Wednesday, August 13, 2014

3 million years

I stopped by the Museum of Natural History this morning with my Welta Perle.  The compact folder was loaded with TMAX 400 film.  

The preparator was carefully grinding away the rock surrounding one of four tusks belonging to an ancient species of elephant which roamed southern New Mexico about three million years ago.  Behind him on the bench is the complete skull of a stegomastadon from the same era that was recently discoverd on the beach at  Elephant Butte Reservoir.

Saturday, August 02, 2014


I've made a lot of pictures of the mountain lions at the Rio Grande Zoo.  Several years before we moved to Albuquerque I met up with a cougar in the wild.  I didn't get a photograph at the time, but the memory is indelible.

In the Organ Mountains

When we first came to Las Cruces I used to spend much of my free time exploring the Organ Mountains that are just a few miles to the east of town. It is a small but rugged chain that rises up suddenly out of the surrounding Chihuahuan Desert flatlands, like many of New Mexico's mountains. I was back in the Organs recently, one of the very few times I have visited them in many years now. My last old dog is no longer up for such hikes, so I was alone.

I went up over the first set up steep hills and down into a valley that has a narrow streambed that snakes east to west out of the peaks. I shot a few pictures of the hills and plant life, including some fall foliage in the bottom of the arroyo. I was surprised at that point to hear quite close by a yowling cat sound; it was the same kind of ready-to-fight call that our housecat, Richard, makes when he spots a coyote or a rattler through the south patio windows. This sound had a good deal more timbre to it, though, and I began to hope that it was a bobcat or smaller. Of course, it was a mountain lion.

The big cat jumped down into the dry stream bed about fifteen feet from me, way too far inside my comfort zone. I could only clearly see its head through the boulders and brush. I very briefly considered trying to get a picture of the animal, but my old folding camera was not cocked or focused, and I felt that I could not afford to let my attention stray from the nearby cat because it was not more than a jump-and-a-half distant from me. On thinking about the situation later I surmised that the noisy and aggressive approach probably meant that the lion was a female with nearby cubs. I think she was just acting the way she might if a wandering male cougar had come into her territory.

I had read enough accounts of lion attacks to understand their quickness and power. One doesn't want to run from any aggressive wild animal, but unlike similar confrontations with bears, there seems not to be an option with the big cats of playing dead. If attacked, one is well advised to fight just as hard as possible; once those teeth are into the windpipe there is no appeal. As I looked into her large, dark eyes in the space of a few brief moments, it was clear to me that the lion was quickly going through the same set of calculations that I was.

It seemed to me at that point that the only practical alternative was to take the initiative. I stepped forward, threw up my arms and yelled at the cat. She turned away, still looking in my direction. Then, with a single bound she was gone, only briefly showing me her tawny back and long, powerful-looking tail. After the first leap, there was no sound of her movement through the thick brush of the arroyo bottom.

I immediately began moving cautiously up the arroyo. It seemed likely the cat would not follow, but I still paid careful attention to my backtrack. After travelling about a hundred yards, I moved up the slope out of the arroyo bottom and carefully scanned my surroundings, starting with the near ground and then out to the middle and far distance. I could hear some jays and other birds making some noise quite far to the west, so it seemed that the cat was continuing to head away from me. I shot a few more pictures, but had some difficulty concentrating on the task, and I decided to head back to the car. I kept to the high ground north of the arroyo and eventually put a big hill between me and the valley.

From the ridge crest, I could see the great number of houses that have been built close up to the flanks of the Organs in the past few years. My guess is that their owners are experiencing some missing small pets. I'll be surprised if there are not also some reports of unfortunate human-cat encounters in the not far future. My sympathies will be more with the mountain lions. As for me, I'm sure I'll return to explore the Organs again, but I'll probably find some sturdy dog to take along.

(My favorite cougar shot at the zoo was made in 2008 with my trusty old Spotmatic)

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Shooting Pandas

I loaded some Fuji Acros into my Ansco Panda and got out early enough two days in a row to take advantage of the morning light.

Because box cameras offer no possibility of any adjustments to accommodate light conditions, I think they tend to make the photographer more attentive to the existing nuances of light and shadow.  With a box camera in hand, I find myself looking more for instances of the play of light and shadow that brings out the character of the subject.  The central sharpness of the box camera's meniscus lens and the blurred periphery also help to emphasize the central subject matter.  The Panda provides a unique wide-angle perspective which is not available in any other box camera that I am aware of.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

walking by the river

The summer rains have made the Rio Grande Bosque very lush.  The muddy trails are also discouraging the joggers and bikers, so the place seems nearly abandoned except for the birds.

This shot is from my Pentax K1000 and a new 135mm lens which I acquired thanks to the help of a fellow Down the Road.  I also picked up a 2x telextender, so hope to get some shots with the combination soon at the zoo.

Monday, July 14, 2014

A couple cars and a diagnosis

My compact Olympus XA often gets to ride along in a pocket when I'm out for a walk with no particular photographic objective in mind.  The 1938 Chevrolet was parked at the west end of the Plaza Vieja early on Friday morning.  The owner was sitting on a nearby bench; he said he had owned the car for about 35 years.  

The XA also often gets to go along as a backup when I'm out to make pictures with one of my big 6x9 folders like the Monitor which only have a capacity of eight frames per roll of 120 film.  The XA also allows me to shoot easily in low light environments without the need for a tripod which is really essential with the long-lensed Monitor.  The spiffy sports car was in the shop where Saturday's car show was held.  I'm guessing it is a Ferrari 328, but I could be wrong.

The XA had also accompanied the Monitor when I visited the Nuclear History Museum earlier in the week.

When I scanned the aircraft shots, which had a lot of sky in the background, I noticed that the upper third of the image contained a number of round dark spots which can be seen clearly in the B-47 image.  The spots were present and in the same position in all the images shot that day.  This was clearly something going on in the lens.  The XA shutter has no bulb function to allow keeping the shutter open, so I was only able to examine the front and rear elements and found no trace of anything that could have caused the spotting

I was relieved to find that images made before and after the Museum visit did not have the spots on the negatives.  My fear when I had first noticed them in the aircraft pictures was that fungus had invaded the lens.  In fact my first XA was a victim of such an infection, and there is no easy way to correct that issue in the XA outside of an Olympus repair facility.  My conclusion at this point is that the spots were the result of condensation on the inner lens surfaces, which evidently dried up after the session with the aircraft.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Monitoring a Car Show

A local custom shop hosted a well-attended car show this morning in Albuquerque.  I took along my Kodak Monitor loaded with TMAX 400.

The low summer sun was already very intense by 10:00 am.  I thought the Anastigmat Special handled the glare quite nicely.

There was a nice mix of custom rods and restored classics.

Below is a 100% enlargement of the 1200 dpi scan showing the fine quality to be had from the four-element lens and the fine-grained TMAX.

I need to try some color on this subject some time soon with the Monitor.

The post-war Chev Fleetline has always been a favorite of mine -- just the right balance of strength and grace in the design.

Friday, July 04, 2014


The Nuclear History Museum has added an F-16 to its aircraft collection. 

It seemed a good excuse to exercise my Kodak Monitor 620.  I had neglected the camera for some time and decided that it was time to rectify that.  I adjusted the infinity focus on the camera, and I restored the 620 film carrier which I had previously removed in an ill-conceived effort to force it to use 120 film.  

It is hard to believe that the F-16 is already a forty-year-old design.  Maybe it's just me.

I've photographed all the other planes and missiles there many times before, but it is always worth another look.  The museum is currently conducting a photo competition; maybe I'll enter one my aircraft shots.