Flashback Friday: Red Gate Rodeo

Flashback Friday: Red Gate Rodeo

Is the rodeo a dying show?  I hope not.  It is a long standing tradition down by country folk.  Enjoy this #FlashbackFriday back to July 2015, when I went to go check out the Red Gate rodeo in Maynardville, Tennessee.

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Smoky Mountain Air Show 2016

Man, I was really anticipating this because I remember and miss the great air shows that I used to attend at MCAS El Toro in Southern California.

The weather was perfect.  It was very crowded and there was quite a hike from the parking, but I need the exercise anyway.  The prices for food were a little high, but each booth was benefiting a non-profit or a school team, so spend a little money, what the hell.

Then sit back and enjoy!  

The big draw were the Blue Angels - they were fantastic!  They are the last act, coming on around 3:00 pm.

Models at Imaging USA

Last month I attended Imaging USA in Atlanta, which is the Professional Photographers of America's annual convention.  

Canon, man - wow, they laid out some big bucks to fete all the photographers.  They hosted the opening night party, which was amazing.  Part of the entertainment was some stages with models in fashion gear and cosplay costumes.  Put some continuous lights up and photographers were allowed to take their pictures.

During Imaging, I made it a point to shoot with my new Sigma 35mm f/1.4 ART lens.  It is so sweet, it really is.  And while I did not feel like shooting models for the sake of shooting models, a 35mm in hand lends itself nicely to doing some street photography. 

I wonder how many of the photographers have ever worked with a model?  And just why were there a lot of middle-aged and older men taking pictures?  Ah, who knows - Imaging USA also attracts the avid hobbyist or maybe there was the guy whose job it is to take school picture after school picture of sullen teens, and he just wanted to enjoy someone different in front of his camera.

No matter.  It was a good time and I am grateful to Canon for throwing a party.

Next year Imaging USA is in San Antonio, TX.  Hope to be there!

Laissez les bons temps rouler!

Where the boys are . . . Bourbon Street.  Compared to present day Gay Pride parades, this is rather quaint and restrained.

In 1981, just 19 years old, my old Canon AE-1 and I went down to New Orleans for Mardi Gras.  At the time, I had a friend named Angie Radford, with whom I had studied in the USSR, who was a student at Tulane University. We rented costumes - hers a French maid and mine a dance hall girl - and went to Mardi Gras.

These pictures are some 35 years old now and seem tame compared to what goes on now.  These were innocent times.

Angela Radford - if you know where she is, tell her to come to my blog.

Krewe of Endymion, I believe.  If not them, Bacchus.

Krewe of Zulu

Krewe of Zulu

It is interesting to look at these costumes and wonder who would criticize them today for being politically incorrect?  But, it was Zulu's choice.

Look on the far right - "Here, have a beer."

Krewe of Zulu

Begging for beads.  "Throw me something, Mister!"  

We did bring bottles of liquor to the Zulu parade to try to barter them for a coveted coconut, but alas . . .

Not that the alcohol went to waste, mind you.

Again, could be Endymion, could be Bacchus, could be something else.  Thirty-five years is a long time.




 need to find the time to restore these photos.  They are scans from slide film.

Puppy + Snow = Adorable

Okay, okay - I have a bias towards dogs!

When I was in Washington DC for Snowmageddon 2016, I visited my niece and her dogs.  Mr. Grant, the older pup, is a handsome fellow, but now finds himself in competition with Bruce - young, cute, puppy.

Both dogs are black, which made it fun to photograph them in a blizzard.



Actually, they are quickly learning to get along.  After all, dogs are pack animals - it actually makes them happier to have another dog.

Bruce and Mr. Grant

Arlington, VA is chock full of young professionals . . . and some very spoiled dogs.

Bruce and Jen

Mr. Grant

Snowmageddon in Washington, DC

Pizza delivery man out in the storm.  Better service than the Post Office.

