The Face On Earth

I’ve just finished my tenure as an Artist In Residence for the Mojave National Preserve and I thought now would be the time to share this. Over the last 30 years, Margaret and I must have driven on the Kelbaker Rd more than 100 times, maybe even more than 150. During all this time had never seen this.

Last year we were driving back to the town of Baker, CA from Kelso to have lunch. As we were nearing Baker, I looked out the window and it was just staring at me. I yelled at Margaret, it’s a face, stop the car! I think I had startled her. She must have thought I was crazy. She brought the car to a quick stop as I grabbed my camera. She was still wondering what it was I was so excited about. I quickly pointed out the front window, she looked up, immediately saw what I was looking at and started to laugh.

As soon as I saw the face, an old memory cell in my brain brought up the connection. It looked amazingly like the images from the Viking Mars landers that landed on Mars in 1976. It was the image that became known as the Face On Mars. This face I was seeing bore such a resemblance to the one from Mars, could it be a sister structure?

The Face on Earth

The Face On Mars was shown to be nothing more than the way sunlight and it’s shadows plays upon the landscape of Mars. But know, here was another structure on Earth that produced almost an identical image. Could the original no be an optical illusion? Could the aliens have place such a structure on each planet they visited?

I know what I think. What do think?

The Installation of my Mojave National Park Show

Last weekend we were in Kelso, CA at the Visitors Center for the Mojave National Preserve in the Desert Light Gallery. It was for the installation of my photographs as the Artist In Residence for the Preserve. We were working with members of the Mojave National Preserve Artist Foundation to get all the photographs up on the wall.

This is the first show in the New Desert Light Gallery on the first floor of the visitor center. The previous gallery was in the basement and had more restrictive display space limitations. The new gallery has a much lighter and more airy atmosphere to it. Being as this was the first installation in the new space, no one had any idea how long it was going to take.

We started the work at 10 A.M. and were hoping that we could finish the same day. We only had access to the facility until 5 P.M. when the Visitor Center closed. Bob Killen and Janet and Bill Huston would be there to do the install. Since I’m in a wheelchair I could do small tasks but it would be Bob, Janet, Bill and my wife Margaret that would do all the heavy lifting.

Margaret and I had transported the 15 photographs and other paraphernalia to the visitor center in the back of our Jeep Cherokee. We had the photographs each packed in separate bags we had constructed from insulation material to protect them from any bumps and bruises of transportation. We also had my camera bag, an overnight bag and my wheelchair. It was a pretty packed car for the trip out. It also turned out to be a very beautiful day. The sky was bright blue with some great clouds. Temps were going to be in the 70’s with a light breeze. It was a shame we were going to be indoors.

We first laid out the photographs along the base of the walls to decide which photo would go where. It took a while to decide which photos would go where in this new space. Being a new space we had to work around all the idiosyncrasies of the space. Once we agreed on the order, it was now time to start the process of the actual hanging.

Measuring all the spaces and finalizing the position on the wall took a while. Bob and Janet were measuring and marking the location while Margaret and Bill were putting the hanging wire on the frames. We hadn’t installed any wire since the final hanging method hadn’t been decided yet. While everyone was busy, I got a chance to photograph some of the work. This one of the drawbacks of having Multiple Sclerosis, even though you’re present at activities, you’re can be outside since you really can’t take part.

We took a short break for lunch and by 2:30 had pretty much completed the installation. There were a few small items that would need to be completed the next morning when we were coming back to take a few photos of me. That was going to be a very weird experience. I’m always behind the camera, not in front of it.

We finished the few items remain from the day before and it was now complete. Looking at the display, I could definitely say that all the work I had done the previous year was worth it. It had been a long and at times difficult process. Seeing the photographs on the wall brought back so many memories of all the locations in the Preserve that we had visited.

The Mojave National Preserve is such a beautiful area and we enjoyed it so much. If you’ve never visited the Preserve, you should make an effort to come experience for yourself.

Hey, here is an idea, we’ll be having a meet the artist day in Late November or early December. Come out and view the show and introduce yourself. I’ll be there to talk about the show and my experiences and I would like nothing than talking about my work. Bring the family and spend the day in the Preserve and drop by the show and say, Hi!

David Nelson

Information On The Mojave National Preserve and the Artist In Residence program.

