Chukchi Sea Winter Morning Walk


winter-1The dew point is in the 70s this fine Iowa morning after a night of sirens and  what seemed like near misses for Iowa City.  Route One north of town washed out after five inches of rain fell.  Tornados are due this afternoon. I went outside into the tropical rainforest that used to be my garden to try and catch up on last month's weeding and nature just laughed a big fat nature laugh and let a little more rain pour down on us, and so I hightailed it inside to finish some seriously backlogged editing that harkens back to my favorite time of year in my favorite place.  I don't think there could be a landscape any more beautiful than a frozen sea in the light of the long slow dawn like that off the coast of Kotzebue.   I love that winter moon that scuds along the horizon.  I love that  it takes almost six hours for the light to shift from the lavender of  twilight to the true sunrise which occurs a little before noon.  I will send a crisp ten dollar bill to anyone who can find the polar bear lurking in these pictures!  A wildlife photographer I will never be--except by most unfortunate accident!  Stay cool Iowa friends.

The Light in Canada

The last three weeks have been all about water--or sky--or possibly both.  Good thing I have  good chest waders!  Moving between the still icy shores of Lake Superior and a lovely river in Ontario I find myself once again becoming hopelessly lyrical, as in these little delicacies shot when the light in Canada kept turning into an homage to Turner.  This is apparently what happens when I swear off the poetical.  Next time I'll renounce the prosaic and see what happens!  

Night Ops


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I've been home a week and I'm still not entirely sure what it was I experienced out there in that last little whiff of wilderness Iowa can claim.  It was dark.  I know that.   The dark of a new moon deep in the forest.   I've been sworn to secrecy on where we went and with whom and why, which is a little strange I know, but it was very much worth my time whether we ever find this mythical creature or not.  It's not every day you can meet up with a group of sober strangers and go for a very long walk in total darkness.  It was kind of amazing really.  I liked everyone I traveled with, but because we met in darkness and worked in darkness I failed to recognize them when we met again in daylight.  I set about making portraits of my travel companions as I experienced them--in darkness--a few of which are included in my janky little photo essay, the first of several on this subject:  The Believers.

Off to Kotzebue (Again)

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It's off to Kotzebue Alaska for me next Saturday February 15 where the  high the day of my arrival  is expected to be -6 F.  After a winter of arctic temperatures here in Iowa the jet stream finally bucked the cold back up where it belongs and I'm chasing it as I apparently have not had enough of it.  I can't wait to put on my Baffins, which are rated to -148 F, a number the company chose because there has never been a temperature recorded on earth that cold.  Hmmmm.  Marketing meets meteorology.   I'll be happy as long as my feet stay warm as I pick my way across the Chukchi Sea.    My goal is to photograph the sea ice, the aurora, ravens, and my favorite haunts along the Baldwin Peninsula.  I'd considered researching who the Baldwin of the Baldwin pennisula might be, but the Baldwins are a mixed lot and  and the story of the european incursion into this part of the world is fraught with a multitude of colonial horrors. I'm afraid of what I might find should there be any genealogical connection.  Some things are better left alone.   That feeling was confirmed last summer every time I went to pick up my mail in the post office in Kotzebue.  Letters from my husband were often put in one of the "other Baldwin's" boxes and in the process of sorting all that out I  learned they  live up the Selawick somewhere, the other Baldwins.  A meeting is inevitable, I suppose, given the smallness of the human community in that vast space but I don't want to hurry into that history.  I don't expect to work in air above zero while I am there and to that end my favorite camera guru/salesman Roger has given me some creative advice about keeping both my hands and my batteries warm in that battery destroying temperature.  I am most exited about the idea of vet-wrapping hand warmers to the tops of my hands to toast the blood supply running down into my fingers. Ingenious and so obvious.

Meanwhile, one of my dear little speedscapes is on its way to Minneapolis Center for Photography for inclusion in a wonderful show this spring:  The Visual Narrative (see below).




The Visual Narrative, opening on March 14,  will feature images selected by Susan Burnstine.  My work in the exhibit is from a year-long series of landscapes I've been shooting while traveling at a high rate of speed--which is how most people these days experience landscape--as a fleeting presence glimpsed from the window of a train, plane, or car.  I have been wondering how acceleration impacts our impression of a place and more importantly how it alters our feeling for the earth.  Shooting while in motion is challenging in many new ways, and not unlike low-light photography in that it pushes me into a deeper appreciation of the physics of light.

It is always an honor to have your work chosen by someone whose work you admire--and I really love Susan Burnstine's work; her images defy conventional notions of time in photography.  I often feel when looking at her images like I am looking through time or that time is a mosaic not a line and in the frame a multitude of potentialities are aligning themselves--not one.  It is the opposite of commercial work and I am endlessly grateful to photographers like her for the inspiration of her work.







Flower Power & Photograms


I'm so happy to have one of my photograms included in this year's Flower Power 2013 exhibit at the 1650 Gallery in Los Angeles. The image included in that show is from a series of photograms  of medicinal and edible tundra flora I worked on during  my downtime in Kotzebue this past summer.   As photograms require ultraviolet light for development I  thought perhaps I might put the nearly 24 hours of sun I had to work with  to use,  and so I had shipped the chemicals and papers I needed ahead of myself last July.  Between our trips into the Noatak Preserve I took long wandering walks in the tundra with my colleague  the wonderful poet Andrea Spofford and our new-found K-town friend Norma.  We collected  for tinctures, teas, and balms, gossiping about people we barely knew and eating more than our fair share of cloudberries and blueberries as we went.    Now that winter is closing in I finally have time to work through the images I made this past summer. I find myself waxing nostalgic over those long bright sun-filled nights I spent in that red house on Grayling, listening to KOTZ, catching up on local events through Tundra Talk, marveling at musical selections so insanely eclectic  and disparate the playlists opened up a whole new dimension of coolness. I'm still figuring out the intricacies of the process, and though I am acutely aware of how this project speaks to its originator Anna Atkins' magnificent work on the flora of the British seacoast in 1848, I am trying to find new ways of exploring the medium.  Most of the images I made last summer were first drafts of what I hope will become a far more layered project, but for now I am happy enough with some of this preliminary work to start sharing it.


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"Artemisia" © Tama Baldwin, 2013

My Pal Thom Cole


Some kind keen mind saw fit to make this comparison while my work was hanging at the GRAM.  Given my passion for the history of landscape  painting  this poster was a pleasure for me to discover one day as I was visiting my work in the museum.  It was hard to explain, however, to the casual visitor who reads too quickly that Thomas Cole was not my contemporary collaborator but rather an artist who lived now in my imagination and whose work can be found in many museums including the GRAM.   There were also those who were certain my photograph of the Alaska Pipeline shot very close to the Beaufort seacoast was the same landscape as that portrayed in Thomas Cole's work on the Hudson Valley.    These encounters made me want to return to the Hudson, however, and so I have  and with camera in hand and I am in love all over again with yet another river.  This will be a winter of rivers for me:  The Hudson in late November, the Mississippi in early December and a beautiful little river in Ontario I don't yet know the name of this coming January.

Close to 200,000 people passed through the exhibit in just three weeks, which was as wonderful as it was overwhelming.  On the final Sunday the carbon monoxide sensors at the museum sounded an alarm and the guards blocked the entrance and did not allow more people to enter until the oxygen returned to the air!  An amazing experience given that art was at the center of the crush.  I loved my experience of that show and the fantastic company I was allowed to keep.  Thank you GRAM.