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Winter in Yellowstone

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I’m just back from a ski trip into Yellowstone National Park, hosted by Yellowstone Expeditions. This park is the oldest in the National Park system, and one of the crown jewels. It shines year-round, but is extraordinary in winter, when there are fewer people around and wildlife in abundance. A group of twelve of us was shuttled into the park in “snow coaches,” which are conventional vans equipped with very unconventional equipment—tracks and skis to travel on the snow. We stayed in small yurts clustered around two big yurts that housed the kitchen and dining area. The yurts are comfortable and warm; we never felt chilled, even though it dropped on 15 degrees below zero (F) one night.

Being situated deep inside the park, near the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, allowed us terrific access. We skied each day to a new destination, to be amazed anew each time by the land and the wildlife. There were trumpeter swans on the Yellowstone River, river otters along the banks, foxes hunting for mice in the grasslands, coyotes trotting here and there—and yes, wolves. Half of our group had the good fortune of seeing the Canyon Pack, a group of seven wolves that wanders over a wide area centered on the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. And of course there are bison all over the park, spending their time pushing snow with their great heads to get at the grass below. 

The geothermal activity at the park is also astounding. More than half of the geysers in the world are in Yellowstone, and there are hot springs and thermal vents throughout the park, which surrounds a large caldera (collapsed volcano) whose magma body lies not far beneath the surface of the ground. It’s amazing to come across great steaming caldrons of boiling water in the midst of a winter landscape, with many of the pools colored deep blue and rimmed by red and orange rocks. 

The caldera is reminiscent of our own caldera here, close to home, the Valles Caldera. The Yellowstone caldera measures 45 miles in diameter, while the Valles is “only” 13, but the Valles is more distinct and easier to recognize as a caldera. They are also similar in hosting large herds of grazing animals—elk in the Valles Caldera, bison in Yellowstone. 

One of the rare phenomenon we witnessed in Yellowstone is “sun pillars,” a truly magical apparition that occurs on occasion when conditions are just right in winter in the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. They form when light reflects off of large snow crystals, and they’re astounding: golden pillars of light that hover over the depths of the canyon like holograms. There’s a photo above, and I’ll post more soon. 

I’ve posted one photo under “Featured Prints” on my home page, and I’ll be posting more in the coming weeks. This is a place worth visiting, and continuing to protect. Go visit if you can—in winter!

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Bigger is Sometimes Better

 

I have just acquired a new. wide format photo printer, and it has changed my life.

 

 

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I can now print really big, up to 44 inches wide, on almost any kind of media, including canvass. It’s an amazing tool, and I’m already drooling over the prints rolling out of it. I just printed my first 44-inch-wide print, a Chimayó landscape in color, and it’s impressive. Size does matter, at least with some photos, especially ones like this one, which cries out, I think, for a large format presentation. Having the new machine will allow me to fulfill orders for large prints (I used to be limited to 17 inches in width). Stop by my studio in Santa Fe to see this fine machine at work, and to peruse some of the images rolling off of it. 

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Mexico Photos Posted

I’ve posted photos from my trip to Xilitla, San Luis Potosí, Mexico. These show the towns I visited and the rivers where we caught fish for Molly Morris‘s research. This a wonderful part of Mexico, and I hope to go back some time soon. The Xilitla area is off the main tourist paths but offers so many things of interest: the northernmost moist tropical forest and cloud forest in the Americas, many pristine streams and gorgeous springs and waterfalls, and many indigenous communities. The Sierra Gorda in the adjacent state of Queretaro  is home to the Sierra Gorda Biosphere reserve, one of the most ecologically rich and diverse places in Mexico. Most visitors to Xilitla go to Las Posas, a collection of 36 surrealist inspired concrete sculptures spread out over more than 20 acres of lush tropical jungle—the creation of Edward James, an eccentric English poet and artist, and patron of the Surrealist movement. I never made it there, but that’s all the more reason to go back. I hope the photos give the flavor of this non-touristy part of Mexico. 

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Hamid Dabashi in Santa Fe

A couple of weeks ago, before I went to Mexico, I had the privilege of photographing Hamid Dabashi when he was in Santa Fe for a Lannan Foundation Readings and Conversations presentation. Dabashi spoke eloquently and with great depth of feeling about the history and modern politics of Iran, his native country. Dabashi, a professor at Columbia, shed much light on this remarkable country, which in the American media is too often presented in simplistic, monocrhomatic terms, as an evil empire of sorts. The podcast of Dabashi’s talk, and the conversation with David Barsamian that followed, is up on the Lannan website here. It’s well worth a listen.

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A Short Trip to Xilitla, Mexico

I’m just back from a trip to Mexico, where I accompanied a biologist (Molly Morris, from Ohio University) studying a group of fishes (Xiphophorus) that inhabit small freshwater streams in Mexico. We stayed in a small town called Xilitla,  the state of San Luis Potosí. This part of Mexico, known as Huasteca, is rich in culture and nature, and our stay coincided with one of Mexico’s days of great celebration—El Día de Guadalupe. This is a photo of a man and his child at a shrine  to Guadalupe near Xilitla, one of many throughout Mexico. I’ll have many photos to post to my website soon.

