A Trip to the Hospital

A Trip to the Hospital

This past weekend my sister and I made the journey together to visit my mother who was admitted into the hospital the day before. She had fallen while attending her cousin’s funeral. She had lost her breath and felt unstable. My mom is currently seventy-six years old and will turn seventy-seven in April. The cause of her shortness of breath was caused by pneumonia and bronchitis, originally thought to be just a cold. After many tests the doctor concluded that her heart is in bad shape.A fact she was told two years ago, but kept secret from my sister and I.
As I turned the threshold to enter into her small but adequate hospital room, she was standing next to her bed, straightening her top sheet which had become twisted from the already many hours spent lying there. She was wearing the standard blue hospital gown with the opening in the back, but luckily it was drawn tight to cover all the vital parts we weren’t accustomed to seeing. Tethered to her I.V., she could only stand directly next to her bed without  assistance, limited mobility tried her patience to say the least. pkr9006r
It’s funny to see someone before they see you. For that split second you get to take them in, in a sort of voyeuristic way. She appeared smaller than I remembered, I suppose because she was in her stocking feet. As she heard my footfall, her head snapped to my direction, a faint smile turned up the corners of her mouth until her focus became sharp and then a look of relief filled her face. I hadn’t seen my mom since Christmas. We always plan on a family Easter dinner which coincides with her birthday, now just a month away. Sheree and I helped her climb back into bed, all the while listening to the litany of complaints she had stored up from the accumulation of idle hours. After she vented a while she became cheerful, considering, then morose. She told us of the test that was to be administered the following day. A TEE scan, (transesophageal
echocardiogram) and how they insert inserting a probe with a transducer down the esophagus rather than placing the transducer on the chest. The probe will check for blood clots first and if none found, a shock of electricity will be administered to try and regulate her defibrillating heartbeat.  We were then told that if this procedure doesn’t work, a slew of medication is to be administered in hopes of bringing her heart back to normal. On and on she described the procedure with gory detail finally admitting how scared she was. As she told us this last part she sat with her dotted hands across her lap, like a child and whimpered about her fear.
Now if you’ve ever been in the position of having to console a loved one about something they’re afraid of you might agree that there isn’t much you can do, except listen. I tried to interject positive affirmations and comparisons to other operations she has already endured and how this test will be a piece of cake compared to those other procedures and that she’ll be just fine. She listened intently. I could see behind those scared eyes that she was taking it all in, concentrating on the good of it rather than the bad. I even stopped the doctor who was just about finished making his rounds by the time we arrived to, just for a moment, please tell us again what we could expect. He was patient but informed us he had already been here once and couldn’t stay long. My dad just happened to walk in the room as the doctor was beginning his second explanation. My mother was relieved when we all were finally up to speed. For some reason she felt better just knowing we all knew what she would be up against with the dreaded test.
Test day has come and gone for my mom. Her TEE test went well, no blood clots detected. The electric shock was administered. However it didn’t work. Her heartbeat is still irregular. Now comes the onslaught of medications and or possibly surgery. The wait and see game has begun. I thought in the interim I would send flowers, which I usually never do. Only because she does not advocate flowers feeling they are best left in the ground and not in vases. This time was different though I thought. I’ll do it anyway. My aunt was there when the flowers arrived. Even my dad said they were beautiful. I was pleased.
Staying overnight at my parent’s house, a small cape cod in rural Pennsylvania, I felt strange without my mother’s presence. Their Jack Russell terrier, Lily, is even more a terror than usual. She misses her mother, my mother.
I stayed in the spare bedroom directly across from my mothers. I couldn’t help feel my mom’s absence. I glanced into my mom’s bedroom and stared at her empty desk chair, computer monitor perpetually dark. I stood scanning her desk, neat as a pin. My mother has proven to be quite the computer geek in recent years. As she became more aware of the personal computer and internet, she has fancied herself as technophile who borders on IT expert, purely from trial and error. She has sat, literally, for days on the phone with the Microsoft tech help, resetting her computer. She, at seventy years old, bought and installed her first computer. I am very proud of my mother, for all of her accomplishments, but especially her self-taught computer knowledge.  As I walked into her sanctuary, I stood and took account of her things. I envisioned her, sitting at the small desk, forwarding virus filled emails to all her elderly computer compatriots. pkr9016r
The light filtered softly through the ruffled shear curtains, the same curtains that have framed the same window for twenty years running. The bed was neat and appeared not to have been slept in for what seemed forever. I felt sad she was not there. I felt very alone. The silence that dominated the space was soon muscled out buy the twenty-pound Tasmanian devil, Lily. She realized I was in “their” room and came bounding upstairs to investigate, really to supervise the goings on.  The mutt bound from floor to bed, to swivel rocking chair, staying just long enough to gaze out the window and wonder, I suppose, just where my mother had gone. Lily is a whirling dervish never to stop long enough even to allow anyone to pet her. I managed to snap a picture of her nevertheless. pkr9035r
Being back home, in my own warm bed I felt so grateful to be healthy and well, alive. I snuggled down deep under my covers, in my bed and thought about my mother, alone, in her hospital bed. I ask God to watch over her, keep her safe, help her not to be scared, and to bring her home soon.
I tried not to worry or fret and turned it over to the force of nature that I believe is in all of us, surrounds us with light and positive energy, if we let it. As I dozed I thought about her beautiful garden in the spring and looked forward to seeing her out there, in all it’s glory, tending to her flowerbeds and planning great things.