Links:

http://www.mojaveair.org/

https://www.nps.gov/moja/index.htm

 

 

The Great American Total Solar Eclipse Journey – Day 3 Getting closer to the eclipse, but the weather

It is a bright sunny morning as we have a quick breakfast in Tucumcari, New Mexico before heading further east toward our destination, Tulsa, Oklahoma. It was going to be one of the longer days of driving. As we neared Amarillo, Texas, we could see a build up of clouds ahead of us. Was this going to be the start of a weather build up that would spoil our eclipse viewing in three days?

We are now three days into our adventure to view the Total Solar Eclipse and I’m still feeling fine. Two year earlier we went to the Netherlands and to see the first two stages of the 2015 Tour de France. Our son and his family would be with us and my wife’s sister and her family was going to join us also. We arrived after the 11-hour flight and drove to the old farmhouse my son had rented. We got there just about dinnertime and our son and his two daughters were there to meet us. Their mom would be arriving in a couple of days. Here sister’s family would be arriving in a couple of days.

The next few day were very busy sight seeing and exploring our surroundings. Wouldn’t you know it, the Netherlands was having a heat wave. If the temperatures are in the mid 80’s F, that’s warm for the Netherlands. We were stay just south of Utrecht, and temperature for the start of the tour was 100˚ F. As we waited for the 2nd stage of the race to come through Montfoort, we had a mice rain shower, even as the temperature worked its way to 100˚ F.

After six days of being very active, it had definitely had taken it’s toll on me. I should have known to slow down a little because the MS kind of rose up and told me to rest. After of taking an easy day, thing began to feel better. Now I was wondering what might happen on this trip. The temperatures were great so and I was making sure I wasn’t going to push myself to hard. I had also planned an easy day for the 5th day as we would be awaiting the eclipse the following day.

After Amarillo, the clouds began to look like they might be building. It was a beautiful sky as we drove that morning.

We exited of I-40 in Shamrock, TX. I knew that there was an old filling station in Shamrock. Driving down the I-40 Business Route through town, I found and old arrow sign for the K&K RV Park, for my collection.

Next we came upon the old Conoco Service Station and along with it the U-Drop Café. It was getting closer to lunch, but the cafe wasn’t open. It is a well-restored complex. To bad we couldn’t have had lunch there. You can see that there was getting to be more clouds in the sky. A constant discussion of would or wouldn’t we get to see the eclipse kept us entertained.

Entering Oklahoma, we stopped at a Welcome Center for the state. It was time for a rest stop and it would allow us to check out the center. It was a very good decision to visit the center. We had a long talk with the personnel. After informing them that I’m a photographer and working on a few projects, they had many suggestions and tip where there would be subjects for me. I only wish we would have more time in Oklahoma to explore some of thee tips. We would have time to stop at a few. They also had old-fashioned road maps to give us. All you old timers know what they are, but for you youngsters, they are what we used before we turn-by-turn instructions on our phones. But, they do provide you with a way to find somewhere to go when you have no set location. Nothing is better than spreading out a map on the hood of a car and scanning the map to find an interesting destination that you didn’t know you wanted to go to. I hope we find a few more welcoming centers in other states.

When we got to Elk City, OK, we were looking for the large Route 66 road sign the welcome center had informed us about. Well, it definitely was a large sign. Right next to the location of the Route 66 sign, we also found a large Kachina Doll and an old sign with a great arrow.

Once we got to Tulsa, we had to find the Golden Driller: Titanic Oil Man. We decide that we stop by the bank on the way to the driller to pickup some cash. We looked up the location of the nearest branch on the to the driller using the banks phone app. We couldn’t understand why it said that the branch was closed since it was on 4 PM. When we arrived at the location, we understood why it said closed. The bank and a few other businesses where closed. It then hit us, this is where the tornado from a couple of weeks had touched down.

We hit the next branch on the way to the driller and got our cash. When we turned into the parking lot at the fair grounds where the driller is located, it was obvious that he definitely a Giant. He stands 76 feet tall and with oil derrick next to him, he is certainly an imposing figure

After photographing the driller, we had a relaxing dinner at a Cracker Barrel. Since they are coming to Southern California, we thought we check them out.

Tomorrow would be our last day traveling to Jefferson Coty, MO. We would be at our location for the eclipse. We would have a rest day as we got ready for the eclipse. But looking at the photo driller, you can see that the sky is clear. Maybe luck will be with us.

The Great American Total Solar Eclipse Journey – Day 1

August 21, 2017, that was the day when a Total Solar Eclipse was going to be through out the Untied States. The Total Eclipse was visible in 14 states stretching from Oregon on the west coast to South Carolina on the east coast. The rest of the U.S. got to see a partial Eclipse. How could I not go see this event?

