Arising before sunrise has some advantages.  Frequently during the high desert's 2 rainy seasons the morning clouds take on special shapes and colors creating breath taking views.  Below are 3 images of sunrises from this past winters rainy season.  The first 2 taken at sunrise through Antelope Pass in the Peloncillo mountains of southern New Mexico.  The wispy yellow cloudscape was a pleasing way to start the day.  While the last image is the sunrise of Christmas morning 2014.  The range of color, purple through yellow, contrasting with the cloud texture from smooth to well defined clouds is especially pleasing.  Sitting in my files, I recently rediscovered these images while cleaning and wanted to pass along these awe inspiring views of sunrise in the high desert of New Mexico.

whispy clouds
Sunrise through Antelope Pass in the Peloncillo Mountains.  Note the mimetolith in the lower right corner.

Cloudscape of blue and yellow
Christmas morning cloudscape


Selective Color Desaturation

Contrast and color are important aspects of any photograph and I always struggle to find the right mix that produces depth and helps create an interesting image.  One method which mixes both color and contrast manipulation is selective desaturation.  This method relies on the removal of specific colors during the post production process either by painting out color in certain areas or the wholesale removal of certain colors from the photograph.  By selectively removing individual colors from the image a composite of Black & White and color is created.   Below are 3 images, the first is what came out of the camera.  The second is with the mountains, clouds, and sky desaturated.  While the third is one in which the foreground appears desaturated while the mountains, sky, and clouds retain their color.  This simple technique can add a great deal to an image and help enhance specific aspects of an image.

Full color image

Sky and mountains desaturated

Foreground desaturated


The Tenth Wedding

The Painted Pony Resort was pleased to host it 10th wedding this weekend.  With a western theme and planning by one of the local wedding planners it was a family affair with good food, music and dancing.  We all wish the happy couple well and hope to see them again soon. 

Wedding decorations with a western theme.

Exchanging rings at the Painted Pony Resort

the happy couple in the front garden
Husband and wife in the front garden.
Additional images from the wedding may be found at Desert Lace Images on Facebook


Puddles of Pink and Other Stuff

Below is a nice sunrise through the Antelope Pass in the Peloncillo mountains of southern New Mexico.  Pink puddles of light illuminate the edges of cumulus clouds at dawn. Closing in on the end of a 30 hr work day, I saw this as the sun was beginning to rise.  It is followed by a view of the front garden where selective colors were desaturated to create a Black & White background with the blooming Crepe Myrtle in the foreground.  I find this image pleasing as a result of the difference in contrast afforded by the partial desaturation.

Little puddles of pink at sunrise.

Crepe Myrtle in color with Black and White mountains.
Here is one more selectively desaturated image, this time reversed with B&W predominating the image.

Selective desaturation of clouds over the Peloncillo mountains


Same Time, Same Subject, but from Arizona and from New Mexico

The wide open western skies of the San Simon Valley just beg to be photographed and the monsoon season always brings interesting views.  Recently 2 photographers, myself and another photographer captured the same cumulus monsoon buildup independently.  We were both outside at the same time and saw the same thing although miles apart and not in communication with one another.  We independently took the same image at approximately the same time, but from completely different locations, one of us on the west side of the valley, the other on the east side.  Then we both processed our images into black and white to enhance the impact of the image before posting them.  It amazes me that we both saw the same thing, were both impressed by the view, then captured it.  And since the other photographer was in Arizona when taking her photograph, while I was in New Mexico, it makes it the more interesting to me.

My image of the cloud is somewhat larger and it could be argued that I was closer to the cloud in question resulting in a larger image, but the more likely explanation is that I used the zoom.

Cumulus build up from the New Mexico side of the San Simon Valley.

The same cumulus buildup from the Arizona side of the valley.  Photo by Statia Dougherty
Addendum:  The other photographer was shooting in Black and White mode on her camera and did not have to convert to grayscale in post production.  I do not have that option on my little point and shoot camera so an extra step is required to produce Black and White images.


It is Offical - the Monsoon is Here

It is official the summer monsoon has arrived and a little early to boot.  The Painted Pony Resort received its' first big rain, 1.27", and as a result the grasslands are greening up nicely.  Of course we had some rain on the evening of the 4th which is traditional.  The image shown below was taken day before the first big rain of the season in June.  With the traditional big monsoon cloud buildup over the Chiricahua Mountains a different kind of presentation was decided upon.  After the usual tweaking of input light levels and contrast the colors were inverted.  This resulted in Portal Peak and the Chiricahua Mountains becoming white, and in silhouette, while the clouds are purple tinged with black and all set in an orange sky.  For those familiar with the area the silhouette of the Chiricahuas should be immediately recognizable and as one local Biologist put it, Happy Biological New Year.

Inverted Color Clouds Over the Chiricahua Mountains
An inverted color image of monsoon clouds over the Chiricahua Mountains.
A crepe myrtle in bloom with monsoon showers in the background.


The 4th of July in Rodeo, New Mexico's most Western Town

Small town 4th of July celebrations are a mixture of sweat, hard labor, and community spirit.  All in an effort to create something special on Independence Day.  In Rodeo NM this means parades, dinners, a cake auction, and an evening of dancing. 

