Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Your Photographic Specialty

People are always asking me what my photographic specialty is.  Well, that's like asking an 18 year old what they want to do with the rest of their life.  Who knows at 18 what they want to spend their life doing...what their passion is.  How can you know that right out of the gate?

When I picked up my first camera as a kid, I no more knew where it would lead me than I do now.  "So what's your specialty?" people ask me.  Um...I like everything?  Apparently that's not an answer.  People that ask that question are serious and depending on your answer they either say "great!" and begin a conversation, or "oh..." and walk away.  So, when asked, I feel compelled to give my pat answer and say "fine art". That usually generates an "oh..." response because no one really knows what fine art is.  One could only imagine what they would say if I said, "I do abstract macro botanicals". They'd probably go apoplectic on the spot! That said, here's what I really do.

The work I love is what you see on my website - fine art.  It soothes my mind and helps me create stunning work that by all accounts - people seem to like. The work I do for fun is on my Instagram feed. (

I actually have to have two websites (the second is under construction at the moment) because I was told by my Creative Consultant that fine art galleries won't work with commercial photographers.  Well ok, but we all have bills to pay, mouths to feed and lives to live.  To make money for living I do portraiture (personal and corporate), promotional photography, book covers, author photos, events, pet photography, special projects, etc.  But, shhhh....!  Don't tell anyone.

Book Covers





Actress Head Shot


Farm Animals
Pet Portraits
Being a photographer is such a blessing, why must we restrict ourselves to one genre?  When you love what you do and do it well, every photo is an opportunity to practice your craft, discover a potentially new passion, and have fun doing it. When you get up every day and go to a job you love, it's not work.

I'm always delighted when I go out shooting and find a location that has something unexpected to offer.  For example, I went out to an event called Photo Wild where the local wildlife rescue organization brings out their rehabilitated birds of prey - birds that have been injured to such an extent that they can't be returned to the wild. These birds serve as "spokes-birds" for the organization and photographers can photograph them in their natural (sort of) habitat.

Red Tailed Hawk
Great Horned Owl

Pygmy Owl
Following Photo Wild, I went on a studio tour of local artists and discovered an Alpaca farm right in the heart of my own city! Albuquerque Alpacas. Who knew?!  Well, not only did I discover this farm, I found new baby Alpacas who are drop dead cute!  OMG!!! I'd never seen an Alpaca before and was I surprised at how friendly they are. Each has their own personality, they have big beautiful, expressive eyes, and their fur is sooooo soft. As members of the camel family, they actually look something like miniature camels - without the hump - but are much, much cuter.


Then, while on a business trip to Chicago, I took myself off to the Brookfield Zoo for a day of photography and wonderment.  

There are so many wonderful creatures in this world, and while it's a shame to have them restricted to one enclosure, Brookfield does a pretty decent job of making them comfortable in large areas complete with thunder and rain storms.  I saw a big, scary, wonderful Silver Back Gorilla who was gracious enough to look right at me while I took his picture. Thank goodness for long lenses - wouldn't want to have a repeat of my wolf encounter! (See my blog post "Don't Try This at Home!") I also saw a Sloth Bear which I'd never heard of, and an Okapi, which looks like a combination of a very large zebra, a horse and a donkey, but is actually one of two members of the giraffe family - the other being the giraffe. 

Silverback Gorilla
So, again I ask, with so many wonderful things out in the world to photograph, why must we restrict ourselves to ONE photographic specialty?  Especially when it is our joy, our passion!

Until next time...

Please also stop by and visit my fine art website at and

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Ancient Vestiges

Our last trip was phenomenal (as all the Walking Enchantment trips have been)!  We visited Ghost Ranch and the Bandelier National Monument.  All I can say is WOW!!!