I spent about a month researching where I wanted to travel to view the eclipse. I did this about 15 months before the eclipse so that I could make my reservations well before the masses became aware of the eclipse. I took what the weather history was like in each location. But I also wanted to make the trip worthwhile even it should be a rainout. Since I’m working on a couple of photographic projects, they played a major factor in my final decision. After much contemplation, I chose Jefferson City, Missouri.

Why Jefferson City? The weather prospects were good, it was near the centerline of the eclipse and it wasn’t seen as a major and therefore an overcrowded spot. Also, we would travel Interstate 40 from Barstow, CA to Oklahoma City, OK. We had first traveled this route in 1985 when we covered the Race Across AMerica (RAAM). I knew there would be many photographic opportunities for my photo projects along the way. The main projects I’m working on is my “Land of Giants” and a project with old signs, signs with Arrows and signs with Neon. So, over a year before the eclipse I booked our room.

We departed home on August 16th for the eclipse. I had it planned out to be four days traveling to Jefferson City, three days in Jefferson City and five days traveling back home. I could have easily doubled the time and still not have had enough time to photograph all we say. It was 1700 miles back to Jefferson City and I planned the first day as the longest. We traveled 525 mile from home to Winslow, AZ. Since we’ve travelled often to the Flagstaff, AZ, we new the route well and knew we wouldn’t be stopping to photograph until after Flagstaff.

A short distance after Flagstaff we came to Twin Arrows. Well, it wasn’t like we remembered it from the late 80’s. The old Twin Arrows Trading Post was just an old derelict building. Across the interstate was an Indian Gaming Casino. But, the Giant Twin Arrows was still there. Another Giant for my collection.

Pulling up to our motel in Winslow, just 100 yards from the Motel, I see an old sign that has a great looking arrow. Joes Café might not be what it used to be, but it’s sign still has a beautiful arrow.

Driving around town that evening after dinner, we came to Winslow High School and their mascot, a Giant Bulldog.

After a good nights sleep and a good breakfast, we were ready to leave town. But before we left, with the Eagles, “Take It Easy” playing on the radio, we had one more stop.

We were now on our second day. Stay tuned for more.

Printing for my show

I spent this weekend to start printing the Photos for my show as Artist In Residence at the Mojave National Preserve. For those of you who haven’t been to the Preserve or have not heard of it, it’s a beautiful area of the Mojave Desert in Southern California. To get to it, head to Las Vegas from Los Angeles on Interstate 15. When you get to Baker, turn left on Kelbaker Rd. You are then in The Mojave National Preserve.

My show will be displayed in November and December of 2017. The show will be in the Gallery at the Preserve Headquarters in the Old Train Depot at Kelso, about 30 miles from Baker. It’s an old pre World War 2 station that has been beautifully restored and now functions at the Park Headquarters. You can learn all about the Park and the history of the Kelso Station. Also, if you like trains, the Union Pacific Mainline from LA to los Vegas/Salt Lake City passes right next to the station.

I decided I better get started printing as soon as I can so that I can work on my other projects. It’s been a while since I printed large prints. As my Multiple Sclerosis (MS) has progressed, I’m become pretty much confined to wheelchair. As with much of my life now, this provides challenges that need solutions. Being in a wheelchair causes my head to be just little higher than the top of the printer. Because of this I can’t see the paper stop setting for the paper feed and can’t see to load the paper. Luckily, I have a wonderful wife, Margaret, who can function as my eyes and legs.

I would get the file set in Photoshop and she would set the printer and load the paper. Once we had the room arranged so that we could both work it went smoothly. After the prints was finished she would take the print to the table in the dining room and place it on the table so if could off-gas for the next day. We than would start on the next print. The system worked well and we got through quite a few prints each day. Living with MS provides many opportunities to find solutions to problems. Without Margaret’s help, this whole project would not have been possible.

Here are the prints from one days work lying out on the dining room table.

Who placed this Elevation Marker?

After finishing Breakfast i Palm Springs, we went exploring around the desert looking for some old structures and signs for my photo projects. We traveled alone Highway 247 from Yucca Valley to Barstow. As we were traveling down the portion that is know as Barstow Road, we were about 5 miles south of The Slash X Cafe when we came upon an elevation marker along the highway. We had gone past a few that morning. The were the usual, 3000 Ft, 4000 Ft, or if it was a pass it would have the actual altitude, 2349 Ft.

