Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Serbia Right

It's nice to be noticed from time to time.

In September I received a nice note from Karl Haudbourg, a fellow in Serbia that had come across my site while twittering (proof that there is indeed marketing potential in these "social media" things). He took note of my page dedicated to Serbia and realized immediately that it would be fodder for his blog "Serbia's Ambassador to the World", wherein he collects and publishes positive accounts of people's experience with that country and its citizens. There's no doubt that Serbia has a bad rap around the world and my own experience there made me begin to wonder how much of that is due to a low down, lying press. Karl's crusade is to provide an antidote, or at least counter some of that bad press, by taking on the role of good will ambassador for his country. If you think you may have given a bum rap to Serbia you can do two things: visit his BLOG and then visit my page dedicated to the country HERE.

(This photo of the Bishop's Residence in Novi Sad was the one he chose to use.)

Onward and Upward

Photographically, I had a very blessed summer, highlighted by the gift of a new macro lens from my wife, Carollen, and a Nikon D90 from a consortium of friends, organized by said wife. I'm greatly pleased with this machine and have had a great time with it. Upon receiving it, I immediately familiarized myself with its workings (i.e, learned where the battery and flash card go) and set out in the neighborhood to see if both it and I could live up to its promise.


This was one of the first photos I took with both the D90 and the macro. (A neighbor's collection of magnificent sunflowers was impossible to ignore.) Since beginning to shoot digital, I have really missed owning a macro lens and for once my moaning and groaning didn't go unnoticed.

A few days later, at the Western Idaho Fair:

Horse woman Risa Roe was enjoying her new partner, a young horse she saved from extermination and, with a lot of love and patience, made into a show horse. They were headed to the bridle competition but slowed down enough to allow me a few shots.

With the arrival of fall I, like billions of other photographers, turned my attention to the glories of the season. Carollen and I headed off for a couple of days in McCall, on the shores of Payette Lake about two hours north of Boise, and there I got into my stride with the new camera.

A nice hike in Ponderosa State Park brought us to Huckleberry Bay on Payette lake. It was the ideal spot to continue my dabbling with HDR (High Dynamic Range) photography. If you want or need to get excited about photography again, you could try HDR - it's really quite phenomenal.

The above is an example of a shot on a bright, sunlit day, but below you have just the opposite. This day was gray and flat but HDR allowed me to suck more out of the scene than anyone would have thought possible.



I'll be showing a lot more of my HDR efforts, so stay tuned. Meanwhile do a Google image search for "HDR" and hold onto your socks.

Now back to the real world:

(If you ask me why I took this photo or, indeed, insist on showing it, don't expect an answer.)

Take your pick:

And now, 15 minutes later:

I've not run out of photos to share, and of course neither have I run out of words, but that's it for now. Thanks for visiting!

Monday, July 6, 2009

The March of Progress

Building a website when one has no formal training in doing such is usually a bad idea. On the other hand, if one has not the necessary riches at hand to hire someone to do it for one, then there may be no other option. Seems like the story of one's life: do it one's self or don't do it at all.

Well, one found an alternative.

For the past few weeks I have been working away at my new site with tools provided by an outfit called SmugMug. I have since discovered that there are other companies offering pretty much the same but I decided to throw my lot in with the Smuggers. It has worked well and I'm quite happy with the upgrade in appearance I will now enjoy as a result. And although appearances may not be everything they do count in marketing photography. I hope.

It was certainly long overdue and, now that I am once again devoting so much time to taking pictures, I really had few other options. You can see the new site here: New Site!

While there take a look at my collection of San Francisco Doors. Back in the early nineties I compiled more than a hundred of them in about three days while producing a Corel Photo CD.

Tired feet.

It's mandatory to have an 0n-line portfolio and SmugMug does a great job of it. I'm especially pleased with the well integrated shopping cart. Nothing dampens a desire to purchase a photo like having to jump through a series of hoops and then actually having to contact the photographer himself anyway to discover he doesn't accept credit cards. One could possibly miss sales this way.

Besides providing actual quality prints in a gadzillion different finishes and formats, some regular products are also offered (mugs, tees, and the like). One may even download the photos as digital files, which is very convenient.

Hope it works!

A Catch

The vast majority of my work still resides in box after box of all the transparencies I've taken over my forty years in the business, all the way up to about 2005 A.D. when I really started to learn digital. All of this Kodachrome implies lots of scanning, i.e. time and money. Most of my best work is there and I really want to show it, so what to do?

Well, there is one possibility. Back in the early '90s I participated in the production of a huge project to digitize photography in order to make collections available on the then new recording medium called See Dees, or something like that. This, in effect, was the beginning of the end for film photography, so in one way I felt I was cutting the throat of the medium I loved so well. But it was clear as daylight that nothing I did or didn't do was going to alter the unyielding progress of technology. That would be like me believing that my breathing out contributed to global warming.

