New Mexico Landscape, ‘Golden, Dawn’

See also

Sanctuario de San Francisco, Golden NM circa 1800s

The unframed 10×20 ‘gallery wrap’ canvas sold recently for $300 in Johnson’s of Madrid Gallery on Hwy 14, the Turquoise Trail, thirty miles south of Santa Fe. Framed in tin, it sold at a charity auction for $400, the wholesale price for galleries.

Due to the days it takes to fabricate the frame, I have only two tin-framed editions available in 10×20, and two in 20×40.

Technical Details

Camera – Speed Graphic w/75mm Komura Super-wide

Film – Kodak Vericolor negative, 4×5

Scanned and printed with an Epson 7800 archival pigment inkset, Giclee’ on canvas (also available on fine art paper)

Limited Edition Framed Giclee’

Some collectors want limited edition prints. However, as long as I live and have a printer I’ll print ‘Golden, Dawn.’ Instead of a limited run, I taught myself tinsmithing and am selling a version with a hand-made tin frame that I make in-studio. The frames take three days to fabricate and patina . . . so, there is your limited edition.

20 x 10 inch Giclee’ framed on my workbench

Tinsmithing is a traditional New Mexican art form. This frame uses no fancy machine tools or dies. The decorations are hand-stamped with homemade tools. The frame is, therefore, ‘rustic’ and looks like it was made in a barn. The patina is dark. A shiny tin would compete with the image.


I have been in and out of New Mexico since a child, visiting relatives. When I was a retailer and tobacconist in Philadelphia I would visit Santa Fe and Canyon Road almost four times a year. In 1994 I signed over the hair salon I built to my ex-wife and moved to Albuquerque, NM and here I’ve been. I built the photography studio I’m in now in 1998.

Landscape photography is a lonely and time-consuming pursuit. The movement of the sun changes your lighting, and clouds and weather modify the light further. What you can do in the studio in a minute can take all day, or even years.

I had taken a couple different photos of the little church in Golden, New Mexico. Then I decided to pack up my 4×5 and travel the 48 miles at night to capture the church at dawn. I was attacked by a couple dogs let loose from a trailer down the road, but I stood my ground, took my incident light readings as the sun rose over the Ortiz Mountains, and took two shots in the rapidly changing light.

I made one test print in 1996 but the negative was not ‘stabilized’ properly and so I had the negative scanned. Digital scanning was a professional job and cost $70, but it was a good thing I did it because today the negative is just a faded, ghostly image.

Digital printing . . . it wasn’t until 2004 that I could afford a large format printer. I sold my darkroom and medium format cameras and bought an Epson 7800 (using the new archival K3 pigments) and started working on ‘Golden, Dawn.’

I used Photoshop, of course, and Neat Image filtering software. Neat Image removed the color noise and grain that otherwise would have limited the size of a fine art quality print to maybe 14 inches. With the file I created, I can print ‘Golden, Dawn’ up to 15′ x 7′ at 150 dpi. The giclee’s produced in my studio are 20 x 10 and 40 x 20 inches on canvas. They also take several days to finish. The special receiver layer on the canvas takes the pigment, but the ink still has to dry for 24 hours. Then, a special coating is applied using two or three layers. When that dries, the canvas is stretched on wooden stretcher bars.

The color balance was a tedious task. I struggled to capture what the church looked like at night, just as the sun was striking the clouds with the typical ‘salmon’ color. The hours paid off . . . the image is so realistic that sometimes you think you are looking through a window at the real thing. Most people mistake the photo for a painting, such is the drama of the lighting and the way I kissed the grasses with light, and subtly put emphasis on the center grave marker. That adds a third dimension to the photo, a feeling of 3-D so to speak.

In the upper left, the night sky still has stars . . . in the middle is something I didn’t see until I printed the photo. The green sky is probably due to the warm, salmon light mixing with the cold, blue of night.

The 40 x 20 inch limited edition in tin is priced at $3000 and can be seen by appointment.

The 20 x 10 inch limited edition is $800 and can be seen at my studio by appointment, or at the Johnson’s of Madrid Gallery in Madrid, New Mexico, twelve miles North of Golden where the photo was taken, on the Turquoise Trail.

Update on January 5, 2011

The little church in Golden, Sancturio de San Francisco, is usually only open for mass on Sundays. About 20 parrishioners attend. However, it is now open for tourists traveling the Turquoise Trail (Hwy 14) to Santa Fe. Here is a photo of Hizzoner Leroy Gonzalez, official tour guide to the church.

Interior with Mayor of Golden, Original Pews from the 1800’s


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2 Responses to “New Mexico Landscape, ‘Golden, Dawn’”

  1. Patty Montoya Says:

    I loved your photo of the church in Golden, NM. You captured the yellow morning skybeautifully. My husband is from Cerrillos and he used to be alter boy here once a month while growing up. The church does not have electricity and they would say mass by candlelight.

  2. paralegalnm Says:

    I’m glad you have a good monitor.

    The morning light is a salmon color, right? The green in the middle was a surprise to me, but I’ve seen purple, green . . . all colors of the rainbow in the morning sky when refracted by high ice (cirrus).

    The long exposure caught stars . . . can be seen in the night sky. The actual print has more range than this image over the Internet . . . not as dark or contrasty.

    WordPress has trouble with the color labs on this digital file and lost some of the color. I had to go into Photoshop and saturate the color and yellows to make it look closer to the print.

    I am not a painter, but have listened to painters describe their impressions and use of forms and light. Photographers get lost in pure detail, down to the leaf, grass stem, and seed germ. In this photo, I struggled with the painterly art of identifying light values appropriate to the time of day; in this case night just before dawn fully emerges. It is very difficult to print, and must be lit properly on display with an incandescent spot. The print just doesn’t work in daylight . . .

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