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Fishin’ Days

Last Saturday was spectacular, weather wise. Cable and I were in the country luckily, our last free weekend for weeks to come.  Cable announced Friday evening that he was getting up early the next morning and going fishing, and would I like to go with him. Not one to venture out into the misty cold morning unless forced I thought about his offer for a moment before I said yes. Don’t get me wrong, I love mornings, sort of. As long as I get enough sleep the night before, which is hit or miss these days.
I told him that if I woke up when he did I would go, but not to wake me intentionally. Funny but just as he was making his way out our back door with his fishing gear in tow my eyes popped open. I hurried downstairs, groggily, and caught him just in time. He wasn’t in the mood to wait for me, it was already 7:45, but being the wonderful husband he has always been, he complied.
I usually don’t attend these fishing outings. I don’t fish, but I do appreciate the serenity fishing evokes. I figured I would go along and take some much needed fall foliage shots that would no longer be available after this weekend since the leaves were already at their peak.
Our destination this morning was the Bullpasture River Gorge, just about 15 miles from our house. The gorge, as locals refer, is a beautiful bucolic wildlife management area located officially in Williamsville, Virginia. The park is open to the public and at one time the summer camp stationed just miles away would swim there. Swimming and camping has been prohibited for reasons unexplained in recent years. But the evidence of rope swing and plastic yard chairs tells otherwise.
The entrance to the lower river bed starts with a 100 foot long wooden suspension bridge that, when crossed, gives you the feeling of one too many cocktails.  Flanked with quintessential wire hand rails you can almost imagine you’re in the depths of a exotic rain forest. Once over and down the steep stairs the well worn paths in the lush dirt guides you through your options of sites. I always choose the popular route to the rope swing. There used to be a platform that some of the locals installed but present day legalities have negated that attraction, hence it has been removed. Across from the swing is where the water is the icy coldest. There’s a spring creek that feeds into the Bullpasture, bubbling and gurgling out from the depths of a cave not visible, but can be accessed, if one is brave enough to endure the swim it takes to find the opening.
I left Cable about a hundred yards up river, casting away. That beautiful, graceful action of silent pursuit, just the swoosh, swoosh of his line, man against nature. A lovely sight indeed. Making my way around the hidden bend, a rough and craggy exposed river bed with time worn river rocks made for an interesting scavenger hunt. Even though I’ve visited this place many times before, I never tire of the fascinating rocks and plants that live there.
This morning was a gem. Snapping crisp dry air, a much welcome exchange from the previous week, had made it’s presence known by the low temperature and, eventually, a clear blue sky. When we first arrived there was thick fog. I was excited to capture a few moody, atmospheric shots, but as always with fog, it was fleeting, so few were adequate for keeping.
Where the path meets the river again there is a huge outcrop of limestone cliffs looming above. A very dramatic scene that humbles me and fills me with gratitude and wonder.
I stood for a long time, watching the sun sneak around the outcrop, igniting the yellow leaves of the maple trees in the distance, backlit and glowing. The fog was just wisps of steam skittering above the water now, hard to see really, and I was disappointed it was not visible in the camera. I shot a couple of dozen shots, making adjustments on exposure, trying my hardest to get just the right combination of light and depth of field.
It was so quiet that morning. As with most times visiting there, not another soul around. The silence of the place was interrupted only but the sound of a barking dog, somewhere, probably miles away. I decided this day I would venture farther than I’ve gone before through the overgrown forest still green and lush even in mid October. A wet late summer to thank.
The sun was rising now, bright streaks of light filtered through the already bare saplings of Birch, Oak and a few Beech trees. I again, stopped and pondered the scene, thought about God, and shot some more. I thanked the force for all my blessings in my life. I am thankful for this opportunity. I was enthralled in the moment, a rarity of our modern lives it seems, being in the moment. Continuing on the path took me to where the grass was over grown and the path disappeared. Turning to make my way back to the bridge I chose another route, a path above my present position, but one I knew would lead to the same place. This path was darker, deeper in the forest. It was lined with huge pine trees with bows that dangled daintily on the edge of the walkway. I felt like I was on a cat walk or some other special walkway, leading to my fifteen minutes of fame. There were of course the obligatory downed trees that required an aerobic hop to clear them.
Surprisingly not many creatures were stirring, not one squirrel or dear for that matter, unusual for sure. No matter though, the silence in and of its self was a welcome accoutrement.
Arriving back to the suspension bridge I could see Cable had made his way to the piece of river just under me. I hurried back to the car to get the 200mm lens for I knew if was now or never to get the shot I planned all morning. As I crossed over the car, Cable and I exchanged hellos, but quietly, so as not to disturb the fish. I changed out my lens and slowly crept back to the middle just above him. It was a perfect position with just a hint of fall color behind him. He looked very official, decked out in all his fly fishing regalia and the perfect element for scale.
After more shooting, but not much fish catching, we loaded up the car and drove back home. When we cleared the valley and the road opened up to the flat pasture land of the farms nearby the sun was blearing brightly. The fog was but a memory, morning chill all but gone. I asked Cable about his lack of fish, he just grunted and said, “must be fished out by now, I’ll go to my other spot next time”. And so it goes for the intrepid fisherman, always looking for the next big catch.

Belowis an excerpt from Wikipedia.com

The platform has been removed, but the chairs and rope swing remain

describing the area with more specifics. Feel free to read on here or visit the wiki site under Bullpasture River.
All the images were taken that day by me.

Highland County is located in the Allegheny Mountains midway between the eastern border of West Virginia and western border of the famed Shenandoah Valley. The headwaters of the James and Potomac Rivers are located here. The contrast of the high, narrow ridges forested in hardwoods and the broad, open valleys is breathtaking.

The Cowpasture rises in northeastern Highland County and flows generally southwestwardly, initially between Bullpasture Mountain and Shaws Ridge through a narrow valley floor near the George Washington National Forest. It is joined in eastern Highland County by Shaws Fork and gains breadth but has little depth. At Summers Mountain (a high point along Bullpasture Mountain) the river passes through a narrow gorge before entering a broad valley in Bath County, where at the community of Williamsville it collects the Bullpasture River, which greatly adds to its volume. For 20 miles (32 km) from this confluence the Cowpasture is joined by many small streams, and flows in increasingly wide bends in eastern Bath County. Downstream of the community of Millboro Springs the river becomes deep enough for year round boating; there are several boat launch sites along the river in Bath County. In eastern Alleghany County the Cowpasture is joined by Simpson Creek and shortly enters Botetourt County, where it joins the Jackson River to form the James River near the town of Iron Gate.

The Indians had named the river Walatoola, which means “winding waters”, describing the great bends in the river. However, when British settlers arrived in the 1720s they named it the Cowpasture.
There is an interesting story about how the Cowpasture and neighboring rivers the Bullpasture River and Calfpasture River came to be so named. It is said that the Indians once had stolen a herd of settlers’ cattle and were driving them westward into the mountains. The calves naturally tired first; they were left behind at the river which is now the Calfpasture. The cows were driven on farther, but they, too, had to be abandoned, the valley in which they were left became the valley of the Cowpasture. The bulls, being somewhat hardier, were still able to continue westward; they finally were left at the river which is known as the Bullpasture.

The Bullpasture River is a 26.2-mile-long tributary of the Cowpasture River of Virginia in the United States.
The Bullpasture River flows through Highland County, Virginia from its headwaters on the boundary between Virginia and West Virginia. It flows southwest between Bullpasture Mountain and Jack Mountain until joining the Cowpasture River in Bath County, Virginia, below the hamlet of Williamsville.
The Cowpasture River joins the Jackson River to form the James River

Cable practicing his casting

The remnants of morning fog slowly fading

The Bullpasture River

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Animal Houses

Today I discovered what every mother fears, my son has grown up and officially moved away from his former life of parental ties. I have been dreading this officious moment from day one, and anxiously awaiting it’s arrival too.

