping app at the 8.4 mile mark but Kristin was running one of her own and confirmed the final mileage at 10.7.  So, the green dot at the north end of the map, next to Sunrise Highway, is our terminus. The black dot in the middle is the desert overlook across the street from the now burned down Foster's Lodge.  We stopped for a quick bite to eat. 

There's a signpost up ahead! 

Fellow Traveler - Gopher Snake sunning
A once thriving manzanita Illustrating the rain shadow effect; cool clouds from the coast roll over the western edge of the Anza-Borrego Desert and drop their moisture in the higher elevations, leaving a rain shadow of little to nothing for the desert below. 
A section of bramble as foreground for the rolling clouds and desert beyond Bramble on the PCTBramble on the PCTMt Laguna, California
In the early miles we had shaded paths and cool temps

A Lord's Candle lights the way for Kris

Anza-Borrego Desert from the Pacific Crest Trail high in the Laguna Mountains

(JWSmith Photography) anza-borrego desert hike pct https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/5/pct-section---desert-view-to-pioneer-mail Mon, 14 May 2018 17:55:27 GMT
An Arid Muse https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/5/an-arid-muse I have now included my favorite desert photographs into a gallery titled An Arid MuseIt's a phrase I used for my Anza-Borrego book and one I feel fits my appreciation for the desert southwest.  Philip Hyde's book Drylands has been an inspiration and though I've not covered anywhere near the geography he did for his volume, I have managed to get around to a few hot spots over the last 6 years.  Hyde's book is a great reference for the beautifully arid places on our continent. 
Most of my trips have been to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, part of the Colorado Desert (a subsection of the Sonoran Desert).  Joshua Tree National Park sits astride the Mojave and Colorado Deserts so you can experience both ecosystems.  One of my favorites for dunes is White Sands National Monument in southern New Mexico which sits atop the Chihuahuan Desert, a desert system that dives deep in to Mexico.  However, my favorite spot in the southwest is the Colorado Plateau and its Painted Desert.  Some consider the Painted Desert part of the Great Basin Desert but I tend to agree with Hyde that it has a character all its own and deserves singular recognition. 

(JWSmith Photography) arid books desert drylands phonebooks https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/5/an-arid-muse Sat, 12 May 2018 16:24:08 GMT
Rare Sighting https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/5/rare-sighting Found on a Southwest flight between St. Louis and San Diego, the rare and nearly endangered open seat.  

Empty SeatEmpty SeatSouthwest Flight

(JWSmith Photography) airlines airplane southwest window wing https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/5/rare-sighting Tue, 08 May 2018 20:20:54 GMT
Paso Robles - 2018 https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/4/paso-robles---2018 Had a nice week in Paso Robles, CA.  Got some cycling miles in my legs, broke my tripod ball-head, got maybe a dozen decent photographs, bought some wine, port, olive oil and balsamic from a few favorite spots and all-in-all had a good time. 

Gallery is right ----> HERE!

(JWSmith Photography) cycling oaks paso robles vineyards wine https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/4/paso-robles---2018 Wed, 25 Apr 2018 16:53:55 GMT
It Comes Down to Doing the Work https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/4/its-comes-down-to-doing-the-work A while back I read and tried to take to heart Steven Pressfield's "The War of Art."   Now, all I had read of Pressfield was his "Gates of Fire," a novel of the battle of Thermopylae (a battle later depicted in the phenomena,"The 300") which wasn't impressive as "real" literature so I was a bit skeptical that he could provide instructive coaching on the energy and stamina necessary for producing art.  I apologize to Mr. Pressfield most heartily as I feel "The War of Art" should be read by anyone wishing to engage in any type of artistic endeavor.  He writes about the art of writing but just substitute painting, photography, sculpting or any other artistic form and bathe in it.  
Anyway, what I wanted to get to was a YouTube video I found this weekend on the channel "Storytellers," that uses Pressfield's work as fuel for an essay about the difference between amateurs and pros.  It's a well produced and instructive essay and I'm sure I'll return to it often.

Video:  Turning Pro

(JWSmith Photography) ethics inspiration video war of art work https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/4/its-comes-down-to-doing-the-work Mon, 23 Apr 2018 15:41:09 GMT
Books of Note https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/4/books-of-note A few weeks ago Richard Wong posted a selection of books that are influential in his photography career.  I love books, books of all kinds and have to refrain from buying anything and everything that sparks a new interest or fuels a current one.  I've stopped buying "How To" photography books and focus now on an artist's collection of his or her works.  I also enjoy writings that consider photography an art form and not just a collection of pretty pictures.  So, as of today here are the works I return to regularly and that continue to inspire me in a variety of directions.  

Keith Carter:  I first discovered Keith in a Santa Fe Workshops inspirational video on YouTube.  They have a series that's well worth binging.  I then saw Ted Forbes do a review of his books and finally got to see Ted do a video interview with him as part of his "Artists Series."  Keith Carter is a joy to listen to and has an intriguing style that attracts me.   I bought his book Twenty Five Years and love it.  His style is not for everyone, it's quirky, all monochrome film, various print and development techniques and always compelling.  Watch Keith's Santa Fe Workshops video here:  Keith Carter

Joe Cornish: I have a penchant for the UK landscape and the photographers who capture it.  Joe is at the top of any list of landscape photographers, not just those from the Isles. As described in This Land, he uses a variety of equipment, film and digital, and I close this book feeling both inspired and deflated.  Do a search on YouTube and watch him work in his calm and quiet way, just like his landscape.  

Sabastio SalgadoGenesis, everything about these images is inspiring.  I can't come up with anything new about Salgado.  If you have any appreciation for B&W documentary and landscape photography then this will be your standard.  The film about his life "Salt of the Earth" covers the book and is a bit depressing at first due to the subject matter but it picks up and is well worth watching.  Genesis is a very large volume, prepare to spend an hour or two and use a sturdy table. 

MIchael Kenna:  I came to appreciate minimalist landscapes through Kenna's work.  Like Cornish he's a soft spoken, humble guy who creates magic in the field.  I have his Forms of Japan book but the first book of his I purchased was A Twenty Year Retrospective and I do feel I get more from it than the Japan volume.  Again, it's a variety of B&W or toned images from film so if you're looking for colorful sunsets you need to look elsewhere.  

Two other books I regularly return to are Fan Ho's Hong Kong Yesterday and Truncated by Paul Hart. My impressions of these can be found by following the links connected to their titles. 

(JWSmith Photography) books inspiration joe cornish keith carter michael kenna sabastio salgado https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/4/books-of-note Sat, 21 Apr 2018 16:02:45 GMT
An Exercise in Seeing https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/4/an-exercise-in-seeing Years ago I bought Karr and Wood's book The Practice of Contemplative Photography, not really knowing anything of the subject but it sounded interesting. After a quick scan and glossing over some of the text, I saw it wasn't as interesting as I'd hoped so I put it aside and there it collected dust for the last few years.  But, having grown tired of the same sea-land-city scapes I went to my bookshelf looking for inspiration.  I rediscovered Karr & Wood and decided to take another dive. 

They discuss ways of seeing, the practice of seeing, exploring texture & simplicity and many of the typical photographic touchstones.  Nearly all of the examples are intimate type images which I'm fond of.  The examples, though some are in B&W, have a clear, simple composition with many having rich, creative, color contrasts. Something I discovered after a quick scan of the book and images is that I've been doing this type of photography for most of my photographic life.  Yet, I wasn't confident in the look and feel as many had that 'snapshot' look and they certainly lacked the audience of a beautiful seascape or desert sunset. 

Over the past year or so I've become more comfortable in my perception of how the world should appear and less interested in audience appeal, so I'm once again gathering the clan for an attempt at creating a cohesive family of images that express something of what I see in Karr & Wood's book.  What is there today (mid-April) is my initial conception of their ideas (without having completed the book).  So, as I read deeper, expect changes if you're following along.  It's not a new direction for me, just one that has remained cloistered and forgotten in my Lightroom catalogue.

My latest in Contemplative Photography

(JWSmith Photography) contemplative photography directions intimate thoughts https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/4/an-exercise-in-seeing Thu, 12 Apr 2018 19:28:18 GMT
Once again https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/4/once-again Well, I've done it once more.  I've reorganized my web site to suit some wandering notion I have of just what my vision entails and how to present it.  We're back to monochrome again, Yep.  Keep your travel shoes nearby because I'll no doubt turn hard left or veer right in the coming months and you'll get to experience my doubts and confusion once more.  I'm pretty much an omnivore when it comes to photography and when all that variation is presented together it seems too much like that dusty drawer of seldom used items we all have in our homes (mine is in the kitchen).  
I've stripped the site of iconic vistas or sites and focused on things not normally seen but utter a creative and pleasing form to my eyes.  I hope you'll enjoy the stroll. 

(JWSmith Photography) dazed and confused monochrome vision website https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/4/once-again Fri, 06 Apr 2018 15:43:22 GMT
Pacific Crest Trail - Another Stretch Complete https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/4/pacific-crest-trail---another-stretch-complete Yesterday Katherine and I did an 8.2 mile stretch of the PCT starting where it crosses CA S-22 (San Felipe Rd) and heading north to the Cal Fire station in Warner Springs on Hwy 79.  We had to take two cars which is the problem with linear trails; a nice loop would have been easier logistically.  We left Katherine's car on S-22 and hiked north to mine at Hwy 79.  I'm not sure yet how much of San Diego County's portion of the PCT can be accomplished in a two-car, day hike fashion like this.  At some point we'll have to spend the night on the trail but for now doing day hikes is just fine.   In 2015 we did a two night, 25.5 mile section in the Laguna Mountain area (from Pioneer Mail to Scissors Crossing), described here.  I know that from the southern terminus in Campo it's a 20 mile hike to Lake Morena (which is the closest spot we could park a car) and probably doable in a very long day but spending the night on the trail would be more fun.  We'll see. 
Being early April we came across 2 solo thru-hikers northbound to Canada.  I imagine if we hiked southward we would have crossed paths with more as the normal route for them is south-to-north. 
Just as we hit the trail I thought to download the AllTrails app to map our progress and act as a log for further PCT hikes.  The green dot in the middle is the iconic and highly visited Eagle Rock where we stopped for lunch.  All-in-All it's a pretty easy hike being fairly flat and very well marked. 

Trail Photos 

(JWSmith Photography) east county hike pct san diego trail warner springs https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/4/pacific-crest-trail---another-stretch-complete Wed, 04 Apr 2018 20:39:33 GMT
Taking Advantage of the Humdrum https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/3/taking-advantage-of-the-humdrum A return visit to Ramona Grasslands yesterday proved serendipitous for my friend and reader from Colorado who appreciates the occasional clear blue sky.  Here you go, Monte!
I went out early hoping that the morning's coastal fog extended into the foothills east of San Diego but found nothing but a sky cleansed of anything puffy, wispy or white.  As luck would have it I brought my IR-converted D300 so I was able to photograph some nicely shaped oaks in infrared with the added benefit of turning all that clear blue into a rich black. 