(Here's a photo from a Fruits and Vegetables collection I shot for a photo disk. You can see why I wanted these scans!)

Skip ahead fifteen years. I have a pile of CDs with a lot of my good work on them in fairly high res scans - why should I complain? Well, the file type used in those disks is no longer recognized by anyone but a few gray haired geeks in the basement at the Smithsonian Institute, so they have been pretty much irretrievable. How frustrating!

Note I said "pretty much". Every year or so I do a search to see if there is anything new in the "pull photo cd images out of their retirement" front. This year I finally struck pay dirt with "PCDTOJPEG". It's a DOS command line program so I had to reach back into the dark recesses of my memory and draw forth skills and tricks from my earliest days with computers, way before Windows. Way, way before.

With some very helpful e-mail support from the author of this great little program, AKA Sandy CornerFix, I've finally been able to access those scans. What a thrill! If you too have encountered this frustrating problem, let me be of service: PCDTOJPEG.

So now I'm busy transforming those hard to get at files with complimentary software that does a great job. This is going to be fun. Visit the site to see more!

The entrance to the "Li Po" Bar on Grant Avenue, right in the middle of Chinatown. I'll bet many of you have seen it, but have you dared enter?

Kiss me! (Move over Edward Weston.)

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Idaho's Hawaii

We took a day trip last Sunday into my favorite Idaho county, Owyhee. This vast chunk of country pretty much occupies the entire southwest corner of the state but is home to just under 11,000 people, and that's one of the reasons I like it so much. The road we drove is billed as the Owyhee Uplands Scenic Byway, which is exactly what it is but gives away nothing of what one can expect to see. It's a 103 mile loop that begins and ends in a little town on the Snake River called Grandview, passing through a corner of Oregon on the way.

The history of its name oddly connects this state with the state of Hawaii, "Owyhee" being another spelling of that state's name in olden times and one which was often used to refer to the native Hawaiians. Sometime way back in the early 1800's, probably around 1818, a few Owyhees joined a fur trading expedition into this remote territory. The impetuous islanders evidently strayed away from the main group to explore more of the territory and were never heard from again. Fur trappers began to call the area "Owyhee" and the name stuck, to the mountain range, the river, the canyon and finally the county.

It's a county of vast stretches of wild landscapes, including snowy peaks visible from Boise, ghost towns of Idaho's Silver boom, huge cattle ranches, and plenty of signs of the native Americans who were living there when those Owyhees first visited.

For me, it's a chance to step back into a time and a country that has changed little since frontier days and before. And to find an abundance of photographic challenges as well!

For a few more views of Owyhee county, please visit a page I've just added to my website: Owyhee. I probably won't keep this page up much longer as I intend to incorporate it into a general Idaho page so you'd better go there while the gettin's good!

Thursday, May 14, 2009


I'm still working through a bunch of old prints from my Mexico days - boy, do the memories come back with those pictures!

In the last post I mentioned a series of photos that I took on a magic mushroom adventure in the Mazateca mountains of Oaxaca way back when I was somewhat more rambunctious than I am now. You'll see a few of them below.

I was working as a stringer for Newsweek and the New York Times in those days, having befriended the two Mexico correspondents from those publications. At the time, there was a lot of fascinating and strange news coming out of the southern Mexico state of Oaxaca regarding a continuing flood of hippies finding their way into the mountains to eat and trip on "magic mushrooms". Unfortunately for many of them, they often got their heads busted not by the fungi but by the army or local police, who were getting fed up with the horde of bizarre gringos getting into things that were none of their business.

I had been planning on checking it out myself, as a matter of fact, when my two friends decided to do some investigative reporting. It wasn't hard to convince them they needed a photographer to assure the trip's success. Besides, I had an old '53 VW van that would probably get us there and back.

Our first stop was a little town at the base of the Mazateca mountains called Teotitlan del Camino. The asphalt gave out there and it was clear my van was not going to make it all the way up. I parked it in front of the police station for security (big mistake) and we went to get tickets on the next rickety bus headed up the hill. To our dismay, the only bus out had already left but my friends urgently wanted to get up there so we began to look for another way.

As we were walking down the cobbled road from the station, two local gendarmes appeared in front of us, one about as tall as John Wayne and another more like Mickey Rooney. Both wore pistolas on their belts and official stars on their chests to boot. They were about as unlikely a pair of law enforcement officers as I had ever seen in Mexico. But the little one did manage some dramatic English: "Stop! I am the Law!" he boasted. Both of my friends, one an attractive young blond, couldn't contain their laughter. These guys were astounded at such disrespect and before we knew it, the guns were out and we were being marched to the local jail, a mini fortress taking up a whole block.