My son is now sharing a house, near his college campus. His education has been of the al a carte variety, so what exact year he’s in no one knows for sure. I believe he will graduate, someday in the near future.  We have a great relationship, in spite of the tonnage of water under the bridge.  He’s attending a university about an hour and a half away from me. Same distance from his dad. I went yesterday, for the first time, to visit him in his “new” home away from his dad’s home, the only constant home he has known for his short life. His new home is the quintessential animal house occupied by frat brothers, all of which took pledges to band together as one unit, to form an allegiance in the name of good will, and lots of keg parties.
Upon entering this fine abode, an ancient cape cod style single family home I was immediately greeted by a giant Styrofoam fish, a hammer head shark I believe, hanging over the t.v. on the very paneled wall.  My weary eyes immediately turned  to the deep red carpet, stained beyond recognition with years of historic and I’m sure epic proportions of party material. There were the myriad of cast off couches, hand made coffee tables, dumpster office chairs and much beer memorabilia.  As I stood, afraid to sit on who knows what, I wondered how we, me and him ever got to this point. It just seemed seconds ago I took that picture of him that sits on my dressing table. The one that’s a three quarter shot, him standing back toward me, a glimmer of an eerie smile in view, he all of three years old.  It was a blistering hot day that day and I decided a good day to visit a botanical garden for pictures. Evidence of temperature showed in his white blond hair, wet from sweat. I remember that moment so clearly. I remember my aggravation with it all. The heat, my determination to “keep him clean” for pictures, as if proof I was a good mother. Confucius must have said it, or if not he should have, hind site is as clear as mountain water. Given the opportunity to do it all again I would say to hell with cleanliness, to hell with posed shots of frozen smiles. Let’s wallow in our decadence, lets get dirty and really enjoy the moment.
I believe in the adage, one can never go home again.  As I ponder this idea I feel a twinge of grief for my son and in a way hope that it is not true for him. The paradigm of the rights of passage from boy to man is as exciting to me as it is bitter sweet. I see him on his daily beat, going to class, albeit summer class, he just can’t get enough of school now and finds it difficult to leave. I see him being exposed to the all too real adult grind of grocery shopping, paying bills and learning to deal with other people in a living environment, like roommates. I hold vigil for him and have talks at length with my higher power to take care of him for me and keep him strong and resilient from the temptations of the indiscretions of youth. I feel committed to the thought that we as parental units only want our children to be other than us, to be the people we wished we’d become, to be better. I believe my kid, my son now a man, has accomplished that feat. He is better, especially at this age, than I ever could have been. Yes, I hear you, it’s all nature v. nurture. I hope his upbringing, as screwy at times as it was, helped produce his ability to diffuse a situation, his ability to be the voice of reason, his ability to withstand peer pressure and be the designated driver, or so I’m told.  I hope I had something to do with, or maybe nothing to do with his strong convictions, big heart, and empathetic demeanor.
My heart cannot hold the pride I feel for my handsome, well groomed, friendly, caring son. He is better than me, better than his dad, and for that I am grateful.  I know in my deepest recesses his future children have a chance to have “it” better too.
As my husband, my son’s step dad, and I drove away yesterday I was conflicted between feelings of pride and sorrow. My thoughts were filled with concerns like; will he eat dinner tonight or just skip it and eat buffalo wings at the poker tournament. Will he ever change his sheets? Will he catch a disease from that disgusting bathroom? Then my thoughts became more esoteric revolving around emotions of loneliness, fear and an overwhelming sense of disconnect one may feel when cutting the ties from parental safe keeping. I must not linger in the stagnant pool of my melancholy.  My self inflected vortex of fears and regrets.  I must remember this child, who is better, stronger, and more attuned then I, will be all right in spite of me, his dad, and all the ugliness he has endured over the years. I will just bask in the spotlight of this milestone, this right of passage to manhood, and be happy that I’ll never have to use that shower.

The images were shot with my iphone.

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Everything Maple at Highland’s Maple Festival

Every year, in the second and third weekends of March, Highland County Virginia holds it’s extremely popular Maple Festival. When the “opening” of the trees is celebrated and maple products of all forms are offered to the 50,000 plus visitors that make their way across the mountains. Highland County, affectionately known as Virginia’s “Little Switzerland” is a rural, unspoiled region located high in western Virginia. The town of Monterey, established in 1848, is the county seat of Highland County and also the home of the festival. With the highest mean elevation east of the Mississippi River, neighboring Bath County rises from 1,140 feet to 4,546 feet in Highland County, making for a chilly climate and ideal conditions for maple syrup production. Cold nights and warmer days of late February begins the process.
The little town of Monterey is usually a sleepy hamlet consisting of 158 people. Suffice it to say it is bursting at the seams with humanity during the maple festival but is generally well planned with no major traffic hassles to be noted. The major attraction of the two weekends are the vendors wares of course but the town offers plenty to see and explore. The Highland Center hosts musical performances from local Bluegrass bands and the very earthy Little Switzerland Cloggers, if you’ve ever seen or heard of the “River Dance” troop, you’ll understand what cloggers are.
The Highland Inn is a gigantic wooden structure, a crumbling beauty that’s been the center piece of the town since 1904. Built and operated by SW Crummett the Inn was known as “the pride of the mountains” in it’s day and remains a destination in it’s own right.
Maple syrup production in Highland has been a part of it’s heritage since pre colonial times when American Indians would gather sap from broken Maple branches and cook over open fires. Today syrup production with modern reverse osmosis equipment  concentrates water sap to maple syrup. A labor intensive process it takes approximately forty gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup.
Cable and I make our way to the festival just about every year. We are not surprised by what we find there, but still look forward to seeing the familiar vendors, folks that sell hand made furniture, hand made knitted hats and scarfs, hand made quilts, walking sticks, bird houses, antiques, wooden pop guns, stained glass, pottery, baskets, paintings, candles,  and lots of jewelry stands. Then there’s the food vendors. Deep fried pork rinds, deep fried Orio’s, funnel cakes, country ham biscuits, buckwheat pancakes, trout dinners, chicken dinners and everything maple. If you like carnival food, it’s all here. A regular cornucopia of crafts as in any festival, there is lots of junk to be had. We usually don’t buy much, but still enjoy walking around and looking. Once in a while Cable will buy a funnel cake and usually souvenir bottles of Maple syrup for friends. It is heartening to see the little town bustling, collecting all that city money, much needed revenue.
Besides the festivities in Monterey and The Sugar Tree Country Store in McDowell is a really cute authentic country store. Owned and operated by Mennonites, Sugar Tree is a well oiled machine that churns out maple syrup by the ton and hosts many other items of interest for the passing tourist. If you’ve come this far, you have to visit the sugar camps. One in particular, actually neighbors of ours as far as the crow flies is Eagle’s Camp. A family run operation that’s been in business for over 200 years offers jugs of syrup, local honey, home made soap and lots of various gifts. There’s an open shop that shows how the syrup is made for edification purposes. Several other camps operate in the area, check out the chamber of commerce’s web site for more info.
All in all the Maple Festival is the inauguration for the start of spring. Each year we usually have one weekend of good weather and one weekend of bad, either left over snow or lot’s of mud from rain. This year the weather gods smiled on Highland and allowed for two good weather weekends. I’m sure the folks who sit at their booths awaiting visitors and their money were very grateful.

