The Tenset Through One Lens

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.

The tenset

Click on a picture to enlarge it and swipe through the gallery

about the images

Seventeen Miles to Madrid

Seventeen Miles to Madrid, North of Madrid, New Mexico

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

Retired Italian Tractor, Rocchetta A Volturno, Italy

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

Clouds Over Tmbleweeds, Bakersfield, California

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

Marine Layer Approaching, Central Coast, California

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.

Dublin street harpist

Dublin Street Harpist, Dublin, Ireland

The weather was remarkably good for January. My sister and I were walking the streets of Dublin, admiring the architecture while trying to shed the after-effects of a late night in Temple Bar. We came across this woman at the corner of Grafton Street and College Green, a harpist, playing her music. At first I thought she was playing for money in those hard economic times, the crash following The Great Recession, but in my story she plays harp for the Dublin Symphony Orchestra. She loves her music and it is her labor of love that allows her to carry her large, heavy instrument to this street corner and play for the people of Dublin, of which I am a member on that cold winter day.

storm over the rio grande

Storm Over the Rio Grande, South of Taos, New Mexico

Our second annual guy trip took us to Santa Fe, New Mexico. We took a day trip north to Taos to wander around New Mexico and to see the famous Taos Pueblo. We took a scenic route, stopped in a Las Trampas to visit San Jose de Garcia Church, a Catholic Church built in the 1760s. We arrived in Taos in time for a great lunch at an outdoor restaurant with the tables covered by many colorful umbrellas. We went to the Pueblo afterwards but it was closed. We visited a few shops in search of sand paintings and pottery, then headed out to the Rio Grande Gorge east of town. As we approached the gorge a massive thunderstorm formed and heavy rain and hail began falling. We reluctantly, but quickly, turned around and raced the storm as we headed south to Santa Fe.

After putting some distance between the ourselves and the storm, we pulled over and watched it rapidly approaching. I snapped a couple of pictures with my Panasonic LX-3. The small sensor in the camera simply did not have the dynamic range to capture the range of light we were seeing. The highlights were blown, so as a photograph it was a failure. But I the power of the thunderstorm over the New Mexico desert.

Ballerina’s shoes

Ballerina’s Shoes, Bakersfield, California

A hot August afternoon, the temperature in excess of 100 degrees as I slowly walk through the Central Valley farmland. I reached the halfway point, Pink Floyd singing about the Machine, and start my return home when I stumbled across something in the weeds. Two pink, sequined shoes rest on the side of a lightly traveled road, the left big toe worn, the word “Angel” in the heal of the right shoe. Ballet shoes that belong, or once belonged, to a little ballerina. I picture a small girl, her hands above her head, straining to stand on the tips of her toes, trying to make a turn. The shoes have been there awhile; the weeds were growing over the right shoe. “What does she look like in these shoes?" I paused the music and asked, “why in the hell are they here?“

I imagine scenarios. Worn out and time to be replaced, Mom is lazy and just tosses them out the window. That pisses me off - there is just too much trash along the side of our roads. Then a more likely scenario pops into my mind. “Recalling my own youth, I imagine a slightly older bother taking the shoes from her and teasing her by hanging them out the window. She watches nervously as they fall, whether accidentally or intentionally, and they slide to the side of the road. She cries, but Mom is so used to their arguing and fighting that she dismisses her crying and tells her to be quiet because she is on the phone.

Plausible. I take a few pictures and start walking. Pink Floyd sings about a shining diamond. The little ballerina’s shoes rest in weeds along a Central Valley farm road. How sad was she? Is she alright now? I imagine her next lesson. It’s time to go, but the shoes are missing. Were they replaced? Does she still dance?

Watching Waves in Tamarindo

Watching Waves in Tamarindo, Playa Grande, Tamarindo, Costa Rica

He was checking out the waves as the sun set. We were on Playa Grande in Tamarindo, Costa Rica and the light was fading. I had a camera that simply wasn’t capable of capturing the dynamic range in those lighting conditions. I snapped and the handheld image was blurry, but I liked the composition. I processed the image with a Nik filter, enhanced the blurriness with the glamour glow filter and converted it to black and white. I liked the resulting image more than if I had captured it with a sharp, high ISO monster camera.

This is a great example of capturing an image that I enjoy even though I was using a camera whose technology limitations were only exceeded by the limitations of the photographer. I was using a Four-Thirds camera near dusk, and the small sensor had difficulty in low light. To complicate matters, for some I set the aperture on the Panasonic to one of the smallest the lens had, making it even more difficult to capture a technically good image in low light, especially handheld. The result - an exposure darker than reality with camera shake and blur, but an image I really enjoy.

Do not enter

Do Not Enter, Black Forest, Colorado

I traveled to Colorado to visit with my Mom. As we were driving to her house I noticed this dilapidated barn on Hodgins on the edge of the Black Forest near Colorado Springs. I was taking an online photography class and we had an assignment due when I got back home. I decided this barn would be my subject.

Having bought into the concept of the golden hour, that time of the day with the best light for photography, I struggled out of bed at 5:30 AM. I grabbed my camera and headed down the street to the old structure. There was a sign above the space where barn doors used to be. The sign said “Keep Out.” I didn’t need the warning. The barn was in a sad state of disrepair, ta condition that often makes excellent black-and-white pictures. It’s sad to see a building like this in such sdisrepair. I imagine when it was new, when the owners had pride in owning this barn that housed horses and farm equipment. It is hard to imagine the string of events that reduced this barn to this state of decay.