Oak in Clear SkiesOak in Clear SkiesRamona Grasslands, California Oak in ReclineOak in ReclineRamona Grasslands, California

(JWSmith Photography) cloudless skies infrared oak tree portraits ramona grasslands https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/3/taking-advantage-of-the-humdrum Sat, 31 Mar 2018 16:56:22 GMT
Good-Cloud Season https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/3/cloud-season We're approaching the end of Good-Cloud Season here in San Diego.  In another few weeks it'll be clear blue skies from dawn till dusk.  Hard to imagine but many people love No-Cloud Season and flock to our fair city to escape their own Good-Cloud Seasons.  I may have captured the season's final wisps last week when we took a quick hike out in the Ramona Grasslands to look for birds, nice landscape compositions, and clouds.  I regret not taking the ND filters and doing some long exposure work while the clouds are in season.  Perhaps I'll still have a chance before the humdrum of blue dominates the skies. DominationDominationRamona Grasslands, California

(JWSmith Photography) clouds east county oaks ramona grasslands trees https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/3/cloud-season Tue, 27 Mar 2018 19:35:11 GMT
Hat Trick https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/3/hat-trick I haven't done an inventory but I'd bet a tidy sum that I have more tree photos in my catalogues than any other subject.  Usually those trees are accompanied by a sky-full of clouds or bulbous boulders resting eternally by their trunks.  On a most fortunate day I'll have all three in a single frame - a photographic hat trick, a trifecta.   A trio such as this provides all a landscape photographer needs; texture, light and shadow, the quiet breath of nature, a pleasing arrangement of elements and, of course, land.  As Martha would say, 'it's a good thing.'
Oak with Boulders and CloudsOak with Boulders and CloudsRamona Grasslands, California

(JWSmith Photography) clouds county east grasslands ramona rocks trees https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/3/hat-trick Wed, 21 Mar 2018 17:37:35 GMT
The Sudden Poetry of Springs https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/3/the-sudden-poetry-of-springs In 1960, author Wallace Stegner delivered my favorite quote about wild spaces and the outdoors in a letter to the Outdoor Recreation Resources Review Commission.  I used it in my book of Anza-Borrego Desert photography and I believe it is just as relevant today as it was at any time in our past. 

It is a lovely and terrible wilderness, such a wilderness as Christ and the prophets went out into; harshly and beautifully colored, broken and worn until its bones are exposed, its great sky without a smudge or taint from Technocracy, and in hidden corners and pockets under its cliffs the sudden poetry of springs. Save a piece of country like that intact, and it does not matter in the slightest that only a few people every year will go into it. That is precisely its value.

The full letter can be found here: Stegner Letter  Contribute if you can. 

Pedro Fages TrailPedro Fages Trail
Pedro Fagers Trail

(JWSmith Photography) quote stegner wilderness https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/3/the-sudden-poetry-of-springs Mon, 19 Mar 2018 15:42:44 GMT
Uncertainty https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/3/uncertainty Not sure where this image came from.  Wait, to rephrase that, I don't know how this image came out of me.  It's not my normal construct. It's light and pastel-ish and low in contrast. Yet, I created it back in 2016 on a whirlwind tour of the east and west Sierra Nevada with my daughter, Kayla.  It has sat uncomfortably in my Lightroom catalogue for what, 2 years now? Waiting. For what? To be re-discovered, to be suddenly accepted? I released it into the wild in hopes it would stop gnawing at me and find itself. The soft palette may indicate I've been reading too much Guy Tal; not a bad thing really.  It's okay to have influences, some think not, but really, it's okay. Certainly, Guy would not recognize it as anything of his own.  And, it's not.  It's mine, and it came from somewhere unfamiliar. 

Badwater AbstractBadwater AbstractDeath Valley National Park, California

(JWSmith Photography) death desert rambling reflections thoughts valley https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/3/uncertainty Sat, 17 Mar 2018 16:13:26 GMT
Modern Romanticism https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/3/modern-romanticism    In 2012 I took the image of people viewing the illuminated sky above Zabriskie Point's Red Cathedral and have ever since wondered if they had the same introspective feeling of awe and wonder that the Wanderer is imbued with in Caspar Friedrich's painting which has forever exemplified the Romantic Period.  Now, I figure there's a 99.5% chance that none of those four were contemplating the value of nature over the threatening trespass of modernity but there's a slight chance that the younger of the group will be forever ingrained with a love of nature and a deep-seated willingness to protect it.  There's always a chance. 
   Fortunately, what you cannot see from my image is the people surrounding me with their modern camera-phones and immediate Instagram and Facebook uploads where they insist on telling the world where they are and how they're feeling.  I sincerely doubt Friedrich had a similar problem but I am sure the Romantics envisioned it and through music, art and literature struck against that encroachment.  Perhaps they need a second coming. 
   The distrust of modernity and the industrial approach to nature that was an influence in the Romantic Period is echoed in today's socio-political environment but regardless of which side of the mountain you view the landscape it's hard not to appreciate the beauty of a natural treasure such as Death Valley.

(JWSmith Photography) death introspection nature point romanticism thoughts valley zabriskie https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/3/modern-romanticism Mon, 05 Mar 2018 17:44:34 GMT
Save Me https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/2/save-me Save me, save me
Save me from this squeeze
I've got a big fat momma tryin' to break me
And I love to live so pleasantly
Live this life of luxury
Lazing on a sunny afternoon
In the summertime, in the summertime
In the summertime, in the summertime
In the summertime
                                  -The Kinks

Irresistible ForceIrresistible ForceLa Jolla, California

(JWSmith Photography) b&w la jolla pacific ocean reef san diego song inspired the kinks waves https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/2/save-me Wed, 28 Feb 2018 18:21:14 GMT
Cold Rain and Warm Coffee https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/2/cold-rain-and-warm-coffee It's raining. A cold, February rain.  Being only the year's second winter storm it fits the "we need this" category.  It's a day for collecting things lost and recognizing things unfound may remain, unfound.  It's that kind of day.  Coffee's hot and fits the day perfectly, a tea and honey pairing.  Today the tenebrous clouds win as it really does rain in California. It's never enough and won't be this time. 

Bare Tree with BouldersBare Tree with BouldersChiricahua National Monument, Arizona


(JWSmith Photography) february rain thoughts https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/2/cold-rain-and-warm-coffee Tue, 27 Feb 2018 16:16:57 GMT
Milton - Goldfield, Nevada https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/2/milton---goldfield-nevada This is Milton, from Goldfield, Nevada.   Goldfield is an out-of-the-way place between two other out-of-the-way-places, Tonapah and Rhyolite.  We came upon Milton while driving through Goldfield in search of the International Car Forest of the Last Church, an ingenious display of rust, metal, angular buses, half-buried cars and graffiti.  All things no photographer should be without.  MiltonMiltonGoldfield, NV
Milton came to Goldfield from North Beach, Maryland, a place I know and was surprised to hear its name come up in the distant Nevada desert. 
"I came here because I was broke," he laments. "I knew how to make money but not how to keep it." 
Milton's father died years ago and he was just hours late to the bedside. "They said he had a few weeks, but he didn't.  I haven't trusted authority since." 

The display behind Milton and in the photographs that follow is a collection of "Art Cars" that have made the rounds to Burning Man a few times.  None belong to Milton but he seems an authority on everything Goldfield.  "The one with the boat on top made it to Texas and back!" 

He asked (assumed?) we were on our way to the large "Car Forest" art display.  "We are!" we both chirped; me somewhat more animated about the prospect than Katherine. 
"Well, go down the main street for two blocks, take a left, go up a hill, down a hill and up another hill and there they'll be, standing tall and Ready for inspection, sir!" and he smiled his happy, one-tooth smile and saluted.  I knew then we'd never forget Milton. 

Running out of things to say I asked him what he did in Goldfield, "I'm just here waiting for the senior bus," he says.  Not the answer I'm looking for but I let it go. 

CreepyCreepyGoldfield, NV MIlton from GoldfieldMIlton from GoldfieldGoldfield, NV

(JWSmith Photography) art displays cars goldfield milton nevada https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/2/milton---goldfield-nevada Tue, 06 Feb 2018 17:32:18 GMT
The Intimate Landscape https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/2/the-intimate-landscape Well distanced on the photography spectrum from the grandeur of wide open spaces are such small scenes as this, the intimate landscape.  What it lacks in grandeur it makes up for in detail, whispering beauty, and quiet contemplation.  It need not beg for attention, nor seek ovations, as those who love it will, in time, find it and stay the moment. 

Golden GrassesGolden GrassesAlabama Hills, California

(JWSmith Photography) alabama hills appreciation intimate landscape landscapes sierra nevada https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/2/the-intimate-landscape Sun, 04 Feb 2018 19:57:44 GMT
Willin' Tour - A winter road trip https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/1/willin-tour  

January 2018 road trip.   Tucson to Tucumcari
Tehachapi to Tonapah

With a side trip to Rita Blanca National Grasslands, Ryolite NV, Alabama Hills, Goldfield, NV, maybe White Sands NM, and probably Saguaro National Park if there's snow on cactus.  

With apologies to Little Feat, we're doing it backwards (Tehachapi to Tonapah first) because I'm worried about snow and road closures up north. 

Willin' by Little Feat

(JWSmith Photography) little feat road trip tehachapi tonapah tucson tucumcari https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/1/willin-tour Sat, 13 Jan 2018 17:32:42 GMT
2017 Favorites - A Year's Review https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/1/2017-favorites---a-years-review It's that time of year again!  Once more, my yearly review of photographs and a selection of favorites.  Jim Goldstein's Blog Project is a contributing force in my yearly write-up and he deserves many thanks for hosting a large collection of Year's Best blog output.  Since I'm late in my contribution this year I'll keep this section short and hope that Jim will excuse my tardiness.  
I usually run the numbers here but this time I'll just note that I created many fewer images this year than in years past.  Some of that is due to only visiting Anza-Borrego twice and a significant drop in my visits to the San Diego coast.  I did however hit a few new places:  Carrizo Plain National Monument for the spring super bloom being a favorite, Goblin Valley State Park in beautiful Utah, and a long walk around San Francisco for some nice cityscapes.  
I did get a new tilt-shift lens this year and used it in East Village.  I also had my old Nikon D300 converted to Infra-red and used it for The Path and Cottonwood and Canyon Wall.  

If you wish to have a print just click on any image and it will take you to my Fine Art America site where you can make a purchase. 

So, here we go!  In chronological order:

Upside Downtown - B&W street scene from downtown San Diego

Upside DowntownUpside DowntownSan Diego, California

Blue Mesa - Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona
Petrified Forest MesaPetrified Forest MesaPetrified Forest National Park, Arizona
Cloud over Carrizo - Carrizo Plain National Monument, California
Cloud over Carrizo (B&W)Cloud over Carrizo (B&W)Cararizo Plain National Monument, California
The Road Down - Carrizo Plain National Monument, California
The Road DownThe Road DownCarrizo Plain National Monument, California
Sunset, Carrizo Plain - Carrizo Plain National Monument, California
Sunset, Carrizo PlainSunset, Carrizo PlainCarrizo Plain National Monument, California

Anza-Borrego Pano - Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, California Anza-Borrego PanoAnza-Borrego PanoAnza-Borrego Desert State Park, California
The Path - Rancho Penasquitos Preserve, California
The PathThe PathRancho Penasquitos, California
Cottonwood and Canyon Wall - Capitol Reef National Park, Utah
Cottonwood and Canyon WallCottonwood and Canyon WallCapitol Reef National Park, Utah
Goblins -
Goblin Valley State Park, Utah
GoblinsGoblinsGoblin Valley State Park, Utah Three Sisters - Goblin Valley State Park, Utah
Three SistersThree SistersGoblin Valley State Park, Utah
East Village -
San Diego, California
East Village IEast Village ISan Diego, California
Pier 7 -
San Francisco, California
Pier 7Pier 7San Francisco, California

(JWSmith Photography) 2017 favorites yearly review https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2018/1/2017-favorites---a-years-review Tue, 02 Jan 2018 16:30:26 GMT
Sunday on Harbor Drive https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2017/10/Sunday-on-Harbor-Drive When I feel the need to point my camera at something and have nowhere special to go I'll usually find myself along San Diego's Harbor Drive.  The October weather has been unfit for landscape photography but at the right time of day is suitable for B&W urban scenery.  Hence, the drive to Harbor Drive with Katherine and cameras as company.  The length of our walk was dictated by the parking meter.  Yesterday we were granted 3 hours which easily affords the distance from the Star of India to Embarcadero North.  It was a Sunday so the tourists were out in full tourism-energized force.  The Disney cruise line "Discovery" (I think it was Discovery) had just docked and drained itself of a thousand or so camera-toting, slow-walking, daypack-laden tourists.  This wasn't the easy morning stroll we hoped for.  Nonetheless, we did see things, some worth noting.