As we were coming down this long straight road when we approached this elevation marker. After see the elevation, I had to stop to take a photo of it. I was trying to figure out why they didn’t go down the road 50 ft further where the elevation would be an even 3300 Ft. Why 3305 Ft? I guess this government work.

ElevationSign3305Ft-Hiway247-NearSlashXCafeCA-(20150517)-004

Giant Hunting in the Southern Central Valley – Day 2

After the gas station in Lemon Cove, we headed back down to the valley. In Kingsburg, we had lunch at a nice little restaurant inside an antique mall. After lunch we found the towns water tower that is made to look like a large coffee pot styled to look like it fits with the towns Swedish theme. It was tough finding an angle where the tower wasn’t obscured by the buildings of the town. We headed up to the northern edges of the town to investigate the large raison box at the Sun Made Factory. It was the wrong time of day as the box was totally in the shadow of the building. Not the right time of day for the image.

GiantCoffeePotWaterTower-KingsburgCA-20150212-009

We next headed down to Tulare to investigate their water tower, which is painted to look like a glass of milk. Unlike Kingsburg, this tower had a clear view of it. While the tank isn’t as good looking as the tank in Kingsburg, it is still a good-looking tank.

GiantGlassofMilkWaterTower-TulareCA-20150212-007

Back in Bakersfield, we went to photograph an old 7-Up sign on the 7-Up bottling plant. I was hoping that the sign would be lit that evening, but the sign no longer works. Is still got a good shot of it. We stopped for dinner at a little burger stand near the sign before returning to our motel. It was good to get back to the room and relax for a view hours that evening after such a long day. I also had some time to review the image from the day.

7UpSign-BakersfieldCA-20150212-008

Day 2 of our Southern Central Valley trip had us leaving our motel at sun up to head back out to the Buttonwillow Steer. When I photographed it in the evening, I just didn’t like the background to the steer. It looked like it would be better if it was photographed in the morning. So out we went. We stopped for a quick breakfast on our way out. Once we arrived at the location, I scouted around taking photos as I went. It did have a better background than the evening. We had photographed all the targets that I had in my itinerary along with a few more.

Giant steer in Buttonwillow, CA

Giant steer in Buttonwillow, CA

We decided to take a longer way home by going through Tehachapi. Before leaving Bakersfield, I had to photograph a giant boot that we had been directed to by a local we had been talking with the day before.

LargeRedBoot-BakersfieldCA-20150213-001

We probably hadn’t been through Tehachapi in 15 to 20 years. We took the slow route following the BNSF railroad tracks. It was a very relaxing drive through the hills and we found some interesting items along the way. When we arrived Keene I found an old interesting sign for my sign projects.

KeeneCafeEat&Deli-KeenCA-20150213-004

We finally arrived in Tehachapi, we ate at a little burger stand with a good view of the tracks. We got to see a couple of trains go through as we were eating. We did a little sight seeing in Tehachapi before heading home. The last 2 days had been very productive as I got to add photos to a couple of projects I’m working on.

The Value Of Revisiting The Past

Sometimes you rediscover things that you have long forgotten when you take a trip down memory lane. A month or so back I received a call from a video production company in England. They were producing a show on a competitor that had competed in the 1988 Race Across America. They had been referred to me as I worked as the race’s photographer during that race.

From 1984 though 1999, I worked as the race’s photographer. The Race Across America, RAAM, is a transcontinental bicycle race that starts on the West Coast and ends on the East Coast. Unlike bicycle stage races, such as the Tour de France, where each day the racers complete a race of a definite length, in RAAM, the entire course is the stage. There is no definite time each day after the stage has been completed, for the racer to rest, have a massage or a meal.

All the competitors start together and the first one to the finish line is the winner. They have to complete a course that is defined by the Race. They are free to get of the bike to eat, sleep or answer natures call. When they are of the bike, they aren’t making any headway toward the finish. If their competitors are on the bike riding and they aren’t, they are losing ground. Time off the bike is time lost, so the major rule in RAAM was, “Stay on the Bike”. As little time of the bike was the mantra. It was normal for most racers to sleep as little as 2 to 3 hours a day. The winner would cover the typical 3000 mile race in 9-10 days.

