Archive for Leica Monochrom (Typ-246)

On The Beartooth Highway

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on August 19, 2015 by johnbuckley100

Beartooth for Tulip Frenzy2

The Beartooth Highway between Red Lodge, Montana and the Northeast Entrance to Yellowstone is one of America’s most beautiful roads, and if not its most dangerous, then certainly its most sublime.  It rises from the valley floor to vertiginous heights, along switchbacks that make the driver keep her eye on the center line, praying no truck comes hurtling around a curve at an epic velocity more associated with the Karakoram Highway than a U.S. interstate.

Beartooth for Tulip Frenzy

At the first real turnout, you catch your breath and steel your nerve for the next segment up.  But when you get near the top of Beartooth Pass, roughly one-third of the way along the 68-mile road, if you catch the weather right, the views are simply not of this world.  The mountain goat photo at the top was taken just after a sudden snow squall arrived, and sadly, just after a 70-year old British tourist and his wife seriously injured themselves just after a 50-year old motorcyclist was killed, his friend seriously injured, driving off the road moments before we got there.

Beartooth Highway-5

Somewhere distant is Cody, Wyoming, and it is possible that the helicopter sent to rescue the unfortunate motorcyclists was dispatched from there.  We don’t know how often accidents happen on this dangerous road, but put it this way: the snow squall arrived in the time between when we pulled over to take the photo below and we stepped away from the car.  Moments earlier we saw the distant light and said, “Let’s pull over!” You can see the tendrils of rain/snow that quickly blotted everything out.  It was that fast.

Beartooth Highway-6

Eventually, you wend your way down along the switchbacks toward Yellowstone, and the road evens out for a short while. At this point, it is a less dramatic extension of Yellowstone’s northeast corner, not quite the adventure it was going up and over.  But thrilling, glorious, beautiful.

Beartooth Highway-7

We went up in bad weather, but by the time we were coming down into the valley toward Yellowstone, the light was beginning to fall in cathedral shafts, and the view of the distant Absarokas was spooky.

Beartooth Highway-10

Not unlike the Tetons, 150 miles to the south, the upthrust off the valley floor makes for startling vistas.  The two peaks that become more prominent as you get near Cooke City — Pilot Peak and Index Peak — are analogous to the Grand Teton and Teewinot.

Beartooth Highway-12

Until finally you are down in the valley floor, and about to enter Yellowstone just to the northeast of the Lamar Valley, and the west’s most dramatic playground for animals — wolves, bison, eagles, pronghorn, not to mention trout — greets you with its own adventures.

In The Elk Refuge

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on August 16, 2015 by johnbuckley100

Sleeping Indian MonoReplacement5

Surely fishermen understand the experience of going to a familiar spot and have fish after fish land in the creel.  So it was that night at the Elk Refuge in Jackson Hole, when clouds materialized above the Sleeping Indian — the formation formally known as   Sheep Mountain, but so-called for obvious reasons.  The particular trick on this evening was that as the large clouds materialized behind the Sleeping Indian, the sun that illuminated them kept slipping behind clouds to the west.

Sleeping Indian MonoReplacement8

The clouds were enormous, and spectacular.  We actually thought we had gotten the pictures we came for when we drove a few miles further up the dirt road.

Sleeping Indian MonoReplacements-3

Distant Jackson Peak — all the way across the valley from the Tetons — was similarly lit by this magical light.  And then we saw, from a different angle, how the clouds were lining up with the Sleeping Indian’s face and headdress.

Sleeping Indian MonoReplacement9

This rendered the Tetons themselves perhaps the fourth most magnificent sight in the valley.

Sleeping Indian MonoReplacement6

It was one of those nights.

Color Wins, Sometimes

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on July 17, 2015 by johnbuckley100

We had great fun out West principally using the Leica Monochrom (typ-246) to capture images of Jackson Hole in black and white.  Every once in a while, though, a natural experiment takes place where we come across an image we took in color that is virtually the same as what was captured in black and white.  Monochrome has stopping power, timelessness.  Ah, but sometimes color nails it.  You be the judge.

Jax B+W Dodge Export Ha Fooled You!

That’s the way our M-240 caught the sunset underneath the Sleeping Indian, with the 75mm APO-Summicron-Asph. And this is the way our Monochrom caught it with the 50mm APO.

Jax B+W 1

We thought the black and white image was nice enough to print.  But we now believe color wins here, hands down.  Yes, you do not need a monochrome-only camera to make such experiments, but as readers of Tulip Frenzy know, we like the idea of deliberately going out to take monochrome-only images.  This time, though, we’re glad we brought along the M.