Men Aloft
Men AloftMen AloftSan Diego, California
Secured SecuredSecuredSan Diego, California
Washing the Mouse Cleaning the MouseCleaning the MouseSan Diego, California
One Right Shoe (I avoided the "Baby needs a new pair...", you should too) 
1 Right Shoe1 Right ShoeSan Diego, California
Read Anywhere
ReaderReaderSan Diego, California
Katherine on a Cleat Katherine on CleatKatherine on CleatSan Diego, California

BuskerBuskerSan Diego, California
F-18F-18San Diego, California
A busload of Chinese Tourists unloaded by the statue replicating Eisenstadt's famous VJ-Day photograph so we just sat back and watched. 
Chinese TouristsChinese TouristsSan Diego, California TourismTourismSan Diego, California

She seemed so happy to be part of Bob Hope's audience.   Another FanAnother FanSan Diego, California

The remains of the fishing boat Norton Sound that burned for 2-3 days before firefighters could put it out.  Now, it seems to be a tourist attraction.  Our own Pt. Reyes.  Without a SoundWithout a SoundSan Diego, California

Reaching Embarcadero North we came upon a car club show with lots of heavy American muscle from the 30's to today.  I wish I knew it was there so I could have planned to take some more thoughtful and composed photographs.  As it was, I just snapped some quickies and moved on; the parking meter demands attention.  3232San Diego, California

(JWSmith Photography) b&w cars harbor drive monochrome san diego ships street tourists https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2017/10/Sunday-on-Harbor-Drive Mon, 23 Oct 2017 17:39:53 GMT
New e-Book: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park - A Parched Muse https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2017/9/a-parched-muse After many revisions and corrections I'm finally happy with my book of photographs from Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.  The pdf version is $10 if you'd care to own a copy.  Click here to see a 15-page preview. 







(JWSmith Photography) anza-borrego desert state park book california desert e-book photography https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2017/9/a-parched-muse Thu, 07 Sep 2017 16:08:04 GMT
Fan Ho https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2017/8/fan-ho I was introduced to Fan Ho on Ted Forbes' Art of Photography YouTube channel and though it didn't strike me then, lately I've been more and more interested in artful urban photography.  So, I found Fan Ho's books and ordered Hong Kong Yesterday from his publisher in San Francisco, Modern Book. This volume has his most iconic image on the cover, Approaching Shadow, from 1954.  I really love Hong Kong Yesterday and have returned to it often, almost as a meditative exercise. All images are sepia toned, not overly large but beautifully lit and composed and printed well on high-quality stock. They reveal disparate sides of Hong Kong life; from slums to waterfront harbors to what was then modern city life.  

I've since bought his volume The Living Theater which has many more wonderful images from those days, none of which are duplicated between volumes.  If you enjoy artful urban photography and have become tired of the harsh B&W images from modern day street photographers then have a look at the contemplative, gentler side with Fan Ho. 

Fan Ho died in 2016, in San Jose, leaving behind a treasure trove of imagery from 50s-60s Hong Kong.  

(JWSmith Photography) art books fan ho hong kong photographer photography photography books https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2017/8/fan-ho Tue, 01 Aug 2017 16:49:59 GMT
Photo Books https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2017/6/photo-books I bought a few photography books lately.  I no longer buy, nor feel the need for, tutorial books; those that teach you how to improve techniques or use the camera.  My recent buys have been collections of works by photographers I admire or just enjoy.  Viewing excellence in photography is akin to reading the masters in literature in order to be a better writer.  Look closely enough and you can recognize the technique, the use of light and composition.  Study enough and you can learn.

My focus on buys has been, in part, to find photographers new to me, usually amateurs, and buy their books in order to, in some small way, support and acknowledge them and their work. The work still has to strike me, I'm not a philanthropist, nor rich. 

Two that have stuck with me are: Colin Bell's Healing and Paul Hart's Truncated

I think if I could deliver a book worthy of a Joe Cornish Foreward I'd just stop photographing and rest on those laurels for the remainder of my life.  The book is well deserving, it's a beautiful work, a professional and well constructed book full of imagery from the English countryside where the light appears with a perfect glow on birches, ponds, mountains and meadows.  I wish the silver birch grew in southern California, we have aspens farther north and cottonwoods here but the silver birch in the UK always seems to come with a layer of perfectly lit fog.  Those who know me know I have a penchant for UK photographers and the landscapes they're privy too. Spend some time with Colin Bell and you'll see why. 

The cleverly titled Truncated is one of those books that make me want to do B&W work and only B&W work.  It contains a wonderful set of images of stately trees, manicured forests, textured bark and woodland goodness. I'm a big fan of tree photos.  I have galleries devoted to the trees I find but I've nothing to build a book upon that compares to this work.  The portraits are all in their natural setting with similar lighting and toning which gives the collection a wholeness that for me is very appealing. I want to walk these woods! I found this book through Black+White Photography magazine where they did a profile of his companion book Farmed.  I bought the two together but it's Truncated that draws me back to the shelf time and again. 

(JWSmith Photography) book books Colin Bell Healing impressions Paul Hart photobooks photographers Truncated UK Photographers https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2017/6/photo-books Sun, 25 Jun 2017 16:36:04 GMT
Borrego Art Institute Exhibit https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2017/2/borrego-art-institute-exhibit I am fortunate to see my work exhibited at the restaurant attached to the Borrego Art Institute.  The BAI is given a wall in the restaurant for their Artist of the Month series, of which I have been selected for February.  

(JWSmith Photography) BAI exhibit prints https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2017/2/borrego-art-institute-exhibit Wed, 08 Feb 2017 16:34:22 GMT
2016 Year in Review - a selection of favorites https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2016/12/2016-year-in-review---a-selection-of-favorites Here we are once again, late December with a few hundred photos metaphorically strewn across the floor, each hoping to be picked as a finalist. Sometime in late May I remember looking forward to this time because I knew, just knew, I had already made a pleasing batch of images. We'll get to those, and the stories behind them; but first (as Kai Ryssdal would say), the numbers. 

I packed a lot of miles into 2016 but the picture count is down from previous years.  Not as many trips out to La Jolla or Anza-Borrego, nor many local hikes or visits to favorite places in the county.  My '16 Lightroom catalogue has 5,565 images with just over 400 reaching the rarified heights of 5-star status and only 49 making the cut for the end of year selection process of which 12 are presented.  

I did get to some new places this year. Two long road trips with my daughter Kayla accounted for nearly 7,000 miles.  One around the Sierra Nevada and another up the coast to my brother's in Seattle where we made it to Olympic National Park, AND! I finally checked Oregon off my list of states visited.  In September I did a 3,600 mile trip through Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico and made my first visits to Mesa Verde and Rocky Mountain National Parks.  

In early January Katherine and I did a large loop around a rainy Arizona where I found this ancient and gnarly walnut tree (Pic #1). Ironically, we went east to escape storms that were to inundate San Diego and the California coast.  
Walnut Tree in WinterWalnut Tree in WinterSanta Catalina State Park, Arizona
#1 Walnut Tree, Santa Catalina State Park, Arizona

Later that January it was the Sierra Nevada with Kayla.  I picked her up in Las Vegas and from there we swung out to Death Valley (Pic #2), up 395 to Mono Lake (Pic #3) and on to Reno, Lake Tahoe, Sacramento, Yosemite and back to Las Vegas where I dropped her off and moved on to Bryce Canyon.  There I was able to check off Hoodoos in Snow from my Hoodoo To-Do list (Pic #4).  Seeing red rock in snow is a special treat. Being able to do it nearly alone is even more special.  The temperature reading from my car thermometer ranged between 1 and 12 degrees; special in its own way. 

#2 Death Valley National Park, California

Tufas reflecting in Mono LakeTufas reflecting in Mono LakeMono Lake, California
#3 Tufas in still water, Mono Lake, California

#4 Hoodoos in Snow, Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

A February trip to Joshua Tree looking for storm clouds didn't pan out as well as hoped but I did find a number of compositions from the granitic rock formations that litter the Mojave landscape (Pics #5 & 6).  I have a nice series from those rock formations done in low key which emphasizes the shadows and textures.  I'm looking for shapes here and will continue this exploration each time I visit Joshua Tree.  I've made a collection of rock formations and placed them in a gallery on my web site, here:  Firmest Firma

#5 Black Rock, Joshua Tree National Park, California

Arch RockArch RockJoshua Tree National Park, California
#6 Arch Rock in low key, Joshua Tree National Park, California

In late March it was White Sands National Monument in New Mexico, a place I'll return to this year.  I could pick 12 favorites from that trip alone but prefer to spread the selection wide so two will have to do (#s 7 & 8). White SandsWhite SandsWhite Sands National Monument, New Mexico #7 White Sands, White Sands National Monument, New Mexico

White Sands SunsetWhite Sands Sunset #8 Sunset over White Sands, White Sands National Monument, New Mexico

In April I flew out to Maryland to visit family and took my daughters.  A surprise April snowstorm resulted in picture #9, taken from mom's back porch as I stood there transfixed by the scene, shutter clicking, and ignoring my bare feet which slowly turned blue.  The three of us San Diegans were excited to see snow, and not just tiny, quick melting flakes, these were big cat paw sized flakes that lived through the day.  As an image it probably has more emotional content for me than what it will draw from a casual observer but hey, it's my list so it stays.  I printed it on canvas for my mom and it does hold up well as a print. 
#9 April Snow, Prince Frederick, Maryland

In May I took a Spring trip out to one of the best spots on earth, the Colorado Plateau.  I stayed for 3 nights at Kodachrome Basin State Park, Utah.  From there it's a quick trip to Bryce or The Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.  I took a drive out to Powell Point, the last place mapped in the continental US.  At the base of Powell Point is a section of badlands called "The Blues" (pic #10).  It's a less cliche composition than Powell Point, less dramatic also but I love the crenelations, shadows, and tones of the place. 
The BlueThe Blue #10 The Blues, Powell Point, Utah

Image #11 was taken in downtown LA, not a place I frequent often.  Katherine and I took the train up and walked about for the day.  I enjoy urban photography and I love the shapes, lines and textures of a cityscape.  I don't do many but I knew when I saw this one it would be in the yearly collection.  I have more images and a write-up about the trip here: Day Trippin' StepsStepsLos Angeles, California
#11 Steps, Los Angeles, California

Each September for the last 5 years I've made a trip out to the Colorado Plateau.  This year I mapped out a pretty ambitious trip.  Starting with a visit to Oak Creek Canyon outside of Sedona, AZ to photograph a hike there.  Then on to Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado for 3 nights, through the Dallas Divide and north to Grand Junction before crossing the state to see Rocky Mountain National Park.  Then it was south to Taos, New Mexico and east to Chaco Canyon before heading home. Fifteen days, 3,200 miles in all.  And, it was too much.  Even combining camping and hotels it was wearing and a lot of driving. The worst part I think was only getting a superficial look at any one place before packing up and moving on.  From now on it's no more than 8 days and 2 locations. Nonetheless, I did get a handful of images I'm happy with and #12 here makes the yearly celebration. 

#12 Doorways, Chaco Culture Historical Monument, New Mexico

Each year I enter this post into Jim Goldstein's Best Photos Project.  Have a look! 