Thanks to Cable, The Sugar Tree and The HCCC for the use of their pictures.



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For the Love of Snow

If you have read my last post you know that I am not a big fan of the snow.
Every late fall I gear up for the complete and utter dread of  impending frigid temperatures. However, I will say that I am not the type to pass on an opportunity to take pictures of pretty scenes. There is nothing more beautiful even to me in landscape photography than freshly fallen snow. In our other life we own a house in the mountains. Most winters in our mountainous area average about 35 inches of snow, give or take. Most recently we had a minor snow storm. Just about 4 inches fell over night. When I awoke, the fog was drifting in between the clouds and sun glinting off the fresh snow, quite a beautiful sight. I decided I had better take advantage of this gorgeous day and take some pictures before the temperamental sun decided to take a powder . Layers of clothes were in place as well as my trusty hiking boots and thrift store parka, off into the wild white yonder.
Fortunately our mountain neighbors are very generous in allowing Cable and I to take advantage of their abundance of land. We are free to hike whenever we please, and at our own risk in hunting season, which on most occasions we pass.

Once I’m past our barnyard and out of our gate it’s open territory. The snow is thick and wet. My feet feel very heavy and walking is laborious. The ten pounds of camera and lens add to the resistance. The creek that I must cross over has never, since we have occupied the property been completely frozen. On this day there is a substantial amount of ice making a nice ledge for me to stop and shoot down stream with the confidence of not getting wet. It’s much warmer than I anticipated, my thrift store down parka, is almost too warm. The fog is still apparent but by the looks of the sky, will be scarce soon. The snow is still attached to tree limbs making the Hemlock trees seem as if they are bowing at my presence. I shoot a few various shots and move on ward up to the open fields. I walk on into what appears now as very thin sunlight. Cloaked in a veil of clouds and fog. The fog isn’t sure if he should stay or go. It’s still too early to leave the party.

I find myself in front of the Gallager’s sugar house, now nothing more than a facade. At one time a horse drawn sleigh would carry buckets of raw maple syrup from the mighty Maple trees that inhabit the area to their sugar house to process into refined Maple Syrup. Highland County still holds it’s tradition of a Maple Festival every March in honor of its bounty. (http://www.highlandcounty.org/)

As I walk I think of a story published in our local newspaper, The Recorder, that noted the  winter of 1890. Epic proportions of snow, just about three feet bombarded the area. The narrator of the story, Charles McNulty said that he and his family were trapped inside their home for three days awaiting a break in the storm. An eloquent rendition of a cautionary tale of mother nature.
Just days after this storm, came another bringing ice with audacity. Noting below, Mr. McNulty had come to terms with the storm.

“Two weeks elapsed. The weather had not moderated. The temperature remained sub-zero and hovered around 15 degrees below day and night. My sister and I were recovering from our first fright of the storm and were beginning to enjoy it. No school to go to – crackling wood fires in wide fireplaces – plenty to eat – an occasional run out on the ice which meant slipping and sliding  and falling and laughter, then back by the big open fires – cracking nuts and roasting apples. What a good time!”
His tone would change as after the third week, provisions were running low. McNulty talks of readying himself for the trip to the grist mill.
“The next morning I was up while the stars were still shining with great brilliance, for it was now clear and cold and still, all snow gone from the air. When the sun began to cast his rays over the glistening white hills and mountains it was difficult to tell where the earth ended and the sky began. My spirits were as high and my anticipation as great as any I have ever felt. With my grist I mounted the rough shod horse and, over drifts, fences and hills, proceeded to the mill. Sure enough it had been frozen up and idle, but just that morning the miller, who was a hard-working and enterprising man, had gotten the turbine wheel loose from the ice. The swift current through the sluices had not frozen. He was grinding grain! The miller was very kind. When he got over his surprise, he said, “I’ll grind your grist of wheat now.” It was soon done and when it was finished and I was ready to go, he said, “Has your mother any corn meal?” When I said, “No, not much,” he said, “Here is a bag of corn meal. Take it to your mother.”
The story in it’s entirety can be read on The Recorders’ web site note below.
I love this story and relish it every time I read it. Just the thought of this family, huddled together, waiting out the storm humbles me. I’ve seen snow in April and even early May in some of the shaded parts of the hill sides there. Sends a shiver for sure.  Most winters the average wind speed is around 30 miles per hour, on a bad day it’s 50. Seems as if being in the middle of two ridges just funnels the wind right through to our homestead. But to date we have not experienced anything with the attitude of the storm of 1890.
I walk to the edge of the neighbors property that meets ours on the far end. I see our house from his vantage point, trying to imagine that I don’t live there, but am a voyeur of sorts, looking into someone else’s world. Looks like a pretty nice world indeed I think. I turn to make my way back the way I came. I see a red dot in the far distance. It’s Cable in his red corduroy shirt. He has come looking for me,  sort of, and just wants to meet me on my walk.
We are so fortunate to have each other, to have our place in this other world. The beauty and the quiet of the snow muffles what is left of extraneous sounds. Ravens circle above our heads, cawing and arguing with each other. It’s so quiet  that when they fly overhead, you can hear each wing flap. We meet and he gives me a kiss on my cold cheek. His face is warm and scratchy. I am happy to see him as always.
There is a special magic in those mountains. Even in the worst of weather one feels secure and gratified. The wood stove cranking out thousands of collective BTU’s keeping our home cozy and warm. The fat white cat curled in “her” chair. Never budging more than a moment or two just long enough to make  her way to the food bowl and then back to sleep, hoping to awake to spring.
The tomb like quite is sometimes alarming. Most times a luxuriant gift, not to be ignored, but acknowledged.
I am so thankful that I did not squander this morning, but arose to greet it with respect and revere it’s fleeting presence. These early morning attitudes are good days, when much is accomplished. I cannot say I approach each new day with vigor and haste. Some days I tarry.  But when I rise to the occasion of an early morning, I feel as if I’m on vacation and don’t want to miss one single second of it! Even when, and sometimes because of the snow.