Our first day was Ghost Ranch and as most folks know, that's where Georgia O'Keeffe lived and worked as a New York transplant. On the way to Ghost Ranch, however, is a lake.  Never knew we even had lakes in New Mexico, but as evidenced by the large body of water that is Abiquiu Lake, there are!  Will miracles never cease?

The Ghost Ranch story is a long and amazing one and while I won't go into all the details here, I will say that I was shocked to find that it had been a cattle rustling operation for 25 years or so, then became a dude ranch, and finally an education center.  Definitely several changes of direction for this bit of acreage.

The Ghost House was the actual living quarters of the Archuletta brothers who were cattle rustlers. One of the brothers got ticked at the other and killed him, which is how the law found out about the cattle rustling. What a goober! Then to add insult to injury, he was hanged from the very cottonwood tree that was in their courtyard. Who says crime pays?

Then came the dude ranch. When owned by Arthur Pack, Ghost Ranch evolved from a cattle rustling homestead into an operating dude ranch. It's now a thriving educational center that offers many classes and workshops throughout the year.

Enter Georgia O'Keeffe... She arrived on the scene in 1934 for a vacation and basically never left. All of her work from that point forward was done on Ghost Ranch property and even though many of her pieces look like huge, picturesque mountains, trees, etc., they are in fact, low hill formations and dead trees painted in close perspective.

Day two of this trip found us at the Bandelier National Monument, once a large, thriving community. The landscape in and around the area is nothing short of stunning! Compared to Chaco Canyon, this location is higher in elevation and much older - over 10,000 years! There were cliff dwellings, petroglyphs, vegetation and a river that runs through it, though more of a dribble now than a river.

Cliff Dwelling
View from the Inside

According to two park rangers at Bandelier, the people who occupied the area often made fun of those that fell out of line as a form of punishment. As a result, there were many smiling face petroglyphs on the walls smiling back at us.

Petroglyph of a Smiling Face

Further along the river, there were beautiful trees and paths that took us to the end of the development known as the Alcove. Now, me being me, I was NOT about to climb 140 feet up the side of a gigantic rock just to reach said Alcove. I'm fine at ground level, thank you very much. Though project partner, Carey Rose, did brave the heights and went to the top. Yay, Carey Rose!

She begins the ascent...

Almost there...

And she arrives at the top!

Of course, no climb would be complete without the ever-present smart phone panos from the top! Phew!

Once that harrowing task was done, we made our way back to the parking lot. When we got there we discovered that there is yet another area within Bandelier to be explored that has...wait for it...a WATERFALL! Well, actually two. According to the rangers at the station, there are indeed a few honest to goodness waterfalls in Bandelier. Amazing! Consequently, we are planning another trip back to this area in September since apparently this is the best time of year to view the waterfalls. And the best news? It's only a three mile hike. Let's see, that should take us about, oh, eight hours or so. It only took us five hours to do a mile and a half to and from the Alcove!!! Naturally, that includes stopping every few feet to photograph this incredible area and play with the squirrels...

We have several other trips planned in the fall, so please stay tuned for the culmination of this wonderful project that is Walking Enchantment. Please also visit our website and contribute to the project fund and help us choose three top charities that will benefit from the proceeds of the sales of our images and books. If you don't see your favorite charity listed, please feel free to enter the one you like and get all your friends to visit our website and vote for that charity as well. The top three choices will be chosen by popular vote.

Until next time...

Please also stop by and visit my personal website at, and

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Location, Location, Location!

So since my last post, Walking Enchantment has visited five more locations. Yes...FIVE!  Can you believe it?  So please forgive my lengthy blog this time. We're loving creating this project so much more than we ever thought we would. Yes, it's a ton of work, and we love it. When we get back from our site visits and download the images, we continue to be amazed at what we captured. Mainly because the sites are so off the beaten path - which was our intention - but also because we are both in a bit of a "zone" when we're out there communing with the land and nature.