(JWSmith Photography) 2016 end of year Favorites thoughts yearly review https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2016/12/2016-year-in-review---a-selection-of-favorites Tue, 20 Dec 2016 23:06:08 GMT
On Landscape edition 123 https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2016/10/on-landscape I was given some space for my Joshua Tree pictures in On Landscape magazine in their 4x4 section.  You can amuse yourself here:  On Landscape Edition #123

(JWSmith Photography) Joshua Tree On Landscape published rocks https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2016/10/on-landscape Sun, 30 Oct 2016 19:41:00 GMT
Explorations https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2016/8/explorations I've been reading Guy Tal again.  I dip into his book More than a Rock on occasion and yesterday came across his thoughts on Projects.  What he said resonated in that he doesn't call them Projects, he considers them Explorations. Projects indicate a completion is somewhere in the (hopefully near) future.  Explorations continue for as long as the artist feels the need to explore a subject, approach or idea.  Once that theme is absorbed to its fullest (or boredom sets in) the exploring ends and ideally a new one begins.  It fits the thematic approach for what I was previously calling projects. 

From Hollenbeck, Simply Soft WindSoft WindHollenbeck Canyon Wildlife Area, Jamul, California

(JWSmith Photography) guy tal projects themes thoughts https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2016/8/explorations Mon, 29 Aug 2016 15:02:50 GMT
Lik's Tree https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2016/7/liks-tree      This is "That" Japanese Maple, yeah, that one.  Another icon but a bit unusual in that it's an iconic tree.  Not that many that I can think of.  
The Japanese MapleThe Japanese MapleJapanese Garden, Portland, Oregon
Here's the story:
    Kayla and I were in Portland on the way north to Gig Harbor, WA to visit my brother and his family and to explore the area a bit.  Other than Multnomah Falls, the only thing I could think of in the area, photography-wise, was the Japanese Garden and the famous and much photographed Japanese Maple.  I had no idea where it was or what it looked like in person so we just wandered about the grounds (which are beautiful, peaceful and relaxing) looking at the trees, shrubs and flowers while I kept an eye out for that famous maple.  We thought we were done when we made it back to the entrance and still I had not seen the tree.  You'd think there may even be a big sign pointing to it; HEY, THIS IS THE FAMOUS TREE YOU'RE LOOKING FOR! But nothing of the sort appeared, and though it's probably better that way, there wasn't even a picture of it in their brochure.  I began to doubt that I was in the right place. 
     We checked our map and saw that there was possibly one more path we hadn't traveled so we started down that path and I just casually brushed my hand against the boughs of a short maple and happened to glance under those boughs and Viola! Thar she Blows!  I'd recognize those contorted branches anywhere.  But, but, geez it's such a small tree.  The pictures I'd seen make it appear large, with flowing, twisted branches going willy-nilly in all directions.  This tree didn't rise above my shoulders and I had to bend down and under its boughs to see its glory, and all the while I expected to walk under it and gaze upward to discover the beautiful, light diffused canopy.  I felt a bit let down.  But, I knelt and craned my neck to get underneath; eventually having to sit upon the walkway and scoot myself as far under the boughs as the walkway would allow in order to compose a few images.  I could here people walking behind me and I'm sure they were wondering what the hell I was up to. 
    "I see you've found our Lik tree," said a voice from above and behind me. 
    Lik tree? I thought to myself. I thought it was a maple...  Oh, Lik!
    I leaned back and looked upward to see a woman in what appeared to be an official shirt with an embroidered garden emblem.  
    "Peter Lik?" I said in a voice that probably revealed disdain. 
    "Yes, he made this tree famous."
    "Oh,  I didn't know.  I didn't think we'd find it we were about to leave."
    "Oh my, you could have asked any of us, we all know where it's at.  Glad you finally found it, enjoy your time here."  And, off she went. 

    I had no idea the tree had any connection to Peter Lik.  It somehow lessened the experience, not sure why.  I do have to give him kudos for finding the composition.  It really is a bit hidden.  The tree is inconspicuous as it stands along the garden path looking like so many other Japanese Maples. 

    Before we left we went to the gift shop where they had Lik's prints of the tree on everything from calendars to coffee mugs.  Probably should have went there first. 

    The summer sun was high and contrasty so the colors of the leaves are a bit washed out.  I'd love to go back in the fall to see it with its red dress on. 


(JWSmith Photography) icons lik maple oregon portland tree https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2016/7/liks-tree Mon, 04 Jul 2016 17:50:40 GMT
White Noise https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2016/6/white-noise I recently read Don DeLillo's priceless novel White Noise, motivated to do so when I found the below passage from it in a collection of essays by David Foster Wallace.  It reminds me of all the back-and-forth I see in social media about photographing, over and over again, the icons of our American landscape; monuments and scenes that adorn every calendar in the nation, the Arches, Half Domes, and Canyons both Grand and modest all with a permanent cadre of photographers dutifully stationed before them, 24-hours a day.  It's why I took this photograph and why I'm posting DeLillo's view of what's going on here.  Just substitute "rock" for "barn" as you read. 

Soon the signs started appearing. THE MOST PHOTOGRAPHED BARN IN AMERICA. We counted five signs before we reached the site.  There were forty cars and a tour bus in the makeshift lot.  We walked along a cowpath to the slightly elevated site set aside for viewing and photographing.  All the people had cameras; some had tripods, telephoto lenses, filter kits.  A man in a booth sold postcards and slides--pictures of the barn taken from the elevated spot.  We stood near a grove of trees and watched the photographers.  Murray maintained a prolonged silence, occasionally scrawling some notes in little book. 
     "No one sees the barn," he said finally.
     A long silence followed.
     "Once you've seen the signs about the barn, it becomes impossible to see the barn."
     He fell silent once more.  People with cameras left the elevated site, replaced at once by others.
     "We're not here to capture an image, we're here to maintain one.  Every photograph reinforces the aura.  Can you feel it, Jack?  An accumulation of nameless energies."
     There was an extended silence.  The man in the booth sold postcards and slides.
     "Being here is a kind of spiritual surrender.  We see only what the others see.  The thousands who were here in the past, those who will come in the future.  We've agreed to be part of a collective perception.  This literally colors our vision.  A religious experience in a way, like all tourism."
     Another silence ensued.
     "They are taking pictures of taking pictures," he said.
     He did not speak for a while.  We listened to the incessant clicking of shutter release buttons, the rustling crank of levers that advanced the film.
     "What was the barn like before it was photographed?" he said.  "What did it look like, how was it different from other barns, how was it similar to other  barns?  We can't answer these questions because we've read the signs, seen the people snapping pictures.  We can't get outside the aura.  We're part of the aura.  We're here, we're now."
     He seemed immensely pleased by this. 

(JWSmith Photography) DeLillo icons photography thoughts https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2016/6/white-noise Wed, 22 Jun 2016 15:27:46 GMT
Surreal Desert - 5 Photos https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2016/6/surreal-desert---5-photos Earth Tones in a surreal landscape

  A Little More QuietA Little More Quiet Desert ExtractionsDesert Extractions

  tierra rojatierra roja

(JWSmith Photography) Anza Borrego Desert earth tones surreal colors https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2016/6/surreal-desert---5-photos Tue, 21 Jun 2016 17:03:26 GMT
The Great Reorganization Continues https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2016/6/The-Great-Reorganization-Continues     Well, never completely satisfied, I've reorganized my website galleries, again.  I have moved away from location based galleries and into subject based.  I've also separated color from monochrome and I think that may be the best of the changes.  Seeing color mixed with B&W is distracting.  Now there are four galleries for color and four for monochrome - Land, Sea, Desert, Trees.  I've also done the painful editing of each gallery to 25 images, down from 40.  Continually pruning the tree is good as it forces me to evaluate and re-evaluate the images.  I suppose you could even cull the herd to 10 but, well, no.  No thanks.  Twenty-five will do.  Though, it could be a fun experiment to slash the herd again and again until a lone image stands defiantly in each gallery.  Perhaps design a single elimination tournament. ESPN may even air it.  Just imagine..
    I may have cheated a bit in that I've also built project galleries for subjects I continue to be drawn to and hope to continue examining and improving.  This allowed me to pull images from the main galleries and open space for some previously benched to return to the game.  The most recent of these is Firmest Firma, the rocks of Joshua Tree, as the last few visits to JTNP have resulted in pics of boulders and rocks vice the usual Dr. Suess inspired foliage. 
    Another allowance I made for including more images is to exercise my Moses-like powers and separate the Colorado Plateau from "The Desert" (quiver, geographers, quiver).  Those images have been included with "The Land."  It was just easier this way and allowed for a broader range of pictures since half of the landscapes I shoot are in the desert southwest regions.  Whenever I do things like that I feel as though I've broken some unwritten rule of taxonomy.  I have to remind myself there are no rules, other than those I impose.  
    I believe I can stay within the 25 limit.  For every new image I want to include, I have to bump one of the incumbents. That won't be easy.  It wasn't that easy with a 40-image gallery, it'll be that much tougher with a 25. 
    This whole idea of editing down to bare-bones came to me while viewing some extraordinary galleries of pro and semi-pro photographers.  The ones that impressed me the most were only displaying a dozen or so images that were their very best.   I won't go that far as I'm not looking for clients but I did like the 'less is more' look to their sites.  By cropping a gallery that tightly it allows the viewer's mind to subconsciously travel beyond the gallery's frame and imagine that everything beyond must be as incredible as what's before them.  Even though in my case it's just a steep drop-off into a murky chasm. 

The Firmest Firma

SteadfastSteadfastJoshua Tree National Park, California

(JWSmith Photography) editing galleries https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2016/6/The-Great-Reorganization-Continues Mon, 20 Jun 2016 17:13:14 GMT
Day trippin' https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2016/6/day-trippin ​Katherine and I took a day trip up to LA via Amtrak.  The train turned out to be the best idea of the trip as traffic when we were escaping leaving was in lock-down.  It's just over two carefree hours from San Diego's Old Town station to Union Station in downtown Los Angeles.  
I've avoided LA for most of my time in California.  For me it's just too crowded, traffic doesn't move, cement everywhere radiating heat, the anxiety over finding a place to park and on and on.  Mostly it's the traffic and crowds.  For some there's also a bitter sense in San Diego that we're looked down upon by Angelenos as a minor city, and overshadowed by the megatropolis up north (well, that and the Dodgers).  Which is really okay by me, San Diego shouldn't be another LA.  One is plenty. 
​So Katherine had a couple of days off during the week which is when I tend to venture out, avoiding the weekend crowds and traffic (sensing a theme here?).   A day trip to downtown LA was something different and the train for me was a first.  I've lived in SD for nearly 40 years now but have yet to take the train anywhere.  
Impressions...a few.  Photographically it was new and invigorating.  I'm not a street photographer but I do enjoy urban scenes that will occasionally include people.  I like unusual architecture and the juxtaposition of old and new.  LA has all that.  Being in a new setting increases my enthusiasm for shooting.  Every corner rounded offered new prospects for a composition; not because it was especially photographic but I think because it was something I hadn't seen before, at least not in that arrangement.  Not unlike the feeling of seeing a landscape for the first time.
We spent our time in Little Tokyo as it was a short walk from Union Station and, as innocent pilgrims, we took care to not venture too distant from a familiar landmark.  We ate at a typical mall-style sushi restaurant, made somewhat different by the number of Japanese flowing through, shopping.  Next time we'll find a hole-in-the-wall where the locals eat. 
After lunch we visited the Japanese-American National Museum; it was there and we were there, so we visited.  Much of the museum was dedicated to the incarceration of Japanese peoples following the attack on Pearl Harbor.  It's easy to condemn these actions in hindsight but it's harder to understand why we didn't seem to learn a lot from it.  On a lighter note the other highlighted section of the museum was a collection of origami that was far, far, beyond paper cranes.  This was origami on a scale I've never seen, nor knew existed.  Unfortunately, most of my pics were a bit blurry due to limited lighting and my unfamiliarity with my Fuji X100T.  So, you'll have to trust me that it was extraordinary. 
I've lived on the edge of cities all my life; Washington DC and now San Diego.  Yet, LA is a bit intimidating both horizontally and vertically.  It will take many, many trips to really see Los Angeles and fully digest it's sights, sounds and tastes.  And even then I think we'd only manage a thin, gauzy appreciation. 