Fading Fast

Picture 1 of 10

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Surviving Winter Through a Memory

Wig Wam in it's Day

Picture 1 of 18

by Pam Risdon

I hate the wintertime. I hate having to put on three layers of clothes just to be able to step out the door with out freezing. I hate having to scrape my windshield and or shovel walkways. I hate everything about the long 3-5 month long hibernation that takes place, because although I want to sleep away the entire miserable lack of warmth, I can’t. It is the winter of my discontent.
That said, I still long to be outside taking pictures of pretty scenes.  If you know winter in DC, you know that beauty is rare in January.
I find myself getting restless, in a cooped up way and need to find something, anything to shoot outdoors. So even though I detest going outside, outside I must go.
In college I frequented many a junk yard, yes that’s correct as in JUNKED CARS. I just love all those tragic beauties longing to tell their stories to anyone who will listen. Cable and I went on a bit of an adventure recently to a well known junk yard close to home in Brandywine, MD. With it’s name sake as destination, we head to Brandywine Auto Parts.
Located on Route 301, we shoot some there there decide to make a day of it and head down to Southern Maryland. Per usual we have to leave the house at the crack of dawn, because any photographer will tell you,  very early or very late light is best for shooting out doors. Now it’s January, and it’s cold. It’s even colder at 8 am. We trudge out with our best winter parkas. Arriving early we have the place to ourselves. The counter girl must be all of 18, and not yet fully awake. She gives us a sideways glance, wondering I’m sure just what these weirdoes are looking for.
BAP is a very tidy, very well organized junk yard with a wide selection of doors, rear ends, truck beds and many other assorted pieces of vehicles one might want.
We make a wide sweep and move to the end of the piles of crunched metal and glass. Making our way past mostly 1990 vintage models, I move quickly to the more antique section. I am drawn to the older assortment of scrap heaps, just for the pure visual aesthetic.
There are neat rows of worn tires, lightly dusted with hoarfrost. Looking like huge chocolate donuts, sprinkled with powdered sugar. There’s a lonely rusting school bus, windshield gone, spit balls dried. Crinkled and crushed tractors, construction equipment mangled almost indistinguishable. An ancient RV looks as if it were hit by a train. I hope no one was home at the time. Old run of the mill, not very exciting Pontiac’s and Mercurys sit slumped into the frozen dirt. But in all it’s stillness, one gets the feeling of the speed and raw power that it must of taken to completely destroy these weighty amalgamations of rubber and steel. A Cadillac sits, completely roasted to a cinder. I can’t even imagine the calamity that caused it. Then there’s a Camaro sitting front end completely separate from the back, both air bags exposed and draped over the dash board like two tearful eyes. I shoot away and find myself in my zone. A place I crave more than anything this time of year when I’m limited by the authority of nature. The barren landscape is eerily absent of people, like a haunted parking lot where the owners of such vehicles have been swept away to oblivion, and their toys left behind to fend for themselves.
After an hour or so we decide to call it a morning and head back to our car, luckily finding it as it was when we left it, in one piece. With a few good shots in the can so to speak, we’re satisfied with our finds.
The day is young, it’s only 9:30. We decide to head out to LaPlata, Md.
My family lived just beyond LaPlata briefly when I was a kid. My Dad actually grew up there and my mom lived with her family not too far from LaPlata in Nanjamoy. Just recently I learned that my parents met at the LaPlata Movie theater, which to my surprise, still exists given the fact that the town was hit by an F4 tornado just three years ago, the second in the town’s history.