Let's begin with the Bosque Del Apache Wildlife Reserve...well, who knew this was here? I expected to find dry desert wildlife. What I found was water! And lots of it. With that initial surprise under our belt came the avian life - big, beautiful white cranes, tall, majestic blue herons, some kind of sparrow that builds its nests with mud, and red-winged crows that sing! I caught this one in mid-warble.

I know what you're New Mexico? Right. Well, I was as stunned as you are because I saw it first then captured it with for all time with my handy dandy telephoto zoom. As active as the Bosque was, it apparently is much more so during the fall months when the birds are in migration mode. I can't wait to go back!

Next up was a trip to the Bisti Badlands, Chaco Canyon and Shiprock. All I can say is WOW!!!

The Bisti Badlands are so desolate and so beautiful that you can't help but stand in awe of the sheer power of nature. This place is scary. You definitely want to take a compass with you because if you get lost out there, no one will be coming to look for you any time soon. And don't forget water! Those movies where you see the guy crossing the desert and getting turned around and going in circles and running out of water? This is that place. Everything looks virtually the same and that's if you're paying attention. If you're not, well, you're definitely out of luck.

After driving into this wilderness area on roads that are barely passable and go on for miles, we parked and walked another six miles or so - in 90+ degree heat. There was even a guy out there RUNNING! Over hills, over boulders...I thought I was hallucinating, but I got a picture of it, so I guess it was real. Food and wine were definitely in order post visit.

The following day was similar with 90+ degree heat, though not nearly as barren. We went to Chaco Canyon. Again, there are no words adequate enough to describe it. Suffice it to say that I was amazed! After leaving the main highway, we had to travel another 21 miles over roads that were once again, nearly impassable. I keep promising my car that her rough road days are behind her, but I don't think she believes me any more.

Chaco Canyon was once a thriving community - and not a small one. There are a multitude of dwellings, each one more impressive than the next. Especially since these dwellings were built between 800 and 1250 A.D. The most interesting thing is, no one knows where they went. Vanished. Much like the Mayans.

The buildings are huge for the most part with multiple rooms, though the rooms themselves are incredibly tiny. I had to bend nearly double to walk into the rooms - and I thought I was short! It took well over six hours for us to work our way through the ruins and up and down the huge boulders - where there were many petroglyphs as well - and we only made it to the first two sets of ruins after the ranger station! Like I said, this place was a very ginormous community. In addition, it was teeming with wildlife that came right up to us and posed for pictures! It was awesome! Almost like they were welcoming us to their home.

We had planned on coming back that night for the night visit, but we were so exhausted, we decided to make that a separate trip so we could take our time photographing the night sky. Chaco Canyon was recently designated a dark sky park and we want to witness the beauty for ourselves when we're fresh.

On our final day, we decided to go a little further northwest and visit Shiprock. Once again, roads that are in very sad shape, but that lead to some of the most beautiful landscape in the state.

Shiprock is, in reality, the core of a long extinct volcano and is shaped like the bow of a ship. There is a long eruption leading up to the rock - called a spine - where the earth separated and tall walls of rock shot up and still stand today. It is a truly amazing display from Mother Nature.

It is ripe with legend and stands all by its majestic self in the middle of the Navajo Nation. It is unattended and while people used to climb it, that all came to a screeching halt when a climber fell to his death from the vertical cliffs back in the 1970s. It's now believed to be cursed. Queue the twilight zone music...

And finally, the El Malpais National Monument lava flows. If you've ever been to Hawaii and seen the lava flows there, it's pretty amazing. These flows look like they've only been here twenty years, at least according to the Ranger who accompanied us. She studied Volcanology in Hawaii and said the flows there that are twenty years old look the same as the El Malpais flows. However, the El Malpais flows are over 3,000 years old. The reason they look so new is because our climate, unlike Hawaii, is dry with 362 days/year of sun rather than hot and moist, like Hawaii, where the flows age and deteriorate much quicker than ours have.