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Guatemala 34 Years On

Chun K’in, Lacandón Elder, at Najá, 1992.

 

Boy and Dogs, Najá, 1992.

I visited Guatemala for the first time in the spring of 1978. I went to visit a professor of mine from UC Santa Cruz, Victor Perera, who was born in Guatemala and wrote several books about it. Victor, who was a dear friend and has since passed on, and I traveled around the country and then proceeded to meet up with my friend Steve Harper to take a group of people to meet Chun Kin, a Lacandón elder living in the forest. We continued on to float down the Usumacinta River, a wild rainforest river that forms the border between Guatemala and Mexico. In Guatemala, we traveled with representatives of a United Nations health organization, evaluating conditions in migrant labor camps. We also visited several villages around Lake Atitlán, including San Pedro, Santiago, and San Lucas Tolimán. I was back in Guatemala, along the border, several times again (1988-92), but I’ve only recently been looking through the photos, like these, from these trips. 

Old Man in the Market, Santiago Atitlán, 1978.

 

Woman in the Market, Santiago Atitlán, 1978.

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The End of Fall

 

 

Back down here in the lowlands, the cottonwoods blaze. I took photos in Chimayó just before going up to the high country at Vallecitos. It’s such a contrast down here. Vallecitos is at 8800 feet, Chimayó 6000. The warm colors of the eroded sandstone badlands contrast dramatically with the greens of the mountains. And of course the fall color is stunning down along the watercourses in the valley. You may not see the color in the monochrome photos, but you can feel it. One of the great pleasures of New Mexico is transiting between these vastly different worlds in a just a short distance—from frozen streams and nine degree mornings to the mild fall days in the Rio Grande valley, where the red chiles are still coming in. We’re off to pick up our chile molido this week.

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The Edge of Winter at Vallecitos

I spent the weekend up at the Vallecitos Mountain Ranch, leading hikes into the surrounding forests. Although it dropped down to 9 degrees on Saturday morning, the daytime temps were mild, in the high fifties. A few of us jumped into the swimming pond, breaking the previous record for the latest swim of the year at Vallecitos. I had never seen the place at this time of year, on the edge of winter. I’ve been there winter, spring, summer and fall, but never at this time of transition, before the snow but after the aspen leaves have fallen. Before arriving, I was thinking I would be disappointed by missing the fall color, but there was something else to captivate us: the stillness, the quiet, the full moon, the clear water of the river, and, as always, the big, big ponderosa pines. It’s always that way there—there’s something marvelous about every season. (I took only a few photos.) And the people who came (twenty-six in all) were a delight to meet and spend time with, sharing hikes, meals and fireside time. Unless it snows and we can do a skiing trip into Vallecitos, this will be the last visit there for me until next spring. 

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Amy Goodman at the Lensic in Santa Fe

Amy Goodman signing books at the Lensic Theater in Santa Fe, October 10, 2012.

Amy Goodman and Denis Moynihan were in Santa Fe last night on a 100-city tour to promote their new book, The Silenced Majority: Stories of Uprisings, Occupations, Resistance and Hope. The Lannan Foundation hosted them at the Lensic as part of Lannan’s ongoing Cultural Freedom speakers series. Goodman is best known as the host of Democray Now, which airs on over 1,000 radio and television stations. A champion of independent media, Goodman has been to Santa Fe many times as a guest of the Lannan Foundation, interviewing renowned writers such as Chalmers Johnson, Noam Chomsky, Eduardo Galeano, Jerry Mander, Robert Fisk, Seymour Hersch, and others. Moynihan is a co-founder of Democracy Now and has promoted the organization worldwide, overseeing distribution, infrastructure development, and the coordination of complex live broadcasts from many continents. Moynihan introduced Goodman, who then held the audience rapt for over an hour with stories from her long and storied career as an independent journalist. The podcast should be up at lannan.org in the next few days. Take the time to watch or listen to it! (My photos from the event will also be posted in the next few days.)

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Michelle Alexander in Santa Fe

Michelle Alexander spoke in Santa Fe on September 12 as part of the Lannan Foundation’s Cultural Freedom speakers series. Her presentation left the audience stunned. She was eloquent and dynamic, and her message was compelling. She spoke of “the new Jim Crow,” her expression for the disenfranchisement of minority voters, mostly black, in this country. The facts she presented in and of themselves are shocking and came as a revelation to many of us in the audience, even those who consider themselves informed about matters of civil rights or, as Alexander says, human rights, which in the USA are supposed to include voting rights. Alexander was interviewed by Liliana Segura, editor from The Nation, who was quite charismatic herself, and an excellent interviewer.  Listen to the podcast of the event at:

http://www.lannan.org/events/michelle-alexander-with-liliana-segura/

 

 

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