LaPlata is about 35 miles from WDC. Located on the Potomac river,  a small town populated to date by about 9,000 people. The area is frequented by folks searching for Maryland Blue Crabs and seafood delights. Just outside of LaPlata town proper, further down 301 in Newburg, is a very popular restaurant and destination of sorts called Captain Billy’s. (http://www.captbillys.com/) Directly adjacent to Billy’s was a rival crab hub called Robertson’s Crab House, but since it’s hey day in the 50’s it’s been absorbed by Captn. Billy’s. My mother was a waitress at Robertson’s when crabs were bigger than a duck pin bowling ball. On weekends my family would eat lunch at Robertson’s. My sister and I would stock pile our crab claw meat in those neat little paper cups with vinegar, and saltine crackers and drink real Coke-colas, ahh the summertime.
Back to winter. We drove down Charles Street on to the town cemetery where my Grandmother is buried along with various family members on my dad’s side. My Grandmother Murphy’s father immigrated to LaPlata from Ireland before she was born. My Great-Grandfather left his established family in Ireland for reasons unknown. I suspect that the potato famine had something to do with it. He met my Great-Grand-mother who was from Bryanstown, Md. and the rest as they say, is history. My dad, also known as Snorter, is the quintessential native Southern Marylander and has the dialect to prove it. He still has a couple of friends remaining there. With names like, Peck and Clark and Squeaky. Peck’s father, Mannie, ran moonshine through Southern Maryland and was incarcerated for a while prior to his career in heavy equipment maintenance.
Back up Charles Street led us to the LaPlata Movie Theater.  My most vivid memory revolves around the movie “The Tingler”, with Vincent Price. That movie scared the crap out of me with it’s thudding heart beat sound pulsing through out the theater. I was only 5 years old! No need for movie censors though. My sister and I would be dropped off by my parents with no concern of ill intentioned pedophiles. This was 1963, no one worried about such things then. We would sit in the bottom of the theater being that we were white kids. Segregation was the norm and the black folks were assigned to the balcony. Segregation divided many aspects of life. My dad was a regular at many drinking establishments in LaPlata that literally were divided by a wall for each race.
The movie theater is still there today transformed into a play house (www.ptplayers.org) with performances staring local talent.
Waldorf, the town just tens miles or so north of LaPlata was a true destination in the 50’s and 60’s. A mini Vegas Strip, Waldorf had gambling, slot machines and bars galore.  Sin City of the day. There’s still a liquor store on every corner.
My Aunt Ethel worked at the Wigwam, a “night club” as they were known then, offering slots and liquor. The buildings facade had a big glass teepee jutting out from the front. I only vaguely remember the place. What I do remember are the Shirley Temples that I sucked down while my dad drank beer and my mom visited with her sister, in between slinging drinks to the drunks at the bar.
We drove by the lot where the WigWam used to sit, now all that was left standing was the sign for Wigwam Bakery, it’s final incarnation.
Another long gone party place was The Stardust Restaurant and Motel. Big names like Elvis and Frank Sinatra headlined to rival it’s big sister in Las Vegas. Gone now too. I’m not sure where it once stood, strip malls cover pretty much all of Waldorf now.
When I was six years old, we lived in a house in Port Tobacco. I hear ya, where do they get these names? Port Tobacco and LaPlata were both once the county seat, but when the part of the river that used to be a true Port silted up, the county seat moved to LaPlata. The name LaPlata was given by Colonel Samuel Chapman, a wealthy land owner of 6,000 acres after his return from travels in Argentina and the LaPlata river found there.
We decide to venture up Port Tobacco Road hoping to find the entrance to my childhood home. When we lived there, there was a big rock painted red at the entrance of the drive way. Much to my disappointment we didn’t find the rock or the house. We did find Chapel Point Park. Apparently Washingtonians would venture to the park by steamboat as well as to Marshall Hall, an early version of Kings Dominion. Chapel Point is on the Potomac river. Dances were held there to crown the next season’s Queen Nicotina, apropos for an area that was predominately tobacco farms. There was a hotel with facilities for social functions as well as a small beach for swimming with picnic areas and even a roller-skating rink. All that we found was a boarded up house on a large empty field. At the end of the dirt road that traveled through the property was a sandy boat ramp that led to the Potomac.
We parked and walked a short way along the shore. Ice lay across the shallows and in the small pools in the marsh. A cold wind blew, competing with the warm sun, the wind won and we retreated to our car.
I can’t say that our day trip totally relinquished my winter madness. But it did for a short time give me reason to pause and at least imagine the summers we spent eating crabs and riding in very large cars with all the windows down. It’s weird how one’s memory works. When I think back on my childhood sometimes I try very hard to remember every detail of certain events. I suppose my trips back to these places are a hopeful attempt to fill in the gaps. I believe in the old adage, you can never go home again. But that doesn’t mean we can’t retrace our beaten paths back to a familiar place and renew their sense of timelessness. A point in time when we viewed the world from the back seat of our family’s car and our parents were the only authority figures we needed and would answer all our questions and keep us safe.
I’m not going to feel sorry for the time that has passed or the so called progress that  funny, unique area has experienced. I’m just gonna leave it as it is.

Check out more pictures from this post in our “Personal Work” Gallery

Thanks to the links below for the use of their pictures of the Wig Wam

Pictures from BAP and others shot by Pam Risdon



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Giuseppe Arcimboldo

Ahh, to be a roman emperor. What a life it must of been for Maxmilian II (1527-1576 ). He presided over the Austrian House of Habsburg and became the Holy Roman Emperor in 1564.  A well educated multi linguistic Catholic, he was known for his religious tolerance toward Protestantism. Max was particularly interested in botany
and natural sciences, so much so that he had several acres dedicated to zoos with
a menagerie of animals and botanical gardens on his estate.
Being a Roman Emperor carries a certain amount of weight especially  in regards to the progress of world discoveries. The Emperor commissioned  Giuseppe Arcimboldo, a well known painter at the time, a rock star in world of the middle ages artists, to document various plants and animals for scientific study. Among some of Arcimbolo’s renowned works are the infamous “Four Seasons”.
An allegorical body of work depicting the four seasons, Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter. Each piece a form in profile of a anthropomorphic figure. More puzzle than portrait, they were created in the mid 16th century. Autumn no longer exist, but the three other seasons remain. I recently viewed Arcimboldo’s eighteen paintings on loan at the National Gallery of Art. They are stunning. Brimming with fine detail. Pure unadulterated eye candy for anyone who favors lush realism with a heavy dose of the bizarre.
There was a second identical set of the four seasons also commissioned by Maxmilian to give to his VlP mignons. Uncannily identical as the first set in every detail, and equally as beautiful. They are also showing at the National Until January 2011. The second set is on loan from the Louvre. An interesting fact that I recently learned is that when works of art are loaned out to other institutions the loner has complete say in how the images will be hung, type of lighting, what kind and how much security will be issued and so on. The second set from the Louvre are easily viewed but have a small rope and stanchion in front of them. Many of the pieces are hung with glass, also a measure for further preservation.
Other works in the show are of botanicals from various artist of the day. Large and small books with beautifully preserved detail. Two earthenware pieces and a half dozen various small animals cast in metal, a crab and frog, are two of the set.
Also included in the show are works from the artist described as “Reversible Pictures”.
Originally conceived as political satire and subtle commentary at various dignitaries, the paintings hold double meaning in their concept. Shown as either bowls of vegetables, or platters of meat in one respect, but if hung completed turned 180 degrees, the images turned into grotesque faces or jolly portraits of patrons that caught the artist fancy as subject matter.
Arcimboldo’s later years were spent serving the Emperor Rudolf II (1552-1612), who succeeded his father,  Maximilion II in 1576. In 1583 Rudolf moved the imperial capital from Vienna to Prague. Attraction grew to this new found metropolis that drew artist, philosophers, scientists, and mathematicians form across Europe. Having more interest in the Arts than political matters Rudolf acquired one of the most substantial art collections of the day. It included thousand of paintings by fifteenth and sixteenth century artists among them Arcimboldo who’s work represents the relationship that developed between growing scientific interests in Rudolf’s reign.
The National Gallery, up until this very year, owned no representation of Giuseppe Arcimboldo. This show marks a milestone as the acquistion of “Four Seasons in One Head” was completed. The piece is a compilation of the four seasons, as the title states. One of Arcimboldos last works, an inscription of Arcimboldos name is marked in the wood beneath the bark that has been stripped away. Speculation has it that the image represents a moment for the artist of meloncohly and that it could possibly be a self portrait. An indication of feelings that the artist was past his prime, and in the winter of his career.






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Irving Penn, a Photographer’s Photographer

While recently looking through a book I bought at a thrift store I noticed a portrait of Spencer Tracy. The photo was shot by Irving Penn a well known studio photographer. His career spanned over fifty years. That image piqued my  interest in his work. Penn has always been an important photographer for up and coming artist the least bit interested in mastering studio lighting and techniques.