This past weekend, I was up in Washington DC for the annual March for Life on January 21st.  My friends and I had already planned to stay the weekend.  "We'll go see the monuments on Saturday," we said.  "It'll be fun," we said.

No such luck.  We were staying in Arlington, across the Potomac, and the city shut down its Metro.  But before we headed back to the hotel on Friday afternoon, as the storm intensified, I captured a few images of DC.  Enjoy!

A father and his sons trudge along the National Mall.

Strolling along F Street.

Japanese documentary makers making a documentary about Japanese tourists in America.

A quick phone call at the Metro Center.

Street musician at the Metro Center station.

Walking home in Arlington, VA

Flashback Friday: The Rolling Stones in Dallas, 1981

in 1981, I was a young troop in the US Army, stationed at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma.  A group of guys and me, the lone female, decided to get tickets to see what was then billed as The Rolling Stones "farewell tour."

Evidently, it would become the first of many until, well, they just don't bother to use that term anymore and besides, Keef is immortal.

Anyway, if I recall correctly, there was about 10 of us and we shared a cheap Motel 6 room, one of us actually checking in and the rest of us sneaking in.  Gallant friends, they let me have one of the beds and there was no hanky panky.  The other bed held two and the rest crashed with their government-issued sleeping bags.

I was shooting at the time with a Canon AE-1 and the cheapest 300mm lens I could afford.  These are scanned from slide film because, well, it was cheaper than regular film to have developed.  I was on somebody's shoulders to take these - could have been Chuck Krin, could have been George Shirey - but they remain an amateur look back at the past.

The Fabulous Thunderbirds and ZZ Top opened for them.


What is Street Photography

I belong to several photography forums on social media and recently I have been perplexed by how easily people take a picture and call it "street photography."

There are many genres of photography: wedding photography, sports photography, fine art photography, landscape photography, etc.  While there is no governing body that states, "And yea, ye shall call this wedding photography when ye have the following elements and only said following elements, nay less and nay more . . ," there are characteristics that, if not define, at least identify each genre.  A photographer looking to shoot in a particular genre needs to understand that and needs to also identify, develop, and practice what they need to do the genre justice.  

Someone skilled in shooting landscapes just can't cover an NFL game.

With that in mind, someone asked, "What makes it 'street?'"  I thought about it for a bit and replied:

I think "street" is harder than other genres for this reason: images should be made with a purpose and what I see happen is people all too frequently "just take a picture" of a street scene and call it "street." No offense, but someone randomly crossing a street in Manhattan that could be one of thousands of other people is . . . just a snapshot. 

So street photography for me is to capture that unscripted moment that has a reason to be singled out from the millions of other unscripted moments being played out. Why is it singled out? Ah, well, it could be for a gesture, or something unusual, or something that is not so unusual but epitomizes wonderfully an emotion, a concept, an ideal. And that is why street photography is so hard - it won't come with a warning and the photographer has to have his/her eye at the ready.

With that in mind, I get confused by some of what people post and call "street."  Basically, it seems they point their camera at a person walking along the street, or sitting there, and . . . just snap the shutter.  

Why?  If it were to test the workings of the camera, fine, but even in a more documentary style of photography, such as photojournalism, images are made mindfully.  There is a reason why the picture was taken.  

I won't use anyone else's images, so let me illustrate with my own.  Here is an image I made in New York City.

And . . . it's a guy waiting to cross the street.  He does not have any sort of remarkable look on his face, he is not doing anything unusual, he is just waiting for the light to change or a break in traffic to cross.  The scene around him is nothing extraordinary - it is a busy street in a large urban area.  I don't see any special patterns, or color combinations, to catch my eye.  I suppose I could wonder who he is, where he is going, what he has in the bag but honestly, there is nothing there to inspire me to do so.

In my opinion, the picture is not street photography.  It is just a snapshot of a man waiting to cross the street.  Something you would glance at if you were there and simply keep walking or looking about.

Now, what about this image?

