Mike Johnston, owner of The Online Photographer, proposed The Tenset, a post on every photographer's website that includes the ten pictures they have taken that they love best. He suggested we give it a name. The Tenset. A set of ten. A core set. A key set. The Tenset is a photographer's ten best, or ten favorite, or five, or fifteen or twenty most characteristic pictures, displayed on the Home Page to help us get a quick handle on who the photographer is and what they do.
Following is my Tenset. Some images are monochrome and some are color; I like working with both. I tried hard to cut it down to ten, but alas, I failed. Brevitiy is not one of my strengths. There are a few more than ten images, but I figure The Tenset is a concept, a guideline, rather than a strict count. After all, the Big 10 Conference has fourteen teams and the Big 12 has ten.
about the images
Seventeen Miles to Madrid
I was visiting Santa Fe, New Mexico with a good friend, our second trip that has since become an annual tradition. Another friend of mine said we have to have margaritas at the La Fonda Hotel, and not wanting to disappoint him, Steve and I stopped by the La Fiesta Lounge and drank a couple of excellent margaritas. As we were leaving the hotel we stumbled (figuratively) into Photogenesis, a gallery that specializes in black and white photography. I was immediately taken by the work of Nicholas Trofimuk (I had not been a student of photography, so I did not discover black and white photography through the seminal works of Ansel Adams, Edward Westin, Paul Strand and others, though I would later). There was a picture of him with his large view camera, standing with the New Mexico landscape as the background.
A couple of days later we began our return to the ordinary world, traveling south along The Turquoise Trail, headed to the Albuquerque airport. About seventeen miles from Madrid I spotted this image; Highway 14 snaking across the dessert and disappearing into the distant mountains with intense afternoon clouds in a deep blue sky. We stopped the car, and trying my best to mimic a Trofimuk picture, I pulled out my little Panasonic LX-3 and snapped a few shots while Steve watched for traffic (which wasnt necessary). That moment was a turning point in my photography, the birth of my passion for black and white images and a fondness for road pictures.
Years later I was listening to Marillion sing “Happiness is the Road,” taking in the metaphor and this image came to mind, as it does every time I hear that song.
Retired Italian Tractor
I traveled to Italy in June 2004, my first trip to Europe, my first trip to the country of my mother’s ancestors. We planned stops to many of the most popular destinations, including Rome, Florence and Venice with side trips to Pompei and Pisa. After three days in Rome, we left the city for a day and night in the countryside, 115 miles from Rome and 80 miles from Pompei, our next destination. One of my fellow travelers swapped a couple of nights in his timeshare for a room at Residenza Vallefiorita in Rocchetta A Volturno.
The town turned out to be a very small village in a remote area of the Province of Isernia. We are probably one of the few Americans whose Italian vacations included time in Rochetta A Volturno.
I woke up early one morning, still somewhat jet-lagged, and walked on narrow streets around old stone houses and buildings. The streets were empty, except for a couple of big dogs sleeping in the middle of the road, and I assume their owners were asleep in their old houses. It was a cool, sunny morning; fog filled the valley below. I circled around a street and came across this old, apparently inoperable Italian tractor. I snapped one of my favorite pictures.
The peaceful morning that yielded this picture, and a quaint night in a small bar drinking Italian wine and talking with locals (who did not speak English nor did we speak Italian) turned out to be among my best memories of Italy.
Clouds Over Tumbleweeds
Lunch time. After months of cloudless blue sky, the first big clouds of the storm season were rolling into the valley. I hadn’t seen clouds of any significance since May, and their presence transforms the scenery. I grabbed my 20D and headed to the farmland to take a few shots before I went back to my cube. I was there for just a few minutes, pressing the shutter at least 30 or 40 times before I had to go back. Whether it was the clouds or capturing them, the afternoon at the office was much more upbeat. A few days later I sat down at my computer and began processing the images.
On a whim, perhaps with New Mexico and monochrome images still fresh in my mind, I converted several images to black and white and sent them to a friend. The subject line in the email was a sarcastic “Beautiful Bakersfield,” or something to that affect. Her reply startled me – “that’s a really attractive image.”
Since that moment I have favored black and white images; much of my work is converted to monochrome (I am particularly fond of Silver eFex Pro). That moment was also turning point with regard to my farmland photography. Up to that time I had taken my camera out to the farmland to capture special moments with my daughters or to simply enjoy the process of composing an image and pressing the shutter. Thereafter I recognized the possibility of capturing images that were very pleasing to me, possibly to others.
Urban sprawl continues and Bakersfield is growing to the north and west. Eventually notices are posted, the zoning is changed from agriculture to single family homes and the developers move in. This land is now a large housing development.
Marine layer approaching
June. Early summer in California. The deserts were heating up, sending temperatures soaring into the 90s and the 100s already. It’s a great time to leave the hot inland areas, like the one I live in, and head to the coast. But the coast can be afflicted with a condition called June Gloom - the deserts heat up and the marine layer on the vast Pacific Ocean encroaches on the coast. Some of the coldest days I’ve spent on California beaches have been in June!
My daughters and I headed to the central coast one June day to escape the San Joaquin Valley heat. We toured Hearst Castle, went to the beach in San Simeon and to Piedras Blancas to see if the elephant seals were still there. The marine layer was encroaching and I snapped this picture of the still, rocky water of the central coast. When I look at this picture I do not see gloom. I see calmness and serenity.