Irving Penn died October 7, 2009, at the age of 92. He once said “a beautiful print is a thing in itself, not just a halfway house on the way to the page”

Penn was a photographer’s photographer. He spent many hours creating prints with the platinum salts process. A technique also known as platinotype which renders the widest tonal range of any printing method using chemical development. The process is manually applied by the printer, noted here _ “Over the years I must have spent thousands of hours silently brushing on the liquid coatings, preparing each sheet in anticipation of reaching the perfect print,” Penn wrote in his 1991 book “Passage: A Work Record.”
I am the proud owner of a platinum print from one of my favorite teachers at the Corcoran, the now deceased Steve Szabo. The print is truly beautiful and has a very tactile quality that only a natural fiber print can exude.

Penns multifaceted style ranges from high profile fashion photography, to still life, to National Geographic quality location portraiture as high art of Aboriginal tribesmen.
Born in Plainfield, N.J. in 1917, Penn studied at the Philadelphia Museum School of Industrial Art from 34-38’, and then worked as an assistant at Harper’s Bazaar magazine in 39’. In 1944 the war called and Penn left the magazine to join forces serving with the American Field Service in Italy and then as a photographer in India. He returned home in 1946 and began work at Vogue magazine that year.

The 1950’s brought Penn to fashion photography. Mr. Penn’s photographs appeared on over 150 covers for Vogue magazine.  Photographing the famous and infamous, faces that became Faces because of Penns exposure. Miles Davis, Spencer Tracy, Georgia O’Keeffe, Picasso and even the Hells Angels. But he also made claim to the ordinary. He published a series of images from around 1951 featuring plumbers, salesmen and other blue collar folk in New York and Europe. His technique for bringing out the true essence of his sitters was one of sadistic method. He simply held his subjects captive over a number of hours until they were forced to succumb to his prying lens and let down their inhibitions.

“Sensitive people faced with the prospect of a camera portrait put on a face they think is one they would like to show the world. …Very often what lies behind the facade is rare and more wonderful than the subject knows or dares to believe.” —Irving Penn, 1975.

Another milestone occurred for Penn in 1950 and that was his marriage to fashion model Lisa Fonssagrives. The two met on a photo shoot and two years later had a son, Tom Penn who is a artist in his own right specializing in metal design.

Fonssagrives apparently was his favorite subject and appears in dozens of his photographs through out their long enduring relationship. She died in 1992.

My favorite images of Irving Penn has to be of various famous icons confined in a very small triangle of a space, corner shots. Obviously made on set but lit very naturally. Speculation on his specific choice of lighting apparatus is either from a bank of sky lights, letting in natural daylight, or from “hot lights” similar to what was used on movie sets.
The Spencer Tracy image is one of these images.

Penns avant-garde subject matter of cigarette butts where displayed in an exhibit at MOMA in 1975. The images received mixed reviews as elevating the most mundane subject matter to high art. Some considered the body of work to be totally self indulgent.

I remember the first time I saw one of those cigarette butt images . I thought how daring that had to have been at the time when they were shot in 1947. The photographer used a large format negative, similar to what Ansel Adams used for his landscape shots. Large format cameras render a depth of field and detail that far surpasses what the human eye can discern which lends to the feeling of iconography of such banal items.

Thirteen of Penn’s photographs were auctioned October 2009 at Christie’s, including “Guedras in the Wind,”  (A 1971 image of two Moroccan women, a platinum-palladium print, flush-mounted on aluminum)’ it sold for the  price of $43,750 . A Penn photo, “Cuzco Children,” sold for $529,000 last year, including an auction house premium of 20 percent.


Guedras in the Wind

Lisa Fonssagrives

Lisa Fonssagrives


Irving Penn with tribesmen

Penn’s cigarette buttsPenn's cigarette butts

President John F. Kennedy

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Hiking at Thorn Creek

Two hundred and fifty feet. That’s the height of the cliffs we climbed last Saturday.
Cable and I and our country neighbors and friends, Deb and Robyn Mixon set out for a little nature tour of Thorn Creek, WVA and Troy cave.. Those two are experienced spelunkers and have hiked the patch of Thorn Creek many times on their way to Troy cave. The weather was perfect  for a hike, crystal blue skies. However the leaves in WVA have long since gone in this second week of November.
Thorn Creek is nestled between limestone cliffs  approximately 3,000 feet in elevation. The water is as expected, limpid and as cold as charity. As mentioned Cable fly fishes there regularly donned with rubber waders and other fishing regalia, looking like a figure out of a Rockwell scene. His fishing has improved and claims have been made that he caught about a half dozen brook trout at his last outing.
We started out pretty early the day of, and trudged our way to the top of one ridge trying to find level ground to proceed on to Deb’s recollection of where Troy cave was located. Level ground was not in abundance but enough so that we could walk without much effort. The scenery was beautiful sans leaves. Once on top of an outcrop of rocks the view was amazing, and with bare trees more accessible. We sat at various places to take it all in, then continued on our quest for Troy Cave, as well as School House cave just a couple hundred feet away from each other.

In 2007 West Virginia had a total of 4, 274 known caves. In Pendleton County alone there are 396 caves, or 9% of the state total.
Early cave exploration became heightened by the discovery and use of nitrate rich earth in combination with potash salts, also called saltpeter. These two compounds were mixed together and used in gunpowder production.
And I would be remiss not to mention the great Dr. Arthur Krause who made the first descent into Hellhole Cave, located in Germany Valley, WVA. in 1929.  Because of Dr. Krause’s exploration of Hellhole, the District of Colombia Speleological Society took note of the importance of his findings and drafted a proposed constitution for a National Speleological Society. The NSS has grown to a 12,000 member non-profit organization with over 250 local chapters or grottos. 1

Besides the obvious view and natural beauty of the ridges there, the rock formations are fascinating. Fossils are aplenty  as in most of the Appalachian mountain region were our place is located.
While researching for this entry I found a book  called:
Fossil Collection in the Mid-Atlantic States by Jaspur Burns.
http://jhupbooks.press.jhu.edu I’ve taken an paragraph of his words to  further give view on the area.
“Thorn Creek is an excellent trout stream and is jealously guarded by private landowners” ( Cable fishes there regularly and has no problem what so ever with  parking nor does he ever see any other human beings for that matter.) “The road along Thorn Creek is bordered by limestone cliffs for several miles in this area. I have explored only one small stretch of a half mile or so and found fossils throughout.