Ah, now I think I have something more.  The image was shot low to the ground and the perspective and background gives you the impression of a small child in a big field.  The low-to-high angle helps to emphasize his "tough guy" look, as if he is trying to live up to the t-shirt that reads, "Daddy's #1 Draft Pick."  A bit of clouds in the sky and the black and white treatment help to make him appear informidable . . . but he's just a little boy, so there is some contrast and tension.

With both pictures, there is the possibility that in the next second the moment is gone.  Maybe the gentleman in New York suddenly pounds on the hood of a taxi, maybe the little boy runs to his mother and buries his face in her side.  Maybe.  But that is the magic of street photography - it is an extraordinary moment caught in ordinary life.  And the photographer happens to be there.

I am curating street photography I have done for a photo book at the urging of my husband.  I needed to write this blog post to help me to choose images, to stay true to what is street photography.

"Street."  It is happening all around you.

Sunday morning in Cataloochee Valley - and for the love of elk

Towards the end of the valley.

I don't know why the leaf-peepers flock to Cades Cove to see "color."  Sure, Cades is beautiful in its own right, but although it is smaller, Cataloochee Valley on the North Carolina side of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is better for Autumn foliage, in my opinion.  And you are guaranteed to see the resident wildlife: the elk.

Provided, of course, that you go at the right time.  The elk like to spend their time during the day and at night in the woods.  They come to graze in the valley right at dawn and right at dusk.  How long they spend before heading back to the woods depends on factors such as the time of year, the temperature, the availability of food, etc.

Since the only way into Cataloochee Valley is either via a long rutted, dirt road or a shorter, rutted dirt road, most tourists will come for the "sunset show" since they don't want to drive in the blackness of a pre-dawn morning along these roads.  Fair enough - this leaves the sunrise for the photographers to come.  Besides, in the morning you can get some nice mist.  Yesssss . . .

Mmmmmm . . . ground fog . . .

But really, it is all about the elk and right now Cataloochee has one big, dominant bull.  There was another bull who got together a harem, but he had to be put down due to a wasting disease - that allowed this bull to combine his harem with the deceased bull's harem of cows and live a happy life.  

BTW, in the pictures that follow, I have cloned out the collar on the bull; he's wearing one so the park can monitor him to ensure no more disease.  Unfortunately, it is a bright orange with a box, so I took it out; as a rule, however, all mature females are collared by the park so I left those in.

It's good to be the king

"Hey baby, hey baby, hey baby . . ."

" And moree, much more than this . . . I did it myyyyyyy waaaayyyyyyy!"

Okay, a confession - in the picture above, Big Guy is curling his lip, not bugling.  I guess he had kicked a** earlier in the season, because none of the younger bulls were bugling to challenge him, but he did bugle about three times while I was there.  Have you ever heard an elk bugle?  It's pretty damn funny.

"Amazing grace . . . how sweet the sound . . ."

Here he is bugling and I figured he was just singing a hymn by the old church.

As I said, I think the color is better in Cataloochee Valley.

Younger bulls play with mock battles, getting bigger and stronger, until they can challenge the dominant bull and acquire a harem of cows for themselves.

Here is a gallery of remaining images.  I hope you enjoy them and I would be grateful if you can pass on the link to this post, so others can enjoy the images but also because of what I am about to say.

Okay, while most of the people out early in the morning are photographers, the overcast and cool of the day meant that the elk would remain in the valley longer - but this also means that by 8:30 am, more tourists were coming in.

Tourists + morons = tourons

There are numerous signs informing people that (1) they need to stay away at least 50 yards from the animals (sometimes that is not possible, such as when they are crossing a road, but stay back a good distance and remain still while they pass) and (2) you cannot go into the fields during the rut in Cataloochee, i.e., the mating season.  And the rut is on now.  These two lovely tourons decided they would ignore those rules and walk out towards the old church (I am shooting this from the road where they are supposed to be) . . . placing themselves right between these two cows and the dominant bull.