We were dragged into the constable's office there who began his interrogation. He and his friends were feeling pretty proud of themselves for the catch they'd just made. While we were answering his questions, a deputy came in the room and very clearly dropped a baggie of marijuana in Lynne's purse. Immediately, the chief demanded she pour out the contents of her bag onto his desk. His eyes popped wide as he grabbed the baggie and asked "Y que es esto, por favor?" (And what is this, please?)

Well, what it was was an open and shut case. We were booked for possession of marijuana, drunk and disorderly in the streets, resisting arrest, and carrying venereal disease to the Indians. (I thought it curious that I was the only one to be charged with the latter.) So into the calaboose we three went, Lynne to the women's prison on one side of the fortress and Uli (the guy from the Times) and I to the men's side. Here's a picture of my cell mate.

At the time I wondered why the heck they let me keep my cameras, but I was sure glad they did. I did my first "undercover" photo reportage of a Mexican jail as a result and, thank God, my last. The fellow above was typical of most of the prisoners, a Mazateca Indian who had probably had one too many drinks in town. He didn't speak much Spanish so I never did really find out much about him, not even his name. He was a nice guy, however, and I won him over forever when I presented him with my small pocket knife. The cottage industry of these guys was carving little mushrooms for the tourists and my sharp knife gave him quite a boost. I still have that broken little triad of magic mushrooms he carved for me too.

On my negs I also have a picture of myself behind the bars, looking rather dramatically forlorn. I was scared.

Rather than frightened, however, my friends were outraged and, as far as they were concerned, heads were going to roll when they got out. We could have bribed our way out of it, but they would have none of that. The idea of it: two self-important international correspondents for a couple of the world's most read and respected journals being thrown into the slammer by a pair of two-bit tin badges in the hinterlands of Mexico! I didn't have their chutzpah, however, and I just wanted to get out anyway I could.

I took this shot the same afternoon we were locked up. We must have been quite the novelty item for these guys! The fellows in the background are leaning up against the wall of the women's cells. It had no windows or doors on our side so we had no way of knowing what was happening to Lynne. Our stroke of good luck was that the girls' cells had windows that opened up to the street. She caught the attention of an American hippie passing by and gave him a phone number in Mexico City to call with our predicament. That unknown hero came through for us, and by 9 A.M. the next morning we were all called back into the office, given our gear and very sheepishly apologized to. The number she had given turned out to be the Press Secretary of the President, a man not without some power in the scheme of things. These guys really had their tails between their legs and couldn't fawn enough over us. The boom must have really been lowered on them! The best part was that we were given carte blanche to do whatever and go wherever we wanted with no more interference. All was well again!

So that afternoon we hitched a ride on the back of a flat bed truck with a bunch of Indians up the muddy and slippery road to the magical capital of all magic shrooms: Huautla de Jimenez.

The place wasn't Can Cun but it had its attractions. To be fair, this was the road leading out of town up the mountain where we were being led to Maria Sabina's little place and not the downtown. (Of course, there wasn't a heck of a lot of difference between down and uptown anyway.) Way up the hill you can see Uli and Lynne walking with our guide and interpreter.

Huautla is high up in the coffee growing regions of the mountains and it rains a lot, thus it boasts a particular abundance of psylocibyn mushrooms. Maria Sabina (google her, why don't you!) was a very famous shaman who used the mushrooms to heal and cure with a ceremony that probably dated way before the Spanish. She was venerated in Mexico's "hip" subculture and to partake in a mushroom ceremony with her was considered about as good as it could possibly get. My friends hadn't decided yet if they wanted to partake. I was incredulous! Come all this way, get thrown into the hoosegow, and trudge up this muddy mountain to see and interview an ancient sorceress without going all the way?!!!

Well, it didn't take much leaning on them to decide to go for it so I was about as excited as I could possibly get. Her very humble shack was at the top of the mountain, above the clouds obscuring the village below. Several kids and relatives and a lot of dogs and chickens running around made it appear a typical Mexican Indian home. Through our interpreter we arranged for her to guide us on a ceremony and she immediately sent her daughter out to gather fresh "hongos" (mushrooms) for us. I busied myself taking pictures while there was still light.

This happy fellow was Maria's great grand son, I believe. Sometimes I think that big smile was because he knew what was in store for us.

By the time Dona Maria's daughter had returned with our dinner, the light had fallen and we had all sat on some woven straw mats. The women were lighting candles and cleaning the mud and grit off our hongos and I pushed my Tri-X to the max to get the next two photos:

I think this was the second to the last shot on the roll that I was able to take. She was giving us some light as we arranged ourselves around a central candle and a stone bowl of smoldering copal, a very aromatic incense made from the sap of a tree. The shaman began her incantations in her ancient language, the invocations of "San Pedro" being the only words I recognized. As she did so, she began to rub gray, crumbling rocks into the inside of our forearms, ending with mine. She matched Lynne and Uli face to face and then she sat in front of me. Later I learned that the masculine/feminine balance was crucial during the ceremony and because of this I had the immense honor of pairing with Dona Maria herself!