Some captivating imagery: 

Public Art

Public Person
Cone & CrossCone & Cross
Urban color in an open space (art-speak for 'traffic cone in a driveway').  But, notice how I got the church steeple and cross in the frame.  True genius. 

Outside the police station there was a public art exhibit with lots of these helvetica signs with law enforcement words.  This one had a nice background with a word that works as well in photography.

Little Tokyo, framed.

Citizenship Denied

Origami - the piece was probably 4'x3' and all texture comes from folds.  Incredible. 

Japanese-American National Museum reminded me of a 1950s building which it very well could be. 

Wall mural 
Man with LA TimesMan with LA Times
Reading the paper in Olivera Street park and market area.  It was here we visited the oldest home in LA, now a free museum.  
Stranger on a Train.  With monogrammed cuffs. 

(JWSmith Photography) Amtrak California LA Little Tokyo Los Angeles Union Station cities downtown train urban photography https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2016/6/day-trippin Tue, 07 Jun 2016 16:16:40 GMT
San Diego Central Library https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2016/6/san-diego-central-library Paid a visit to San Diego Central Library this morning, first visit since its re-birth in the east village area.  It's a beautiful building inside and out. Lots of windows providing natural light and an abundance of photographic opportunities.   While there I was able to see the Shakespeare First Folio encased in climate controlled plexiglass(?) and watched over by a uniformed guard on the 9th floor.  Opened to Hamlet's soliloquy I stifled the impulse to read it aloud as an Olivier knock-off.  I was a bit surprised it was in book form (thick, thick book form) thinking that a folio is a collection of unbound sheets.  Either way it was a nice piece of history and art. 

Inner Geometry from the escalator casing

First three of the nine floors 

Has a bit of a mall look to it here

The Stacks

The Reading Room with high ceiling and windows three stories high

Street level reading nooks

Quiet places to study

Close-up of the cage-like structure that forms the dome atop the building

(JWSmith Photography) San Diego San Diego Central Library architecture books building city downtown geometry library urban photography https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2016/6/san-diego-central-library Tue, 07 Jun 2016 01:56:15 GMT
screen time https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2016/5/screen-time I saw a video essay lamenting the advent of 'screens' in that they are ruining street photography. Now, anytime someone is bored or has some quiet time they immediately bury their face in their little screens rather than stare off pensively. No more do you get interesting faces gazing thoughtfully into the distance.

Earth Day Smerth DayEarth Day Smerth Day



(JWSmith Photography) balboa park distraction earth day kid park phone https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2016/5/screen-time Thu, 26 May 2016 17:01:43 GMT
Thoughts on a Photograph https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2016/4/Thoughts-on-a-photograph North Beach PierNorth Beach PierNorth Beach, Maryland I have a love/hate relationship with thinking about my photography. I love the analysis, the dissection, but I anguish at the thought that I really have no consistent style or recognizable "look," which becomes evident through that same analysis and dissection. But, to paraphrase Mr. Gump, Analysis is like a box of Chocolates,  you never know what you'll get. 

Nevertheless, like a hungry trout, I dart at the bait of analysis when it's dangled in front if me.  Yesterday that bait took the form of a question from a Twitter acquaintance J.F. Mailander, a writer/critic from California and the only person I know who has read (and completed!) War and Peace.  The conversation was conducted through the technological magic of Twitter's DM so I've cut and paste it into something resembling a dialogue for legibility. 

What sparked the conversation was the above B&W image I posted to Twitter of a pier in North Beach, Maryland.  I had done my typical 16x9 crop and it interested Mr. Mailander enough to pose the questions and provide his thoughts on cropping and composition.  I found the discussion engaging enough to post it here, though I now find myself in that quandary of self-doubt over what the Hell I'm doing when it comes to photography.  Writing it out helps. 

JFM: So cropping to composition is very important to you. How does that impact the "content" of your photos? In other words, you're conscious of the frame. Is that something you think about? A friend who's had a grand career as a commercial photographer (think Barbie) likes my compositions. But I am not much of a nature photographer, and I think it's especially because I don't get many photos "right" without the cropping tool. In high school and college, almost always as an editor of the school's paper or some page of it, I was obsessed with cropping. I could do it better than almost anyone else, but mostly, in those days, because I was better at math than other editors. (You may remember cropping wheels, &c.) But I found that nature is harder to crop than urbanism is. In fact, it's often resistant. Unless...what? What do you think about all that?

JWS: When I compose in camera I have a general idea of how I want the image to rest in the frame. For the North Beach pier with lampposts I knew I'd go with 16x9 (my current favorite) and allowed enough breathing space to account for that then cropped top and bottom. Most of the time for landscape it's top and bottom and I compose to capture R/L correctly. For vertical compositions I don't think about it as much but then in LR (Lightroom) I'll see how 8x10 and 1x1 look. I'm much more cognizant nowadays of allowing extra space around my point of interest so I can move it around a bit in post. Some consider it a sin, or sloppy, but I'm not that much of a purist and as a viewer of art and photography I don't ask whether it was cropped or not.

Just for the record, this is a San Diego pier? Lots of North Beaches, some have piers.
The pier is in North Beach, Maryland, on the Chesapeake. My mom lives in southern MD and I went for a visit.

I don't mean to push any point, but I do see the logic of this pushing, this compressing the vertical beyond a usual format like 16x9 (which I think is not 16x10, which is closer to a golden ratio, because of computer screens). I think you're getting at something I think about too in a photograph: as you get away from a golden ratio, which is about as "natural" looking as I think we get, does it mean we're stepping a little back from nature? Obviously when you have a pier and clouds and sea and lampposts that is not nature anyway, but a blending of nature and manufacture. In short, I'm thinking this photo works with the shave off of the top and bottom because there's inclusion of the human manufactured (the pier, the lampposts), where as one that was a completely natural landscape might suffer if cropped this way. Do you think in those terms or am I overthinking it?

Sigh, You have me thinking about this now.
That's my job as a writer, kind of like the job of a pro: to take someone's perfectly good golf swing and fuck it up as best they can.

My purpose in going wide and narrow is to give the illusion of width to the image which I think adds aesthetically to some landscapes, natural or otherwise; escaping the forced 2x3 perspective of the camera. I do consider how it impacts the overall composition and sometimes back off and go with the LR preset for 16x10 or just leave it as the native 2x3. I guess 2x3 has become too commonplace, like always shooting from a standing position. As far as pulling away from a 'natural' landscape I don't think there is such a thing when interpreting that scape via photography (or any other subjective medium). I'm not a documentarian. We censor via framing all the time so you see only what I want you to see. And, the problem of going 3D to 2D detracts even more from the naturalness of a captured scene. I wasn't consciously considering the natural/manmade aspects when composing (i.e. focusing on one or the other) or in post. I certainly wasn't trying to show man's intrusion on the sea or any other philosophical theme. I just liked the way the elements lined up. Hmmm, the golden ratio. For me it's more a guide than a rule. Like the rule of thirds, I think I've seen enough and photographed enough to trust my own instincts as to how a composition should feel. I tend to lean more toward a natural (there's that word again:-) ) and realistic composition and palette. So for the golden ratio I understand it and I probably have it ingrained somewhere in my mind's eye but I don't think about it when I'm composing or editing. If it's happening instinctively then I'm happy for that. Funny, but I think part of my reasoning for cropping out the sky (especially the sky) is that here in SoCal we have so few days with good, textured skies. All that blank space adds little unless your designing negative space into the composition. After another look at North Beach photo I know that many would fault me for placing the horizon dead center. Still, I like it.

Seriously, I engage photos that way: I say to myself something like, "OK, why does it look like that, and not some other way?" It may turn out that I vaunt the golden ratio a little more than you; to me, if it is just laying around all throughout nature, it maybe means that at least it makes us feel comfortable because we are so familiar with it. But then you get into, "Why am I stepping outside of the box to do it this way?" When we step outside of a common ratio, it's usually to emphasize linearity, even flatness. But in this photo's case, it's not only to frame the lamps more tightly, I think it's also to grab onto the fact of the expanse of the sea itself. It's hard to imagine this photo any narrower, and I think that it's the sea, which is barely present, that would suffer most if it were. "Instinctively?" Maybe. But when you get into the stretching of space between the lamps – hey, they could have been moved closer together by a photo from another angle – you may actually be acknowledging the presence of the sea, which would be too diminished were it some other way.

At other angles the point of the storm clouds would not line up with the corner the railings make. :-) Here I am 'thinking' again. A few things caught my eye when I entered the pier's empty space. 1. The linear patterns in the wooden decks and how can I line them up in a composition: Go for a low angle to juxtapose the deck/cloud textures equally. 2. The lamp posts, far apart, can I get two of them in the composition. 3. The storm clouds seem to create a wedge off in the distance. Can I line it up with the corner of the pier. 4. Place the point of the clouds just above the railing's point, leave space. 5. I'm glad I'm alone here. These thoughts happen in some scrambled order and eventually place me where the scene makes sense. Obviously there are compromises to be made and if they're done well the composition ends up working. I have 5-6 pics where it didn't work at all. The odd lines made by railings and the horizon and the vertical of the lamp post cause difficulty in making the composition work. Even for this image the grain in the deck doesn't work as well as something closer to a leading line would.

I want to thank Mr. Mailander for his input and getting me to think more about my image and thanks to that my golf swing is coming along just fine.  

(JWSmith Photography) Beach Maryland North analysis on photography pier thoughts https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2016/4/Thoughts-on-a-photograph Wed, 20 Apr 2016 16:24:38 GMT
Favorites from 2015 https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2015/12/-favorites-from-2015 The numbers
7,361 images in my 2015 catalogue; 396 awarded 5-stars (I'm pretty liberal on stars during the year but they get pared down as I revisit over time); 77 made first cut, 23 were still breathing in the 2nd round and the final 12 will go into this write-up describing the year's efforts as soon as I can figure out why I like them.  

The Places:
I visited many of the same locations as in previous years: La Jolla, Anza-Borrego, Mt. Laguna, Joshua Tree but also hit some new locales during my 2,500 mile loop through the Colorado Plateau: Great Basin National Park, Monument Valley, Petrified Forest, Canyon de Chelly and a new favorite, Natural Bridges National Monument.  I'm disappointed that nothing from Anza-Borrego or Joshua Tree made the final cut,  two of my favorite locations. 

The Angst
Some of these reinforce my core ideas as a photographer and thus belong because they reflect progress where I feel my 'center' is. One has been chosen because it extended my range and shows, for me anyway, an atypical look at the world. 

It's not easy choosing 12 from a pared down selection of over 70.  How do you choose?  I've considered criteria such as how hard it was to make the image; how well it developed from a pre-visualized concept; how pretty it is; whether You would like it; whether I'd hang it on a wall or offer it for sale; and whether the selection reflects the range of places I visited this year (it doesn't).

All the selections and those not selected have an emotional content for me.  I was there, I saw the image emerge, I waited, I experienced the long hikes, cold waves, long drives, occasional crowds, peaceful settings, and perfect light.  And because of that I don't want to cut any image that has meaning for me.  I want a 50 Favorites for 2015!  But, that would bore you to tears and make only me happy. 

