Mario Dennis Photography

The traveler sees what he sees, the tourist sees what he has come to see. G.K. Chesterton


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Review: Rob Sylvan’s “Taming Your Photo Library with Adobe Lightroom”

sylvanYou’ve got thousands of images on your hard drive, hundreds more on memory cards you just filled, and you just installed Adobe Lightroom. If you’re new to LR and don’t proceed thoughtfully, disaster can be lurking. Image organization is often a neglected part of post-processing. It’s unappealing and for many (me included) organization is not a strong suit. If you’re eager to start editing images it’s easy to lapse into bad habits for what I call “inflow,” getting my images into LR so I can develop them.

When Rob Sylvan‘s book was announced I signed up for pre-order, and have  since recommended it to many. Taming Your Photo Library with Adobe Lightroom is a must-have for new LR users and anyone who has yet to establish their own workflow. (Judging from what I see in the Lightroom Help Group on Facebook, there are plenty of experienced LR users also struggling with this.) While it is mostly oriented towards new LR users, almost anyone can benefit from a careful reading (me, for instance). The book begins with an elegant description of the concept and functions of the LR catalog, which new users often find difficult to understand, and then moves on to basic LR setup. Subsequent chapters address the Library module and the import process, file management, using collections, managing metadata (including keywords), catalog maintenance and backups, using presets and templates, workflows, integrating with LR mobile, and troubleshooting.

Having learned a workflow, what is left to the readers is to develop the discipline to stick to it, and Rob’s book can’t teach that. But, it’s easier to be disciplined when we know what we’re doing and why, and we realize the benefits that come with efficiency.


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Photographing the Begays: Monument Valley

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Mrs. Y. Begay, Monument Valley, UT

Before my second visit to photograph Monument Valley, I asked Phillips Tours, if they could arrange for me to photograph some residents, rather than limiting myself to landscapes. They agreed and, as it turned out I was able to photograph my guide, Ray Begay’s mother and father at their winter camp in Monument Valley. Ray had guided me three years before on sunrise and sunset photography tours of the Valley. During our tours we talked about life in the Valley, which extends far beyond what visitors see in the Tribal Park from the loop road. I was very pleased to travel with him again.

I was not completely comfortable with my request. I did not want the Begays to feel they were on display or were objects of curiosity. Instead, I wanted to capture who they were as people, if only for a few minutes. They live in the Valley closer to Kayenta, and have two camps, each with a hogan and pens for sheep, goats and horses. They move between them from summer to winter. Although they are within walking distance of each other, the two locations experience different weather during the warm and cold seasons. Mrs. Begay is a medicine woman and healer, and she advises Navajo visitors from all over northwest Arizona. Mr. Begay is a retired uranium miner and told me he was a cowboy. He chuckled when I complimented him for being a “handsome cowboy.”

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Mr. R. Begay, Monument Valley, UT

We met at their winter camp, where a fire in the small stove warmed the hogan to a comfortable temperature in the December chill. Mrs. Begay was working on a basket and I began shooting. A hogan is a small structure, maybe 20′ in diameter, and I decided to shoot with the limited natural light that came in from the door (which always faces east) and the stovepipe opening. I shot at ISO 2000 and came away with some good portraits. Mrs. Begay concentrated on her work and after about an hour I moved outside to photograph Mr. Begay, who was dressed in his finest clothing and turquoise jewelry.
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Photographing the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad

The Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad is Chama, New Mexico’s premier attraction. While there are other narrow gauge railroads in the country, including in nearby Durango, we heard a number of passengers say that the C & T trip is the best in the nation._d502079

We took the C & T trip from Antonito to Chama. (There are several trip options. This one suited us best and takes a full day. Check their web site for more information.) They transported us via bus from Chama to Antonito, where we boarded for the return trip to Chama. Many of the folks on the train were clearly fans of train travel and knew a great deal about trains. The hosts in each car pointed out landmarks, described the C & T’s history, and explained railroad operations. (It’s more complicated than you may think.)

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Traversing the Chama Valley

We took our trip in early October, when the aspen were at peak. Unfortunately, a strong front came through a couple of days earlier and blew off some leaves, but the trip timing was definitely worth it. (Note: reservations are an absolute must and should be made weeks in advance.)

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