Most of the specimens may be collected whole from the surface, having been weathered out of their limestone matrices. This makes for easy collecting and beautiful fossils. Though most specimens are fairly small, they are abundant and preservation of detail is excellent.”
The author adds, “ Sponge fossils also turn up occasionally. Their wrinkled surfaces are reminiscent of hard corals, but they lack the internal structures, known as septa, evident in the coral fossils.
This is one of my favorite mountain localities, as much for the ease of collecting and beauty of the Thorn Creek gorge as the handsome and interesting fossils that are found here.” His list of fossils that he has found are :
Calcareous Algae

We did finally make it to Troy cave, the entrance collapsed long ago. According to our friends there are quite a few artifacts other wise known as “treasure” left behind from past cavers. Another entrance was found that belongs to School House Cave, now closed to the public with an iron gate. School house is considered to be the second oldest saltpeter mine in West Virginia. The reasoning behind the gate was for the preservation of the five various bat species that live in and around the Pendleton County area.
The bat population has suffered recently from the development of WNS, or white nose syndrome. WNS is thought to be a fungus that is infecting the mammals and causes them to deplete their fat stores during hibernation. They awaken and flee the caves prematurely in winter looking for food, and since there aren’t many insects at that time of year, die of exposure and starvation. Having discovered the disease in 2007, bats are threatened and pretty much all the private caves in Pendleton Co. have been closed to avoid the spread of the disease by cavers.
Even though we weren’t able to actually enter the cave (which was just fine with me) it was still a very cool destination. Around the cave openings were other “shelter caves”.  Just a convenient opening deep enough in the rock for maybe a small tent or in nice weather a sleeping bag and a fire. Some of the rock faces were approximately 120 feet of limestone.  Natural beauties around 400 million years old that at one time were covered by an intermittent sea.  As the bodies of invertebrate organisms died over the years, their remains formed beds of calcium carbonate or limestone on the sea bottom turning eventually into the rocks and fossils that inhabit the area.
Our fire pit on our bluff, the highest part of our land, is surrounded by rocks that are sandstone covered with fossils. Little marks shaped like various marine creatures. These rocks are also millions of years old and were at one time ocean sediments.
One of natures gifts to me is all the pondering I do while just enjoying it.

all images and blog, by Pam Risdon

1 http://www.visitpendleton.com

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The Art of Diego Ortiz Mugica

by Pam Risdon

Ahh.. photography openings. Being an art school rat I can vouch for the importance of having a show of ones latest work. What a good excuse it is to spend money on cheap wine and Brie cheese. I spent many a Thursday evening, the night of choice, at art openings in DC. Heck, you could say that my diet consisted of mostly Brie cheese and box wine.  Being Twenty five at the time was a bit more forgiving when it came to living a life of debauchery. Onward.
So last night Cable and I  attended the opening for renowned Argentinean photographer Diego Ortiz Mugica, http://www.ortizmugica.com . Before last night, I had never heard of Mr. Mugica. But, that is the beauty of new experiences and of stretching ones social extension cord. The show is being hosted by APA, aka, American Photographic Artists in conjunction with the events of this years FotoWeek which ends this Saturday. The venue was the lovely Argentinean Embassy. The email suggested “come and meet the artist and enjoy Argentinean wine and food”. I never saw one scrap of food. I did see the trays that held what once was food, but only crumbs remained. Apparently, photography lovers are a very hungry pack indeed.
The room had an air of aristocracy and light, but I must say the artists prints did not. Mr. Mugica is considered to be, by at least the gallery that represents him the “Ansel Adams” of Argentina. To quote Kaller Fine Arts, “Diego Ortiz Mugica is an internationally renowned photographer who is admired as a “photographer’s photographer.” A proponent of the zone system, he frequently references South American landscape and genre traditions. His work has been exhibited in Argentina’s most important museums, and is part of the permanent collection of the prestigious Buenos Aires Fine Art Museum (MNBA). Mugica holds specialized photography seminars and workshops in Buenos Aires and Patagonia. ‘
I believe that Mugica is the printer as well as photographer of his images. Although the images are beautiful, and very much like Adams in content, the printing does seem to miss the mark on clarity and crispness. True trademarks of Adams.
Just to clarify, the zone system was actually developed by Ansel Adams. To quote Wiki- “The Zone System is a photographic technique for determining optimal film exposure and development, formulated by Ansel Adams and Fred Archer in 1939-40. The technique is based on the late 19th century sensitometry studies of Hurter and Driffield. The Zone System provides photographers with a systematic method of precisely defining the relationship between the way they visualize the photographic subject and the final results. Although it originated with the black and white sheet film, the Zone System is also applicable to roll film, both black and white and color negative and reversal and to digital photography”
In a nut shell, it’s getting detail in your blacks while not blowing out your highlights. I did in my day exert much effort to achieving a properly printed black and white fiber print. I had great teachers at the Corcoran. The late Steve Szabo, Frank Diperna and Joe Cameron. Genuine artists that discerned themselves with the mastery of B&W printing.
As our group, Cable, fellow photog Dave Scavone and friend Courtney Clark and I collaborated we concurred that Mr. Mugicas prints were a tad too contrasty and the blacks were a bit blocked. The images were above average in content, vast landscapes reminiscent of Adams, if not a little too much so. The prints represent his work from his book on National Parks of Argentina. http://www.libroparques.com . They are images that are expansive and give ample due to the scenes they are depicting. Viewing these original prints in no way had the impact of an Adams print. During my time in school I was fortunate to have witnessed an Adams portfolio held at the Library of Congress. Any good citizen can visit the LOC, check out portfolios and sit at a table with them. A former classmate and I took it upon ourselves one day to take a field trip up to the Library and just sit a while.  The experience was one of the more memorable thrills of my photographic education, I actually held an Ansel Adams print in my hand. We sat and marveled a long while staring deeply into the vast tonal range only an Adams print could convey. I mentioned to my friend that viewing his print actually made my pupils dilate! That’s how crisp and bright and wonderful his prints are.  Mugica’s claim to fame, El Bosque de Sarah, The Forest of Sarah is by far his most impressive in content and size. A gigantic 60x140cm piece, the image is of the bottom of a tightly bound grove of trees. As much as I like this image, it still falls flat to me. It is however the best representation of his printing  in the group of about two dozen prints.
This critique is not meant to idolize Adams. I am realistic about the claims that Adams had assistants do his actual printing for him. Nevertheless he was still the master of his images and oversaw the production of them. Adams is not my favorite photographer, but one of many.  I do believe he was the  tour de force in landscape photography.
So forgive me if I don’t have room in my icon vault for one more.

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