Covering the race, my wife and I wouldn’t get a lot of sleep either. After all, if we slept, the race moved on and we would then have to play catch up. We usually tried to get a good 8 hour sleep about halve way through the race. It was a tough assignment, but also very rewarding. Since the race usually was on the back roads of America, we got to see many places few people get to visit because they are flying down the Interstate. How many people have got to visit Slapout, OK or Pie Town, NM? The only downside is we didn’t have time to do much sightseeing, as we had to keep up with the race.

As I started looking through the transparencies from the 1988 Race, a ton on memories came flooding back. This was from the time before digital photography and everything was on film. I had to go through notebooks filled with slide pages, pages with 20 slide per page. I had to review them by taking each page out of the notebook and place it on a light table. I would then take a loupe and look at each slide. It sort of like Grid View in Adobe Lightroom except I only see 20 at a time. If I want to see the little inch by inch and a half image in greater detail, I have to look at with my loupe. It sure made me appreciate Lightroom. With my dual 24 inch monitors, I can see the grid view on one monitor and the loupe view of an image on the other. Boy, is it much faster and easier now. But at the same time, I do miss film sometimes, but then again, not that much.

Looking at the 1988 race I saw some photos of a friend that competed in the 1987 and 1988 race. It the hit me, I had some photos of him in the 1987 race that fit in with my Giants photo project. After I got the photos to the folks in England, I dug out the transparencies fro 1987 race. Flipping through images I came across what I was looking for. There it was Chris Kostman, 20 years old at the time, being stalked by a Giant Gumby. Chris is still a good friend and I see him a few times a year at some of the Ultra-marathon events he produces. He produces bicycling and running events and I come out to his events to do some photography each year. Chris always has a small Gumby as his totem and good luck piece.

Having known Chris since 1984, I knew Chris would enjoy a print of him and Gumby from 1987. I was traveling up to Remo the following week to photograph his “Silver State 508” Ultra-marathon cycling race and decide to make a print and give it to him there, since this race was covering the same place the photo was made 27 years earlier. I then new I had to add it to my project.

My wife and I are now starting to go through the 15 years of transparencies of RAAM with the thought of producing a photo book of our adventures. It’s going to take a bit of effort, not just to go through all the images, pick the ones we think should be in the book, but then to scan them. I first have to round up all the images, as many have not been returned to the notebooks where they belong. Many are still in the packages that they were returned in from different publications during those years. That will also mean straightening up many other images that haven’t been placed back in their correct locations after having been returned.

Revisiting the past can create a lot of work, but that’s my fault as I should have done a better job, but I was always looking forward to the next assignment, not worrying about what was already done. I guess I will get to look at many old images. I’m not looking forward to the work, but I am looking forward to all the memories that I will find in the process. I do know that it will make me appreciate the digital process. Since I acquire my DSLR in July, 2001, I haven’t shot one roll of film.

Enjoy the Giant Gumby. It was shot on Highway 50, the loneliest road in America, somewhere east of Fallon, NV. Who knew, Gumby was a stalker!!!

KostmanHighway50-2

 

To view the rest of my Land of Giants images, please visit my web Page. http://www.djnphoto.com. Once you get to the site, go to the Galleries section and there you can see the Land of Giants Project or any other projects I may be working on.

Thank you and keep those shutters clicking.

Partial Solar Eclipse or The Universe is Circular

Have you every pondered how the universe seems to be circular. Wether as actual circle or as spheres, everything seems to be circular. Planets, moons, stars and if something isn’t circular, it’s path through the universe is circular, i.e, orbits.

Last Thursday afternoon, in the United States, we got to see a couple of spheres traveling along their circular paths. We had a Partial Solar Eclipse. That is when the Moon in it’s orbital path crosses between the Sun and us here on Earth.

In the Los Angeles are, where I live, the moon started moving in front of the Sun about 2:30 pm with it reaching it’s maximum coverage about 3:20. We had our normal clear weather so we had a good view of the event. While not a spectacular as a Total Solar Eclipse, it still provide us with a reminder of where we are in the grans scheme of things.

All I had to do was to grab my camera equipment out on to my front lawn and snap a few images. I owed my Nikon D800E, my Nikkor 500mm f4 lens with a 2x teleconverter add to it. I set the ISO a 1600 and placed a solar filter over the lens. The Sun has quite a few sunspots on its face including on very large cluster just below the center of the sun. This all made for a very exciting image.

ENJOY!!

Partial Solar Eclipse-Oct. 23, 2014. From Buena Park, CA

Partial Solar Eclipse-Oct. 23, 2014. From Buena Park, CA