She's blessing a handful of magic mushrooms here and this was the last picture of the day! Shortly thereafter, it all began and we didn't leave her place until sunrise the next morning. But therein lies another tale!

(Don't forget to visit David Ryan Photography; I just posted some new Vienna photos!)

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


I found a box of old B&W prints dating from my Mexico City days and was immediately transported in the Way Back Machine to those dusty years. Here's a few of what I found.

Back in the early '70s I was enjoying an extended visit with a friend in Northern California who persuaded me to buy a pretty nifty Mercier racing bike. I began to ride all over the hills of Sonoma County, taking on mountains and grades the just thought of which makes me shudder these days. I got pretty strong and nimble with that wonderful machine however, so one night was stung by the insane notion bee with the idea that it would be a grand adventure to ride the thing back to Mexico City, where I was then residing.

(All my most dangerous ideas come in the early morning but I've still not learned to say no.)

I took this next photo in Hermosillo, Sonora, sometime into the second week of my grand tour. A kid at the local Chamber of Commerce invited me to spend my few days in town at his house, which I very much appreciated. This little baby was the new one in the household and the family loved that I took so many pictures of him. They used to give him his bath in an old corrugated water bucket, and that photo is my favorite. I'll have to look for the negative.

This was one of the first stops on my journey, somewhere around Sonoita. (By this time I was already wondering what the hell I'd gotten myself into.)

These kids are probably in their 40s today, I hope.

The original was a Kodachrome but it works fine as a B&W.

This was taken sometime later, after I was back home in Mexico City. I approached the young cop in the Paddy wagon and asked him if I could take a picture. He immediately went into his rendition of a formal pose, something that used to happen quite often when I would photograph Mexicans of a more humble origin. A portrait was a big deal and not to be taken lightly and of course, one wanted to present one's best side!

The cops in Mexico are no longer like this and I'd surely hesitate to approach any these days with a camera.

When this photo was taken, I was stringing for A.P., Newsweek and the N.Y. Times so got to go along on the new President's (Echeverria) road trips. I was in my early 20's, had long hair and was borderline "hipi" by Mexican standards but I still got away with showing up in some pretty unexpected places. Not that I wasn't being observed most of the time, like this Presidential Guard is doing. He was probably thinking "What the hell is this gringo doing out here with the Prez?"

We were getting ready to leave the beautiful island of Cozumel, where the President had just met with the then dictator of Nicaragua, President Somoza. Remember him? I know I must have a few pics of him around here somewhere.

My next installment will be a few images that I think have fairly important historical significance, at least for those into Mexican culture and history. They document my adventure into the mountains of Oaxaca to partake in the ceremony of the "magic mushrooms" with the very famous shaman Maria Sabina. That was a trip indeed!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Time To Get This Thing On the Road!


I haven't blogged since selling my t-shirt company (Going Postal T-shirts) last summer, so it's time I got serious about my photographic endeavors once more and get it in gear.
Up front, I'll tell you this is about both the promotion of my photography and the promotion of my self. (They might be the same when it comes right down to it.) And that will be my one and only admission of this shameless fact, though it will no doubt appear obvious as we go along.

I've been a photographer for about forty years and have an immense collection of work, mostly in color transparencies (Kodachrome!) and B&W negatives but, alas, very little of it has been scanned yet. Consequently, most of what I'll be posting will be recent digital work. Does it matter?

Sometimes I'll get a hair up my posterior and put up a photo just because I like it, knowing full well I may be the only one in the known universe who does. When that happens feel free to let me have your unqualified judgment in no uncertain terms. It's ok - I'll be all right.

I may often pull work of my website (David Ryan Photography) because I want to bring attention to it, but it could also be because I've already done the work on it and don't feel like fooling with a newer one. So if you're familiar with the work on my site, don't be surprised when that happens!

So enough! I want to get down to pitchers!

The Boise Tea Party -

This series was the the latest opportunity I've had to get out and do something I really like to do: circulate in crowds and take random portraits. My first attempts at this were back in the '60's and '70's in Mexico City. Many of those were political protests as well and, I must say, somewhat more risky than mixing with these good folks.

Franklin has to be one of the most loveable of all the Founding Fathers and he was certainly one of the most outspoken of a very voluble lot, so it takes a certain gumption to act his role. This fellow wore his part rather well and did a good job of it I think .

Contrary to what many in the press would have one believe, these events were actually good places for the kids. I know that in Boise they were safer in these crowds than most other public places (including their schools)and they had a good time to boot. Looking through the throngs to get these types of shots was fun!

Another example of looking through the openings in the crowd. Invariably, this was the reaction I would receive - all smiles!

I couldn't help but like this guy!

For a more complete selection of Boise's Tea Party, just click HERE!