Now, he could see them as a threat - and charge them.  If he had done that, it could mean they would be killed or seriously injured.  The bull, however, despite doing what a bull elk in rut do, would pay with his life.  The park staff would have to put him down.

He didn't . . . BUT every incident like this, as seemingly innocent that it may look, contributes to the wildlife losing their natural fear and/or avoidance of man.  They get used to man being there.  Then they start seeing man as a food source.  And that is when they become "nuisance" animals and are euthanized by the park.  Cataloochee already lost one young bull when he "played" with a photographer; I heard from a knowledgeable source that this elk had been fed by tourists and that the photographer encouraged him by remaining there despite the opportunity to move.  The result?  The elk was put down, lest he do any more harm to visitors.

So, please - don't be a touron.  The rules are there to protect both you and the wildlife.  I would like to think my grandchildren will be able to come and see the elk, the deer, the bears, the mountain lions, the coyotes . . . but behavior as demonstrated above little by little dims that chance.

It is the public's park, but it's the animal's home.  Remember that.

At the Fair

This is the time of year when so many locations have their annual county - or country - fairs.  

And after indulging in some deep-fried food, nothing tops off the evening more than handing some carny a ticket, and taking a seat on a worn, cracked faux leather cushioned benchand wondering about the safety record of fair rides in general.

Right after you go and see the five-legged cow, in the tent next to the Snake Woman.

Click on any image to see a larger view.

Saturday night in Times Square

I attended a workshop in New York City this past weekend and afterwards met a friend for dinner in the Theater District.  We decided to walk to Penn Station through Times Square afterwards.  Not a bad idea . . . until the skies opened up and a deluge of rain hit us.

However, I still used the occasion to engage in a little guerilla street photography, in the style of Bruce Gilden but without the flash.  

Enjoy the show (click on any image to make it larger).

And if by chance you know the couple taking a selfie under the umbrella, I would like to be able to send that image to them.

Tattoo You

With apologies to the Rolling Stones for stealing their album name . . .

I love going to the annual Knoxville Tattoo Convention.  No, I didn't get one.  Yes, I need another one.

Enjoy some scenes!  Click on any one for a larger image.

The last few images feature The Enigma.  I spoke with him?  You know what?  He is one helluva sweet gentleman and a hard-working performer.

An encounter in Washington DC

In the news now is the story of a series of videos being released by the Center for Medical Progress that show Planned Parenthood and one of its clients, StemExpress, implicated in the selling of fetal organs.

I am reminded of an encounter I had back in January 2012.  I was in Washington DC and on my way to cover the annual March for Life, a pro-life demonstration.  As I walked from the campus of Catholic University towards the metro, I met a group of pro-choice counter-protesters.

I got into conversation with one woman.  As she talked with me, she had a vibe of frenetic energy about her.  She giggled as she took as small t-shirt that read "I had an abortion" from her backpack and stretched it over her winter jacket. 

She told me that she had an abortion ""26 years ago - best thing I ever did!"  I asked her if she knew whether she lost a son or a daughter and she said, "Damn, I don't know, it was 40 days of gestation!" 

I was amazed that she could recount that level of detail.  I asked her if I could take her picture.  She agreed and suddenly struck this pose.

I thanked her and walked away a short distance.  I stopped and looked back.  A woman with a pro-life group was handing her a pamphlet.   She went to the  other pro-choice students and waved the pamphlet, asking, "Does anyone want this crap that lady gave me?"  When they said no, I expected her to throw it in the trash bin right there.  

But she placed it in her pocket.

Abortion.  It stays with you, in one way or another.


Blue Moon in the Smokies

Last night afforded me the opportunity to shoot a blue moon.

For the record, no, the moon is not blue.  A blue moon is the second full moon in a calendar month.  It does not happen often, hence the expression "once in a blue moon" to mean a rare occurrence.

Moonrise over the Great Smoky Mountains, looking towards North Carolina.