The bottom line though, is whether the image, regardless of how it arrived on your screen, is any good? Does it convey emotion, does it work technically and aesthetically, and geez, is it art?  These are questions only the viewer can answer and really, he or she could care less that I came home drenched in ocean spray from making that image in La Jolla.  Terrible thing is, I still haven't answered the question.  I don't know why any particular image was chosen today.  The only criteria I have is that today, in late December, coffee in hand, I happen to like this one enough to grant it access to the blog.  And be advised, they won't be seen as a cohesive whole because I still have many frayed edges in my style and photographic eye.  I like landscapes and street photography and abstracts and ...

Some answers:
So many questions and only 12 answers. Thus, in no particular order...


Reef in a Minor Key
This has been a favorite from the beginning.  Taken in June at Wind'n'Sea Beach in La Jolla, CA.  I've always like the lines created by the wave action and how they eminate from the reef. 
Reef in a Minor ChordReef in a Minor Chord

Soft Caress
Morning at Red Rock Conservation Area outside of Las Vegas, Nevada.  I was cat-sitting for my daughter in January and spent my mornings in the surrounding desert landscapes finding tremendous clouds wherever I went.  
Soft CaressSoft Caress

A Little Zion
Cedar Creek outside of Ramona in San Diego's east county.  I've titled this "A Little Zion" because that was my first impression on arriving here. If you've ever been to Zion National Park I think you'll see the likeness.  My friend Alex invited me for a hike to this idyllic spot and we had perfect conditions with no other people. Really, zero.  With some good rain this year the falls should be more full. 

Being Watched
My favorite street image and one that I knew would be in this collection from the time I had it printed.  I love the strong diagonal line cutting the frame, the older gent's posture as he walks in shadow past the Museum of Man and the saintly icon staring at him from his perch on the facade.   being watchedbeing watched

Distant Memory
Solo objects, like trees on a hill, always catch my eye, as did this string of kelp on a La Jolla shore near Scripp's Pier. I was fortunate that a long, slow wave had just cleaned the sand of footprints and minor annoyances.  I lined it up with the rock in the distance and took a few frames.   Distant MemoryDistant Memory

Upon a Crooked Path
Another from Nevada, this time from Valley of Fire State Park around 45 minutes outside of Las Vegas. Yeah, still cat-sitting.  The clouds this time of year are astounding!  Here's a study in leading lines.  I converted the red and cream colored rock to monochrome to really see the contrast as it leads your eye to the rocky outcropping in the distance.  
Upon a Crooked PathUpon a Crooked Path

Slow Descent
From under Kachina Bridge in Utah's Natural Bridges National Monument.  I knew how I wanted this to look when I made the image and it turned out just as I had imagined.  Which may be why it had an advantage during the selection process.  I just finished the processing a few days ago even though the image was made back in September.  Sometimes it just needs to marinate for a while before I figure out how to make it look like I felt it should when I snapped the shutter.  I feel my B&W work is moving to the dark side as I'm seeking out more scenes that lend themselves to a singular subject that can be set in a high contrast against its darkened surroundings.  There's a bit of Sith in all of us, eh?
Slow DecentSlow Decent

Kachina Mud Ripples
Another from underneath Kachina Bridge.  The morning light made for some beautiful scenery under the bridge.  I took quite a few photos there and 5 or 6 could have ended up as favorites.  So, consider this one a representative for the half-dozen that aren't shown here.  What caught my eye initially is the mud ripples lining the creek.  I was fortunate to get there early as to the left of frame there are a long line of deep boot prints of someone who arrived before me and scarred the scene.  

Opolo Vineyard
I spent two beautifully foggy mornings in Paso Robles.  Vineyards everywhere and an early morning fog that created magical light for backlit trees and grapevines.  Paso Robles loosely translates to Pass of Oaks or maybe better is The Way of Oaks.  
Opolo VineyardOpolo Vineyard

Sea Cave Window
Credit for this location goes to my friend Alex who took me there during a low tide last December and in February I took a small group of friends who wanted to see it and while there I managed to capture this image.  It's a sea cave (more of a cavern) along the Pacific coast at Point Loma's tidal pools and accessible during low tides. It would be so much nicer if they were available during sunset but the park closes at 4pm.  To get there you have to make the walk of death, so if you're afraid of heights or walking along ledges over deadly drops it may not be for you.  Scares the hell outta me. 
Sea Cave WindowSea Cave Window

Desert Cloudburst

Sometimes you just have to be in the right place at the right time.  I chased this cloud from the time I saw it while driving along Sunrise Highway on the way back from Borrego Springs last August.  I hurried up to Stevenson Peak where I figured I'd have a clear view and voila! there it was in its full glory. And, rain is pouring from it onto the dry desert floor!  Monochrome was the only way to go for this image.  May end up being one of my all-time favorites.   
Desert CloudburstDesert Cloudburst

Broken Hill in Fog
If you've spent any time in San Diego you've probably been to Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve.  Broken Hill is a popular scenic wonder in the reserve and a favorite for photographers.  A nice marine layer makes it especially appealing for camera toting bipeds like me and Alex.  Yes, Alex again. The same Alex in the aforementioned images.  
I need to take a sec to give Mr. Kunz some credit for many of my photographs.  I've probably seen more of San Diego County since I began hiking with him than in the previous 10 years or so.  And Alex has only lived here for what, 3-4 years!  
So, it was Alex's idea to get up in the earliest of hours to hike around Torrey Pines in the dark and early morning fog.  It turned out to be one of the most productive photography trips I've ever had.  Fog does something special to a landscape. I could have presented 12 of my favorites this year just from that single trip.  In order to display a wider range of locations I've trimmed that group down to this single representative image.  If you want to see more then visit my Torrey Pines gallery, here. 

(JWSmith Photography) 2015 Favorites Yearly favorites photographs roundup https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2015/12/-favorites-from-2015 Tue, 22 Dec 2015 21:44:05 GMT
In a Rural Space https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2015/10/in-a-rural-space In a Rural SpaceIn a Rural Space

Why? What's worth stopping for? And backing up 50 yards get a second look?  I've seen this feeder a dozen times under clear skies and bright sun, but it is in the soft light of a fog shrouded morning that it makes sense. In these conditions it reveals its unique and interesting shape and color.  No more background distractions, no harsh reflective light, just an interesting shape with a hastily painted, fading coat of tomato red.

As I drove down Mesa Granda Road and passed it by I gave it but an instant's thought and kept driving. But then, as I so often do, I had to remind myself that I may not get this shot again, and if it was interesting enough to notice it may be interesting enough to photograph.  Still, I thought so little of it I didn't even get out of the car to make the photograph and then only made a single frame.  As I took the image my mind still saw the boring metal structure but something deeper must have seen the interesting colors and angular shapes set against a soft, blank canvas.  Sometimes you just need to stop the car, back up, and consider. 

(JWSmith Photography) Mesa Grande Road cattle feeder fog structure https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2015/10/in-a-rural-space Tue, 20 Oct 2015 16:00:04 GMT
Something Favored https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2015/8/something-favored I like this image.  It is the type of picture I think I'd see in one of the David Ward / Joe Cornish books on landscape photography. You don't have to agree, it's just the way I feel.  You could say, "It really, really sucks," and I'd still like it just fine.  I burnished the sun's warmth a bit and pushed some of the details in the grass and, after a light vignette, it was done. You really didn't think it came out of the camera like that so there's no harm in revealing what I did in post.

My appreciation of this scene didn't come on all at once.  I took the photo in January.  Here it is nearly September and I'm just now understanding its charm. I like the flow of the sea grass as it overlaps the rock where the sun warms it.  There is detail here that attracts me.  The grass is not lazy, it's exhausted.  It has spent an entire high tide flowing to-and-fro to the demands of the relentless tide.  Now it yields, quietly gathering strength for the next skirmish.

It's an intimate landscape.  That being, it isn't a grand or a magnificent seascape with a glorious setting sun turning cloud-filled skies into a wonderland of gold and magenta.  It is an intimately small idea, a scene which may require you to look a bit longer and find a lesser flourish brought on by a lighter touch.  I feel more pleasure in finding scenes like this than I do in those grand landscapes that scream at you with vibrant colors or bold monuments.  In a selfish moment I can take comfort in knowing that it will never be repeated.  This image is singular.  Mesa Arch, dressed in reds and golds cannot say the same.  Nor can the stoic and forever still Half Dome.  They will always be minus a tide to confuse them and vary their living composition.

Seagrass at SunsetSeagrass at Sunset

(JWSmith Photography) intimate landscape on reflections seascape style https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2015/8/something-favored Thu, 27 Aug 2015 04:55:46 GMT
Death Valley - New Year's Eve https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2015/8/death-valley---new-years-eve