This landscape is dark, hot and eerie. For miles all you can see is black with intermittent trees and cactus growing up through the lava. Lots of lizards as well. I failed to get as excited as everyone else over elk droppings, but apparently, it's not common to see that on the lava flows. Additionally, it's a bit unnerving to be standing on the edge of a collapsed lava tube wondering if it can hold your weight. I guess if it can hold a full grown elk, it's not a problem for mere humans.

Lastly, if you're standing on a lava flow in the middle of a lightening storm, it would be wise to an area with no lava. The iron in the lava attracts lightening and you DO NOT want to be there. Unless, of course, crispy critters have some kind of weird appeal to you. Just kidding...

All in all, we've had some very interesting location travels for our Walking Enchantment project. I've seen things I'd never dreamed of, people I didn't know existed, and places that create a need for me to pick my jaw up off the ground because I'm so stunned by the natural beauty. Mother Nature is a force to be reckoned with and honestly, I'm so very grateful for the opportunity to have witnessed her strength.

Please stop by and visit my galleries at, and  I'm also on Facebook and Twitter @kmessmer53.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Walking Enchantment – Tent Rocks National Monument and Madrid, New Mexico

So, this past weekend, May 17, 2014, our project took us to two more amazing locations. Tent Rocks National Monument and Madrid, New Mexico. 

We arrived at Tent Rocks at 7a.m. We tried to be there at 6:30 a.m., but it was still closed. I guess the rest of the world sleeps in on Saturdays. So – we went for some really bad coffee at the local convenience store and headed back to the gate to wait for the park attendant.

Once through the gate I immediately pulled over because the scene was that good. I pulled out my tripod and camera and got to work. Little did I know the parking lot was just across the fence.

When I had the shot I wanted, I put everything away and proceeded to the parking area feeling a little dunce-ish for not realizing parking was 20 feet away. Once again, I pulled out my gear, though without actually taking it out of my bag since we had a bit of a hike in front of us. The trail we traversed was stunning! Apparently, Tent Rocks is the result of some pretty severe explosions way back when the geography of our planet was forming. Lucky for us!

Immediately what struck me was the silence. To my ears, we sounded very loud even though we were talking in our normal voices. It was cool, but odd at the same time. We were ooo-ing and aw-ing our way up the path. While Carey Rose was communing with the site, I was busy setting up my tripod and taking images I feel will definitely have an other-worldly quality to them.


Onward to Madrid (pronounced Mad-rid) where they filmed “Wild Hogs”, a not great movie, but it sure put Madrid on the map. It’s an old coal mining community that thrived in the 20s and 30s.  We had an opportunity to speak with a local woman who was running the parking lot where we parked. She gave us the lowdown on the area while allowing us to photograph her “photo park” – a series of painted character flats with holes cut out for folks to put their heads through.

The people there are quirky and lovely. We were walking back to the car when we encountered a man with a long white beard, on a horse. He stopped when we asked if we could pet his horse. His name was – no kidding – John Wayne. He told us he rode Misty (his horse) all the way from Michigan, picked up a stray dog in Arkansas; the dog completed the journey with them and is still their companion. It took them a total of six months and three days.  Why?  He has family nearby. Who does that nowadays? John Wayne thanked us for showing Misty some love, shook our hands and continued on his way. Like I said, quirky and lovely.

Since the Walking Enchantment project has been in progress, we have visited and will continue to visit many different, not well known locations. So far it has been very enlightening for me and I hope for anyone who is following Walking Enchantment as well. If you aren’t following us, come on over to our website and have a look-see. If you like what you see, we’d love it if you made a donation towards the completion of the project, which will benefit the UNM Center for Life.

Also keep in mind the end-of-year exhibition at the Romero Street Gallery where all proceeds for the sale of the art pieces will all go to the UNM Center for Life. We’d love to see you there.

Please stop by and visit my galleries at, and  I'm also on Facebook and Twitter @kmessmer53.