I had posted on Facebook that I would be heading up to Clingmans Dome, a high point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, to capture the moon.   I love the Smokies and a 90 minute drive was not out of the question (the biggest headache being the Friday night traffic in Pigeon Forge, but there are ways around that).

Just remember, how many countries are in the "Visited the Moon" club?  Thass right, just one - 'Murica!

I made some discoveries while there.  First, the flashlight on my cell phone makes a handy little LED light to use for night portraits, as I did here with my dear friends - and great photographers in their own right - Brenda and Eddie (bonus points if you start singing the song featuring a couple named Brenda and Eddie).

They say guys only buy big lenses to compensate for something, but I dunno . . .

Second, a method called "expose to the right" that can be used to pull oput detail in a night sky polluted by light does work.  Here, despite there being a very, very BRIGHT full moon to camera left, I caught the galactic center of the Milky Way.

Third . . . despite it being July 31st and the dog days of summer, it got cold.  Temperatures dropped to the lower 50's and a stiff wind came up, making it feel chillier than it was.  No matter, I went prepared and relished a taste of the autumn weather to come.  Next time, though, a thermos of coffee is getting thrown in with the gear.

I finally packed it in at 11:00 pm. knowing I had a drive to Charlotte the next day.  However, on my way off the mountain, I had to stop at Newfound Gap, a popular spot sitting on the Tennessee - North Carolina boundary.  I have learned that at the end of a shoot, always look for "that last shot" and I wanted to see if I could find it there.

And I did.  I noticed this couple sitting on the low wall, enjoying the blue moon.  I approached them and asked, "Howdy, folks - say, I got this idea for a picture . . ."  And they obliged - many thanks to Phil "Doc" Johnson, the director of the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont, and his wife, Mary, who told me that she and him were "good friends and spouses" for the last 25 years.  

What could be more romantic than a longtime couple who stopped for a kiss beneath a blue moon while out for a motorcycle ride under the stars?

Love is what it's all about, people!

If this is lunacy - the word derives from the Latin word for moon, luna - let's have more of it!

Went out to find me some cowboys

I saw the signs . . . "Red Gate Rodeo, this weekend."

Now, I love street photography.  But street photography does not need an urban street as a setting - it is all about capturing life as it happens, unscripted, to show the human element in its environment.

And so this "street" that I walked on Saturday night was pitted, grassy, and . . . had manure in certain spots.  It was crowded and hot, with the smell of grease from the funnel cakes mixing with the odors of livestock.  It was country music, it was wads of dip the cheek, it was Marlboros being smoked.  It was kids up too late and moms too tired to care, while dad was in the parking lot with the guys, passing a Mason jar of 'shine.

It was a rodeo.  It was small town America.

And it was great.

Photowalking in Chattanooga

Concert pianists practice their scales each day.  Athletes train.  So why wouldn't photographers get out and shoot, just to keep the eye trained?

Daddy's # Draft Pick . . . and he knows it.

Finally, we had some warmer weather in East Tennessee and I just had to get out on a Sunday afternoon and walk about with my camera - photowalking, as we call it.

I was happy to meet up with two friends down in Chattanooga.  The day was fine, the park was crowded, and it just felt good to get out.  Street photography was my first love in photography and it has helped me hone my style when I am engaged as a photojournalist.  Souvenirs of anywhere I go are the images I can capture

I am ready for Spring.  Here is what I saw in the 'Noog.

Children have no problems wearing ice cream.

I loved this woman's hair and vintage look.  BTW, after seeing all these cones . . . I went and got myself some ice cream.

I took a look in the back seat and said to the owner in the front, "That's a hybrid, isn't it?"  She smiled and said, "Yup."  I know enough about dogs - and wolves - to know it would not have ended well if my camera went any further into the car.  

He was working in a sort of box while another guy sat outside.

"I'm the boss!"

"Why aren't you sitting outside?"

"Because someone has to e my Steppin' Fetchit!"

My husband is always after me to do a book of my street photography.