I snapped the shutter and captured some excellent images of an old dilapidated barn with massive clouds in the sky. After taking this picture I started searching for old abandoned structures and other items left behind.

Going home

Going Home, Morro Bay, California

We finished a day-long strategy session in Morro Bay and I had a short break before we would reconvene for dinner and a short evening session. The sun was starting to set, and before heading up to my hotel room I walked outside along the coast. Several boats were anchored in the bay and I spotted a man would appeared to be finishing up his day. He secured his boat, climbed into a row boat and paddled ashore for his commute home. What a completely different world than the one I live in!

Between the oaks

Between the Oaks, Caliente, California

I made a long, monotonous drive on Interstate 10 from New Orleans to Calfiornia in 1985 when I was transferred to Bakersfield. After hundreds of flat mles through coastal plains, west Texas and the New Mexico, Arizona and California deserts I arrived at the southern Sierra Nevada Mountains near Mojave. I climbed out of the Mojave Desert and reached the Tehachapi Pass, then began the rapid descent to the Cantral Valley, enjoying the twisty turns and steep descent through the Southern Sierras. I passed an exit to Caliente, and though I was tempted to turn right and explore, I was ready to get to my new home.

A few weeks later I drove the 924 east on Highway 58, exited to the north and drove the steep descent into the small town that had once been Caliente. I have made this drive to this isolated, beautiful area many times since I moved to California. I enjoy the numerous California Oaks, the narrow passages through the southern Sierras, the remote feel only thirty miles from my city and the wildflowers that arrive in the Spring.

Tracy arm fjord

Tracey Arm Fjord, Alaska

It was very early on a Wednesday morning the when the cruise ship turned east into the Tracey Arm Fjord and traveled inland to the Stewart Glacier. The weather was cold, overcast, fog covered the highest points in the surrounding mountains. The journey through the fjord to a glacier was a truly unique experience.

I am not a fan of cruise ships. I much prefer going to an island or other location that cruises visit and spending my time there. But there was one cruise a friend convinced me I had to take - a journey from Seattle through the Inland Passage to Alaska. My friend was right. The ship sailed close to land amid hard-to-reach scenery that was best seen from a ship. Our seven-day cruise took us north from Seattle to Juneau, further north to Skagway, then south to Ketchikan and Victoria, BC before returning to Seattle. Between Skagway and Ketchikan we veered inland into Tracey Arm.

I cannot adequately describe the beauty of Tracey Arm. The fjord cut a relatively narrow path through the steep mountains, which were densely covered with evergreens. Glaciers were visible on top of some of the mountains. The water was turquoise, a shade of blue I have never seen, the melting waters of the many glaciers mixing with the Pacific Ocean. As we cruised the fjord the ship played classical music over the loud speakers.

This image captures the beauty of journey; the turquoise water, the various shades of green trees, the steep slope of the surrounding mountains. Now I am tempted to take another cruise!

Petroglyph canyon trail

Petroglyph Canyon Trail, Valley of Fire, Nevada

My long-time friend Rick makes an annual motorcycle trip to the BNP Paramus Open tennis tournament in Indian Wells. After attending the tournament and visiting friends in San Diego, Rick started his return trip, “taking the long way home“ to Houston with a stop near Las Vegas to ride through The Valley of Fire State Park.

I drove to Vegas to meet him and stopped on the way at the Red Rock Conservation Area west of The Strip. That evening we met at a Best Western Hotel in an industrial district in North Las Vegas. We caught up by the indoor pool with a good bottle of cabernet from the Paso Robles region and ate good Mexican food at Viva Zapata's Mexican Restaurant & Cantina.

The next morning we made the 50-mile drive on Interstate 15 to the The Valley of Fire State Park northeast of Vegas. The park derives its name from red sandstone formations formed during the age of the dinosaurs approximately 150 million years ago.

We entered the park at the West Entrance and drove along the Valley of Fire Road to the Visitor Center. After reading about the area’s history we drove along the White Domes Road. Our first stop was at Mouse’s Tank (Petroglyphs Canyon). The trail was less than a mile long, but the walk was difficult. The trail was covered with thick, fine-grained sand, like walking on a beach. The hike was worth it. The rocks were beautiful and covered with Indian Petroglyphs. Highly recommended!

White domes

White Domes, Valley of Fire, Nevada

We headed north on White Dome after stops at Mouse’s Tank Trail and Rainbow Vista before reaching White Domes at the end of the road. As we drove the rocks transitioned from brilliant deep red to light shades of sandstone. Red rock country has always intrigued me, but the multi-colored White Domes seemed just as otherworldly and beautiful to me.

We retraced our route, heading south on White Dome Road past the Visitor Center and stopped at the East Petrified Logs. Further east we stopped at Elephant Rock as we moved toward the east boundary of the park, where Rick and I parted as he continued his journey to Texas and I drove back to California.

I think Rick said it best - “the southern Utah national parks have nothing on this place.” If you are in the Vegas area, the heat is tolerable and you like the outdoors, make time to visit The Valley of Fire State Park.


I spent thirty-eight years in Act II sitting in conference rooms and working in cubes for large energy companies. When possible I traveled to escape the confinement of the office environment. Since 2005 a camera has always been with me.

I left corporate America in November 2016. I handed my badge to security, signed some paperwork with HR and walked out of the building into a crisp fall day, bringing an end to my first career. I was very ready for “What’s Next.”

The Tenset include some of my favorite images from my second act. My “What’s Next” includes many things, including visual arts. It’s time to get out and capture some new images.

I hope you enjoy my Tenset.

(C) Through One Lens, 2020, All Rights Reserved.