Thoughts On “Lolita” And “Stray Cat Blues”

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on July 6, 2015 by johnbuckley100


The image above matches precisely the postcard that Vladimir Nabokov sent Edmund Wilson in the summer of 1949.  Well, maybe the postcard photographer was fifty feet below where we stood, and the aspens — not a willow — stood on the right side.  But it is close.

We know this because we are midway through the excellent Nabokov In America by Robert Roper, which includes an image of the postcard while covering the writer and lepidopterist’s most productive years.  These were years in which Nabokov — Russian aristocrat and exile, genius in both Russian and English — tramped across the Mountain West, butterfly net in hand, while also writing Speak Memory, Pnin, and of course, Lolita.

We should note that in recent weeks we’ve also been listening to the amazing live recordings included in the super duper reissue of Sticky Fingers, and wouldn’t you know it, one of the best performances from both of the spring 1971 sets the Rolling Stones played at the University of Leeds, as well as that tour’s finale at the Roundhouse in London, is “Stray Cat Blues.”

Which prompts this thought: what are we to make, in 2015, of both Lolita and “Stray Cat Blues,” both incredibly appealing works of art, both centered on child rape?

We’ve read much if not all of the Nabokov oeuvre, but as great as both Pale Fire and Speak, Memory are, the standout work by the 20th Century giant is, of course, Lolita — a story about an adult who knowingly manipulates his way into being the sole caregiver of a 14-year old girl, so they can have sex three times a day while traveling the American West.  The novel is at once hilarious and appalling.  Our sense of its duality has always been there — it has always been both hilarious and appalling, and hilarious because it is appalling, appalling because it is hilarious.  But as a college student reading it, we didn’t struggle with it in quite the same was as we do now… now that we are older than Humbert Humbert, older than Nabokov when he wrote it.  Now  that we are in a position truly to think about what it means that this was Nabokov’s best seller, his breakthrough, coming at the front end of the Sexual Revolution, published before 1963, which Philip Larkin has decreed is the year that sex began.

For many, many years, we have considered “Stray Cat Blues” to be the standout performance on Get Yer Ya-Yas Out, the Stones’ live album nonpareil from their ’69 tour, and the song is, at worst, the third-best one on Beggars Banquet, that album we would take to a desert isle.  On the studio album, Jagger says he can see the young groupie is “just 15 years old,” which is bad enough, but by the ’69 tour he’d revised her age downward to 13, where it remained for the ’71 tour of the UK.  (The Stones dropped it for the ’72 tour, and as far as we know, it stayed dropped for the next three decades at least.  Though they have returned to it, from time to time.  One wonder what kind of life the girl, 13 when she would have slept with the Rock Star, has had in the nearly 50 years since…)

And here we are, in 2015, and pedophilia — child rape — isn’t an amusing topic, if ever it was.  Martin Amis famously rejected Nabokov’s focus on nymphets — N’s word for the pre-pubescent girls to which Humbert Humbert, whom we know is not a stand-in for the author — in something like six of 19 books, not on moral grounds, but aesthetics.  There were too many of them, these pubescent girls so much on Nabokov’s mind.  And yet, even if there were one, isn’t that too many?  Not for reasons of aesthetics: let us be clear, we are talking about morality.

Over the years, we’ve read about Lolita as a metaphor for Nabokov, the cultured European, discovering his love for the young, quivering America he sailed to on literally the last boat out of France before the arrival of the Nazis.  (In a way, similar to Roman Polanski, are we supposed to excuse Nabokov his child lust because he was a victim, first of Lenin, then of Hitler?)

But we can’t.  We adore Lolita, one of the great novels of the 20th Century, and a miles better American road novel than On The Road.  We can listen to Mick Taylor playing lead on “Stray Cat Blues” six days per week.  Martin Amis also once famously defended Philip Larkin against the charge of his sexism and cultural obtuseness by reminding readers of the epoch in which Larkin wrote his poetry, comparing the censoriousness against him as equivalent to condemning pre-Renaissance painters for not having yet discovered perspective.  But we don’t actually buy this defense here.  Lolita is hilarious, yes, but it is a horrific story, and we do judge it.  And the same goes for “Stray Cat Blues.”

And yet we read the one, listen to the other, all the while understanding how glad we are that as a culture we have, finally, discovered perspective.  Today, few are the artists who will find an audience writing or singing so casually of molestation.

Up Around The Bend

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on July 2, 2015 by johnbuckley100

Gros Ventre Moon 3

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