As 6 PM approached everyone lining the parade route tuned into AM 1590 (Rodeo Radio), the lead horse riders with the American and New Mexico flags could be seen at the south end of town starting their procession up Highway 80. As with any small town parade the floats are all made locally by families and groups in the area to show their civic pride in Rodeo, the San Simon Valley, and the Boot Heel of New Mexico. This was the 37th year of the Rodeo 4th of July parade and the event is always sponsored and coordinated by the Rodeo Community Association. The best of show this year went to the Chiricahua Peloncillo Historical Society for its' C. S. Fly photography float and its recreation of Geronimo's surrender that ended the Indian wars in the southwest. While the model of Rodeo from the 1950's took best float. After a long line of floats through town, everyone got back to socializing and visiting. I saw people who I have not spoken with in a year so it was a good opportunity to catch up with neighbors and meet folks from the area I did not know.

The post parade events were held at the Rodeo Community Center where the traditional pulled beef brisket dinner was served. A full community center is always a good sign and following dinner the parade prizes were handed out to the winning entries. This was followed by the annual cake auction which raises funds for the Rodeo community scholarship fund which provides funds for local students seeking higher education. Rounding out the evening was the annual dance at the community center which I had to miss. With guests arriving for another family reunion at the Painted Pony Resort I had to get back to work.

It was a great break from the normal routine and another special day for me in Rodeo.

The start of the parade in Rodeo NM
Chiricahua Peloncillo Historical Society
C. S. Fly and Geronimo's surrender
The mini mule
1950's in Rodeo
The Southwest Research station

Dinner at the Rodeo Community Center

I Found a Rock

Of course your laughing after reading the title but being out on the landscape working always provides opportunities to find something new.  While driving down the entrance road on the estate the other day I noticed some new burrows along the drive, stopping to investigate I noticed a strange stone lying in the excavated dirt pile next to an entrance.  Perhaps 2" long and about 3/8" in diameter this elongated piece at first resembled a segment of root.  Upon picking it up I noticed it was stone not wood, with a crusty like exterior but a very fine grained interior.  There appeared to be a central core partially hollow at both ends.  Stumped as to its identity I put it away and went on working.  Later I started searching for a possible identity to this unusual find and came across descriptions of fulgurite or fused sand and dirt from a cloud to ground lightning strike.  The area does see many lightning strikes especially during the monsoon season and of course there is the New Mexico Lightning Field, so perhaps this is a piece of petrified lightning.  It is interesting to note that the bulk of the interior is very fine grained while the outside layer is much courser as if the interior material fused at a much higher temperature which decreased further out from the center.  Just one more reminder to keep ones eyes open when out on the landscape.  Oh, I still have not figured out what animal dug the burrows along the fence line.

Fulgurite specimen from the Painted Pony Resort

Cross sectional view of the fulgurite

What About the Other Native Bee Species?

Oops, after uploading the last post on Honey Bees to Facebook a local Biologist asked about all the other bee species native to the desert southwest.  Most other bee species important for pollination are solitary and do not form hives.  As such their nesting requirements differ from the common honey bee.  To remedy this situation several nest sites were created that cater specifically to solitary bees.  These nesting sites 1/4" - 3/8" in diameter and 3-5" in depth were drilled in left over 2 x 4s and placed inside segments of old drainage pipe.  After finishing, these nesting tubes seemed functional but sometimes functional is not enough.  Something visually interesting out on the landscape is also required.  So a grubbed mesquite was chosen and after some time with the saw a much more interesting shape for a bee nesting site emerged.  Covered in 1/4" - 3/8" holes 3-5" deep and with a rebar pin in the base this section of stump was inverted and placed on the top a railroad tie fence post at one corner of the property close to the riverbed..  The dried mesquite is hard and with a covering of bark should last many years in the weather.  By inverting the stump the nest holes are protected from the weather and by drilling holes all around the stump the bees have a variety of choices for micro-climate specific nesting sites, sun, shade, amount of breeze, choice of views etc..

For more on the native bee species please see:  Pocket Guide to Native Bee Species of New Mexico, in a pdf format.

2 x 4 and drainage pipe solitary bee nesting site.

A more visually interesting solitary bee nesting site out of Mesquite.
Functional solitary bee nesting site in place.

A visually interesting mesquite stump bee nesting site in place on a fence corner post.
A new website specifically about pollinators in the southwest "Pollinator Corridors Southwest".


Honey Bees Part II

As noted in a previous post, this year has been full of honey bees.  I made the mistake of using caulk to try and seal hive entrances where new colonies of honey bees were establishing themselves.  The bees made fast work of the caulk and reopened sealed entrances requiring a layer of stucco to permanently seal up entrances.  Despite the aggravation of new colonies trying to establish themselves honey bees are good for the landscape.  Reports of the decline in bee colonies is in the news prompting the Painted Pony Resort to do its' part in maintaining local bee populations.  Habitat restoration as part of the grassland restoration project is one of the goals of the resort so honey bees are a natural target for restoration activities.  To that end a 2 tiered bee box was placed in the riverbed as a home for a honey bee colony.  Under the shade of a large mesquite and with the entrance facing southeast (away from the predominate winds) the site is well suited for a colony of honey bees.  Located in the middle of the riverbed the area is surrounded with grasslands and wild native flowers.  Although I have missed this springs movement of new queens the location is ready for any wandering queen looking for a new home.

For more information on habitat restoration for Honey Bees see the Great Pollinator Project.

Honey Bee habitat restoration
A new home for some local honey bees