Left SD around 5am Friday morning and made it to Death Valley around 11:30.  If you look at a map of the route from SD to DV (go ahead and get one, I'll wait) you'd see that Interstate 15 runs from SD to Las Vegas.  We turn off and head north around 100 miles short of Vegas but still had to contend with all the Vegas bound traffic.  Being New Year's eve there were thousands heading for Vegas to celebrate.  Hwy 15 is usually pretty quiet once you get past the the San Bernadino Mountains but not this weekend.  However, after we hit Baker, CA and headed north on Hwy 127 we were pretty much alone for the next 2 hours of the drive.  
I'll put up pictures after I've had a chance to process them but for being a desert and having a name like Death Valley, it's really a beautiful place.  We didn't have a real plan for what we wanted to do so we just drove around and got some ideas from the visitor center on what roads went where and what sites we could get in during the visit.  
Around 3:00 we went looking for a camp site and found one much easier than I thought we would.  As we were setting up camp I noticed that something was missing.  Turned out to be my sleeping bag.  We both agreed that it will be important to have a bag when the temp drops at night, we're pretty good a figuring out stuff like that.   It was almost 50 when we arrived and we were now at the "hottest" part of the day and still not much above 50 degrees.  Not much wind which was nice and the sun felt warm when you basked in it but the lower it went on the horizon the cooler it became.  
I told Katherine we'd figure something out.  I had cold weather clothes but most of it was upper body stuff, no long johns (I remember holding them while packing and saying "Nah, won't need them" and tossed them back in the camping box).  I had two pair of thermal hiking socks but still my legs we gonna suffer.   I have a very nice 3-season tent that would retain some of our body heat but most of her body heat would remain in her sleeping bag.  I'd only have a Therma-rest pad and the tent floor between me and the ground, I was gonna suffer.   
Katherine suggested we run down to the General Store and see if they have any blankets.  We did and all we could find was a flimsy $20 flannel "sleeping bag" which was really a large piece of flannel sewn up so you could crawl inside.  Nevertheless, I paid the $20 and crossed my fingers.
By 5:30 it was really dark and the wind, though not strong, was biting.  Our fire was nice but we were spending more time thinking about how cold it was than enjoying the fire, food, wine and each other's company.  The star-filled sky was gorgeous but all we could really think about was the cold.  
By 8pm it was 33 degrees and still early in the evening.  It felt like it should have been 2am and we realized we still had a long night to go.  We weren't ready for bed yet, far from it.  So, Katherine suggested we go into the small village of Furnace Creek (hmmm, furnace) to grab a  bite and get a drink.  It's only 3-4 miles from the site and we figured we could hang out there until we're ready to hit the sack.  Furnace Creek is really a commercial enterprise run by a company (Xanterra I think) within the National Park.  Grand  Canyon NP has something similar.  They have gift shops, a hotel, restaurant, general store, gas at $4.45 a gallon and some displays to give it an authentic look.  
The restaurant was pretty full as the Christmas - New Years week is one of the most popular for the park.  The were only serving pizza though and I really wanted a hot bowl of stew.  We split a pizza and some locally brewed beers.  It wasn't long before our corner of the bar smelled like campfire smoke as our clothes had marinated in it for the last few hours.  
"What time is it now?"
"9:30, sleepy yet"
"Nah, I'm wide awake, at least it's warm!"
"There's a hotel next door ya know."
"Yeah, but it's probably full"
"Wanna check?"
"It's really cold out, isn't it"
"Yep, and all you have is that flannel bag."
"Okay, let's go check the hotel."
And we did, and they had ONE room left, it was a room for 3, and it was the most expensive room at the hotel, and it cost $240 a night, and we said, "We'll take it!"
And it was wonderful.  Well, except for the people in the next room who were up late and talked on and on.
We never even went back to the camp site to get stuff.  Katherine had a change of clothes in the car but I had pulled everything out and put it in the tent.  We took a nice warm shower and hit the sack.  
We slept in 'til 9 or so.  When we're at a place where I intend to take pictures I like to get up with the sun because that's when the light is best, but this morning I was more than happy to bury my head in my feather pillow and snooze away.  
New Year's morning was beautiful. The air was crisp and clean, chilly but no wind.   Time to explore.  
You can say what you will about California (and I know you do) but this state has some of the most awe inspiring and absolutely beautiful landscapes in the world.  
I can't accurately relate the immense landscape that rests in Death Valley.  It has harsh, inhospitable, deadly areas full of salt and infertile earth and in other places you'll find palm trees and scrub that, when you think about it,  somehow lives in a place that gets 2" of rain a year.  Photographically, Death Valley is a mecca.  I'm disappointed to have never come here before.  Since we got up late and most of yesterday was spent getting to know the place I knew I wouldn't be able to do the photography I wanted so I chalked it up to learning what I wanted to do next time.   And, we decided that next time would be at the end of February, just as it's beginning to warm up but not so much to be uncomfortable.  DV has reached 134 degrees in the past. 
We spent our time being amazed by The Devil's Golf Course, Mesquite Sand Dunes, Artist's Drive, Natural Bridge, The Devil's Corn Field and miles upon miles of salt flats and beautiful landscape.  On the way out we stopped at Badwater; 282 feet below sea level.  Ironically, this time of year it is covered in water as it floods during the winter.  When the water evaporates it leaves behind salt beds that have a mosaic look to them.  The salt is caked over everything and if you didn't know better you'd think it was snow. 
We left the park around 4pm and started the long drive home.  The road leaving the park is desolate and now completely dark, then we hit Hwy 127 and for the next 60 miles it's dark and desolate until we hit Baker and Interstate 15.  As we approached Baker we could see miles upon miles of headlights coming down 15 as Las Vegas exhaled and hordes of Californians migrated home.   I've never been on 15 in the high desert when it was so crowded.  You'd think it was rush hour in San Diego the way we were packed in on the two-lane southbound highway.  Finally made it home around 11pm last night.  
Good trip, fun times.  I can't remember many New Year's eves.  This one I will.  
(JWSmith Photography) Camping Death Valley New Year's Eve https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2015/8/death-valley---new-years-eve Mon, 03 Aug 2015 19:46:58 GMT
Growing a Slot Canyon https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2015/4/growing-a-slot-canyon    This image was created during a hike with Alex Kunz in one of the Wilderness areas of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.  The 1 meter pit you see will someday, in the distant future, be the new canyon floor.  The canyon itself was around 100 yards long and in some places you could 'crab walk' over the collapsed areas and in others you had to just jump in and walk on the new floor.  It was pretty narrow, making photography difficult and using a tripod frustrating.  
   It's quiet here.  In solitude I think it would be disturbingly quiet.  It's an unfamiliar stillness. 
   The air is dry and clean save the occasional dusting of sand kicked up by a light breeze.  I think we missed the best light but you could still catch a glimpse of a soft warmth reflecting off a bending wall. 
   The linear protrusions along the canyon wall appear to be the remains of previous floors whose softer sandstone has been washed out through eons of erosion.  I've been through more mature Anza-Borrego slots and can now better appreciate what it took to 'grow' them to their current size and depth.  Even with little appreciation for geology these formations will leave you with a weighty sense of reverence and wonder.  
   Alex mentioned he will not publicly note the exact location of this slot in his accounts so I've edited my blog to respect that.  It's not a 'secret' by any means and many have made the trek out there but you really have to want to get there and those who truly want to see it will probably be the ones who will respect what they find.  Yet, I'm sure it won't be too long before we find empty beer cans and names carved into the sandstone by the witless oafs who see the world as their dumpster.  But, for now, it's as it should be.  

Adolecent Slot CanyonAdolecent Slot Canyon

(JWSmith Photography) Anza-Borrego Coyote Mountain Wilderness Desert canyon erosion slot canyon southwest https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2015/4/growing-a-slot-canyon Sat, 25 Apr 2015 20:13:55 GMT
Smoke Tree https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2015/4/smoke-tree This is a Smoke Tree (Dalea Spinosa).  They live in the washes and canyons of our local desert and, I assume, other dry, arid places in the Sonoran Desert region.  I found this one in Anza-Borrego's Canyon sin Nombre (canyon with no name).  I have taken hundreds of pictures of smoke trees during desert hikes but rarely have any that I like enough to do the post processing.  They look much more lively and interesting in the wild than they do as a two dimensional photograph.  The tree's tiny leaves are a greenish-gray and golden brown which gives it a smokey look.  A look that I couldn't get to work in a color photograph, thus the B&W.  It helps that we had rain clouds overhead that day which gives the image a dramatic backdrop at the expense of a drenching later in the hike. What I really liked about this particular tree is the dead branches that reach out from its center.  They were bleached white, creating a nice focal point.  

Smoke TreeSmoke Tree

(JWSmith Photography) B&W Canyon sin Nombre State Park anza Borrego canyon desert smoke tree tree https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2015/4/smoke-tree Thu, 16 Apr 2015 19:58:04 GMT
Marinating in the Image https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2015/3/marinating-in-the-image I took this image on a trip to Cedar Creek with Alex Kunz nearly two weeks ago.  It's an amazing spot and we had wonderfully overcast skies that made for deep, rich colors.  And! we were alone with this scene for nearly 2 hours! Unbelievable.  

I've found that my approach to post-processing an image is to let the RAW file marinate a while before I go to work.  Sometimes it's only overnight, sometimes, like this one, it approaches 2 weeks. I used to just dive in and have something on-line an hour after getting home.  I don't do that nearly as often now, and I really don't know why but I think there is value in allowing for time and space to surround an image, allowing it to marinate in my imagination.  I think I see elements and details in a scene that I didn't at first blush.  There is an excitement on returning home from a discovery like this and then there is the unsettling disappointment upon seeing that the camera didn't capture the emotional high that I felt while standing there.  So, maybe that's it.  Maybe I have to 'come down' from the trip and see the image anew.  GrottoGrotto

(JWSmith Photography) Cedar Creek an grotto image marinating pool tree waterfall https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2015/3/marinating-in-the-image Sun, 22 Mar 2015 18:42:56 GMT
Pt. Loma Sea Cave and the Walk of Death https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2015/2/pt-loma-sea-cave-and-the-walk-of-death On the way to the sea caves we came across this stranded seal pup who apparently stayed too long in the pool while the tide receded. He was barking for his mom who was 50' below in the Pacific looking up the cliff face. I could stand at the edge and see mom but since I don't speak seal I wasn't much help in relaying messages.  Once the tide rose and reclaimed that portion of the ledge I figure he made it back to mom.

I hate this ledge.  Nancy Bailey took this pic of Greg, Fred and I on our way back from the sea cave.  I look to be quite casual strolling along the cliff face with death just 50' below.  Luckily she caught me just as the cliff wall opened up enough to walk normally; just two steps earlier I was clinging to the cliff wall and scooting along sideways, tripod in one hand and a large chunk of the cliff wall in the other.  I've seen people walk along this ledge as if they were in the middle of a major road, not me. 

The death-defying walk along the cliff face takes you to a place well worth the trip.

Sea Cave WindowSea Cave Window

(JWSmith Photography) California Coast Ocean Pt Loma Sea Cave coastal seascape https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2015/2/pt-loma-sea-cave-and-the-walk-of-death Thu, 19 Feb 2015 17:26:11 GMT
Irish-American https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2015/1/irish-american New Whiskey for the New Year.  My first taste of either but I hear good things.


(JWSmith Photography) Whiskey https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2015/1/irish-american Sat, 03 Jan 2015 18:25:43 GMT
A Selection from 2014 https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2014/12/a-selection-from-2014 The blue marble has once again flung itself around its centerpiece and once again we break out the booze and kazoos to celebrate.  And, as if it's ingrained in our DNA, people break out their yearly "best" lists.  I don't know why there's an innate (inane?) compulsion for sorting, categorizing, assigning status and recognition on a yearly basis, but I succumb.  Presented are 12 of my "favorites" for the year 2014.  There could have just as easily been 50 or 97 but over time we have latched upon the idea that a dozen or, more often, ten is the right amount.  Fourteen would have also been appropriate. 

This year I started with 352 images I had assigned a 5-Star rating to in Lightroom.  These are images that I felt were worth keeping, posting, archiving and fretting over. Over time that number will dwindle as I re-evaluate and recognize that what I considered so absolutely wonderful is really just so absolutely average.  But that requires the distance of time and continued exposure to what really is absolutely wonderful.  In a few years I'll have to archive my 2014 library due to space limitations.  By then I'll have whittled down the 5-star images and it will be interesting to see if the dozen below survive for the long term. 

My 2014 library has 6,875 images representing over 20 locations; some of which, like Anza-Borrego, La Jolla, and San Diego's east county have 5-10 different sub-locations where each is a different trip.  Five National Park visits this year with Saguaro being the only new one.  Joshua Tree, Yosemite, Bryce and Zion are return visits.  I only managed 7 states this year with most being repeat visits; Wisconsin is newly added.  New scenic places include the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest in the White Mountains of California, Mono Lake, Mammoth and Inyo National Forest.  

Evidence to the contrary I did make some nice images of people and family members.  It's just not my strength. Perhaps a people picture in next years batch is in order. 

So, without further ado and in no particular order...

Portal - entrance to the sea cave at Pt. Loma's tidal pool area


Long-stemmed Rose - La Jolla's Hospitals Reef

Long Stemmed RoseLong Stemmed Rose

La Jolla Falls - La Jolla's Hospitals Reef

La Jolla FallsLa Jolla Falls

Windswept - Joshua Tree National Park

Modern Dance - Santa Ysabel Open Space Preserve (East)

Kryptonite - La Jolla, California


Wynola Orchard in Storm - Wynola, California

Wynola Orchard in StormWynola Orchard in Storm

Oriflamme Downpour - Oriflamme Canyon from Sunrise Highway

Desert StormDesert Storm

Cape Neddick - Cape Neddick, Maine

Cape NeddickCape Neddick

Hoodoos in Monochrome - Sunrise, Bryce Canyon National Park

Hoodoos in MonochromeHoodoos in Monochrome

Slow Trucks - I-805 Overpass, Mission Valley, San Diego, CA

Slow TrucksSlow Trucks

Hey Bud! - Saguaro National Park

Saguaro budSaguaro bud

(JWSmith Photography) 2014 Review Year favorites in https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2014/12/a-selection-from-2014 Mon, 29 Dec 2014 18:29:32 GMT
The Early Bird gets the Fog https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2014/9/the-early-bird-gets-the-fog I fought the comfort of a deep sleep to wake at 4:30 and head up to Sunrise Highway hoping for a nice sunrise over Anza Borrego Desert.  Nothing worth the effort emerged but continuing north on Sunrise I found some nice, low-lying fog creeping around some trees with steep hills as a backdrop.  What more could a photographer ask for! 

I wanted to go low-key with these for a dramatically dark, dreary and foreboding feel.  Just couldn't get it to work though.  So I used the opposite approach and leaned into hi-key, pulling back just enough to gain some texture.  There's hardly a shadow worthy of the name, yet I like them.  

Cuyamaca Fog IICuyamaca Fog II

(JWSmith Photography) cuyamaca fog highway monochrome sunrise trees https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2014/9/the-early-bird-gets-the-fog Mon, 08 Sep 2014 16:12:47 GMT
My World is Curved https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2014/8/vision If you remember from the last episode our hero was suffering the angst of the edit and floundering with how to arrive at an artistic vision.  He was also four fingers into a bottle of Scotch which did much to amplify the angst and floundering.  But, today is a new day so...

I took a long walk in Hollenbeck Canyon early this morning; lots of thinking about the vision thing.  

I needed operational definitions of Subject, Vision, and Style.  So I came up with the following:
Subject - Pretty self explanatory, the subject is the central character of the image.  The role it plays in Vision is how it occupies its environment.  
Style - How the Subject is presented.  Supports the Vision in the look and emotional content of the image.
Vision - How I wish to reflect the world through imagery, subject, and style. 

Five word description of my vision:
   The color of my world is low-key

   The subjects in my world are solitary

   The shape of my world is curved

   The tones of my world are contemplative

   The textures of my world are natural

Do I feel any better for having done this?  Sure, some.  Will I violate every tenant just outlined; most certainly.  But what this does do is give me some direction and focus.  It's also a first draft so further work is both necessary and natural. This is not a Cease-and-Desist order against taking pretty pictures of bright and perky flowers or postcard shots of Balboa Park, it's merely an emotional catalogue of what compels me to make a photographic image.  During my next culling of the herd I'll reflect on these thoughts and the wounded, weak and woeful will be more easily recognized and thinned-out. 

(JWSmith Photography) photography style style analysis https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2014/8/vision Tue, 26 Aug 2014 18:57:31 GMT
The Pain of the Edit https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2014/8/the-pain-of-the-edit

Should I stay or should I go…
The Clash had the right question but no real answers.  

I'm editing my on-line galleries.  Not because I want to but because it seems a necessary evil, dictated by the gatekeepers and know-it-alls of artistic merit.  It is an evil designed to cull the herd of lesser beings; the weak, wounded and woeful. Very Darwinian. 

It's all because of this damn vision thing...

Every time I see a blog post or article about "finding your vision" I just become more confused about where my vision lies and whether I even have a vision.  Often I think that vision and style are used interchangeably which adds to the confusion.  Maybe they really are the same thing or just so nuanced that I can't see one from the other. 

Robin Walker has a vision article on PetaPixel that includes the following:

#4: Pick five words that describe your favorite images
These should be pictures you’ve already taken. I often ask my clients for three words that describe the image they want me to create; that way I know what I’m working towards. This is the same principle. Now go into your image library and pick 10 of your favorite images. Do they fulfill your five words? Do you need to pick new ones?

#5: Pick three words you don’t want people to use when describing your images
That sounds too easy, doesn’t it? Here’s the catch: They should be positive words. They can’t be “boring,” or “plastic.” They have to be three words that someone might say they want in their picture. Is “fun” a word you don’t want attributed to your work? Bright? You can’t use gloomy (that’s a negative word), but what about dark or moody? These three “not-words” should guide you as firmly as your five positive words. And remember, you don’t have to never create images that have those attributes — you’re pointing your feet in a direction, not cementing them to a spot.

Problem is, if I pick 5, 10, 15 images they'll all be so different that I'd need a dictionary of words to encompass the range of "styles" included in my selection.  I shoot what I like, what catches my eye.  I've photographed boats, rocks, cars, mountains, trees, lakes, kids, clouds, field hockey games and track meets.  I could probably select 1 from every subject matter that I really, really like and then sit there like a confused mystic trying to see the link between them.  I realize that subject matter and style/vision are different and perhaps after many hours of contemplative study I'd discover I just like highly textured monochrome images and suddenly that comic strip light bulb goes off above my head and "Voila!" I have a style.  But then I'll page through Michael Kenna's book and think that I'd really like to do simple low contrast landscapes.  
I know, I can do whatever type of photography I want, don't listen to the "experts," do what you like.  Do what satisfies your artistic center.  Yadda, yadda, yadda.   But, what if what I would like is a recognizable style?  

I used to see Joe McNally as a refuge.  He has a very eclectic range of subject matter and I would convince myself that if McNally can shoot everything from rock stars to ballerinas he has as wide a range of subjects as I do. He shoots everything!  But, you'll never see a McNally image that isn't perfectly lit; with strobes.  Style.  
The search continues...
(JWSmith Photography) editing images style vision https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2014/8/the-pain-of-the-edit Tue, 26 Aug 2014 03:50:59 GMT
Pacific Channel https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2014/6/pacific-channel This photo took a number of iterations before I felt happy with it.  I rarely bracket a scene and this was no exception so I had to work and re-work the sky before it felt right.  Next time I bracket.  I must have taken 20 pictures while standing there, trying to time the surf as it ebbed and flowed through the channel.  I posted it and then deleted it and then posted it and deleted it always finding some fault that I could correct.  I see one now as I'm writing this...

I saw this scene in B&W but when the colors started coming together and I liked the palette I decided to leave it in color and find another candidate for monochrome.  

I initially titled it "Thermometer Channel" but that was too many syllables and it just didn't glide off the tongue.  So, Pacific Channel eventually won the title competition; more prose than poetry but it'll do.  

Pacific ChannelPacific Channel

(JWSmith Photography) La Jolla long exposure Ocean Pacific sunset https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2014/6/pacific-channel Mon, 16 Jun 2014 17:53:46 GMT
Plucking Birds from the Sky https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2014/5/plucking-birds-from-the-sky If you have any appreciation of Nature and her beauty then it must be somewhat disconcerting to pluck a distant bird from the sky in order to produce a satisfactory image.  


(JWSmith Photography) Hollenbeck clouds fence meadow https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2014/5/plucking-birds-from-the-sky Sat, 24 May 2014 18:27:59 GMT
Originals https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2014/5/originals


On my drive home from Corona del Mar earlier this week I listened to an NPR broadcast with Alain de Botton about the value of art as therapy.  As author of the study he was promoting the idea that art should have a therapeutic value but over the years the art establishment, the guardians of art, have changed the idea of art to be so subjective, so elusive, and so without defined meaning that art has become whatever the viewer wants to see in it.  

Anyway, the discussion digressed and wandered into the territory of why people insist on seeing the original artwork, sometimes paying a premium to museums for the privilege, when seeing a good reproduction in a book or print will give them the same satisfaction, visually at least.  An interesting comparison was made with regard to books and music.  You would not insist on hearing only the original of Beethoven's 5th (even if you could, which you can't) nor would you only listen to it live.  I have at least 3 recordings of his 5th symphony and have yet to hear it live.  I doubt anyone feels they can only really hear Beethoven if they attend a live concert.  The same with books, I think it's safe to say that anyone would achieve the same amount of pleasure by reading a 20th century copy of Shakespeare's Henry V without having to hold the original folios.  

All the while I'm listening to this I'm thinking of how it relates to taking and owning those iconic shots we all gravitate to.  For the tourist, perhaps a well produced postcard of Mesa Arch at sunrise will do.   But for the photographer, what is it about bagging the big game of scenic icons?  

I can only answer for myself.  To a great extent it's a matter of doing it; of applying my skill level against what has been set as a standard.  By standard I mean those top 10 images of [insert iconic scene here]. There is some sense of accomplishment in bagging an icon at 5am.  It's totally personal, I don't expect to sell any of my Mesa Arch sunrise images, I expect most people to yawn when they see (oh, god) another Mesa Arch at sunrise picture But that's okay.  I have hundreds of interesting photos from that trip, the Mesa Arch photos are a small minority of the pictures I made while in Canyonlands.  I would severely regret not taking the opportunity to grab the icon while it was in reach.  And, as a photographer, I had to grab that icon while bathed in its iconic light, at literally the crack of dawn, and again literally, accompanied by 15 or so other pilgrims. 

Then there's visiting the place where someone like Ansel Adams stood and seeing first hand the places he photographed; and this is not something you can get by buying a postcard in the gift shop.  By being there you feel the texture of the place, the smells, the wind, the bite of an early morning, the desire for more coffee.  There is nothing like that in a postcard or picture book.  

And, it's fun.  

Unfortunately, the internet has shown everyone, and I mean everyone, the beauty of these spots and now they all want to see them and, for better or worse, jostle with me for position in the early morning to photograph them for their own collection of icons.  It's The Tragedy of the Commons once more. 




(JWSmith Photography) alain de botton canyonlands icons mesa arch originals photographing photographing icons photography utah https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2014/5/originals Sun, 04 May 2014 19:57:07 GMT
Pedro Fages Trail https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2014/4/pedro-fages A key figure in the Spanish settlement of Alta California, Pedro Fages arrived in San Diego aboard the ship San Carlos in 1769. A lieutenant in the Catalon Volunteers, Fages served as second-in-command to Gaspar de Portolá, accompanying him on the difficult trek to find Monterey in 1769. After Portolá left California in 1770, Fages became comandante of the Upper California settlements, holding that position until 1774. Fages traveled widely throughout California. His journeys included the blazing of a trail across the Cuyamaca Mountains in 1772.

From:  http://www.sandiegohistory.org/journal/73spring/br-fages.htm

Pedro Fages TrailPedro Fages Trail
(JWSmith Photography) Anza Borrego Pedro Fages desert trail https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2014/4/pedro-fages Thu, 10 Apr 2014 16:05:31 GMT
The Hike https://www.jwsmithphoto.com/blog/2014/4/the-hike I'm no John Muir.  Today I ache and am happy I can stay home and write e-mails and work on photographs.  
The first picture is of Greg, warming his hands.  He's a friend who offered to drive Katherine and I up to Mt. Laguna to start our hike.   He picked us up at 7am and we got to the trail head a little after 8.  It was cold, wet, misty, heavily fogged in and discouraging. Greg suggested we go to the Pine House Cafe a few miles back to have breakfast and see what the weather looks like in an hour or so.  The trio behind him having their order taken were hiking the trail also.  As were a large group behind the waitress.  I think Greg was the only one in the cafe not hiking that morning.  It's PCT season in Mt. Laguna. 
We all had the Pine House French Toast. 
Reinforcing an identity.  Julian is a quaint historic mining town some 20 miles away and often the whole area gets called Julian by unknowing but well meaning visitors.  
By 10am it was clear, still cold but much better without the low clouds and dampness.   We drove out to Pioneer Mail Trailhead.  It's mile 52 of the PCT but our mile 1.  I hate posing for pictures. The first thing we did after this picture was hit the trail, in the wrong direction.  After 10-15 yards of going south I recognized our mistake and we made an important correction. 
The iconic pose.  For the first day we'd be staying around 4,000 feet, and descend into Anza Borrego the next day.  You can see it cleared up nicely yet still pretty chilly. 


This plant is all over out here.  It's called "The Lord's Candle"

Stopped for lunch around 1pm.  Send in the clouds.  Once we got 4-5 miles into the hike we started seeing runners with numbered bibs.  Apparently the Oriflamme 50K was going on and for the next 6 miles or so we had to share the trail with the runners.  We thought it funny that these runners would cover more ground (31 miles) in one day than we'd cover over 3.  Every few minutes we'd step aside as one or a small group would go by in the opposite direction.  
Setting up camp.  The previous day I had walked out from Sunrise Highway (around 1.5 miles) to stage water for this night.  We didn't camp where I though we would as it turned out that small area was being used as a rest station for the race.  Who knew?  By the time we got there (around 3pm) they were breaking down and going home but Katherine actually found a better spot, tucked away in some low lying brush and out of the wind.  It would get cold tonight.