Jimmy, Old Course Caddie St. Andrews 1991

We’re Puttin’ for an Eagle!!

“Then he began to speak. ‘Golf recapitulates evolution,’ he said in a melodious voice, ‘it is a microcosm of the world, a projection of all our hopes and fears.’”

“The game is a mighty teacher — never deviatin’ from its sacred rools, always ready to lead us on.”

“Gowf rewards us when we bring them all together, our bodies and our minds, our feelin’s and our fantasies — rewards us when we do and treats us badly when we don’t.”

“Tryin’ too hard is the surest way tae ruin yer game.”

“Ye’ll come away from the links with a new hold on life, that is certain if ye play the game with all your heart.”

All quotes from ― Michael Murphy, Golf in the Kingdom

One afternoon in 1958 my dad picked me up from little league baseball practice.  As we drove home, he said tomorrow he wanted to take me to the golf course, and he had arranged a golf lesson for me.  My 10-year-old reaction was, “Dad I don’t want to play golf, I am a baseball player!”  His response was quiet and caring as he said, “Son, baseball is something you can do now while you are young, but golf is a game that you will be able to play the rest of your life.  I want you to give it a try.”

It’s now over 60 years later, and guess what?  He was right.

I was fortunate to be growing up in Florida during an era when famous golf pros would do exhibitions at some of the local public courses.  I remember following Arnold Palmer around at a number of those events.  At the end of his match the pocket of my shorts held 4 or 5 cigarette butts Arnold had dopped by the greens.  Those went right into my treasure box along with my special baseball cards.

I kept up with the game and by high school made the golf team.  In college I played with friends and fraternity brothers.  My biggest hurdle was my ego.

Judging myself self-worth by my golf game was not a good idea.  This inner struggle made me quit golf for a decade.  I absolutely would go nowhere even close to a golf course until around 1986 while visiting my parents who happened to live on a golf course in Florida.  My dad took me into his garage and there was a bag of brand-new golf clubs.  “These are for you son; let’s go play tomorrow.”

I was terrified.  That next morning, we went out with the shiny new clubs.  I had not hit a golf ball in over 10 years.  That day I played with no expectations and had a surprisingly decent round.  It felt good to be back on the course. It had been fun.  I looked forward to getting back out the next day.  Unfortunately, the old ways crept right back in.  I woke up deciding I would better what I had done the day before.  It turned out to be a humbling experience, and at the end of the round a mild depression set in.

Then a dear friend recommended a book titled Golf in the Kingdom, by Michael Murphy.  The book completely changed my thinking about the game of golf.  It turned what could be a frustrating sport with moments of spectacular highs and deep lows into a spiritual journey of self-discovery.

Not long after reading the book I found myself on a golf tour of Scotland. The first stop was St. Andrews.  We stayed just down the road from the Royal and Ancient Club

It was getting close to our tee time and the old course starter summoned a group of caddies to be assigned to our foursome.  Mine was a fellow named Jimmy I had seen Jimmy earlier on my way to the course, with a group of caddies gathered outside a nearby pub soaking up the warmth of the morning sun.  The introduction was made and we shook hands.  We looked each other over, and I am sure both of us were wondering how this was going to turn out.  To paraphrase an old saying, “If you want to really get to know someone, learn about their honor and character, then play a round of golf with them.”  This holds true not just for the players but the caddies as well.

We teed off and the quest began.  I remember him watching my swing closely.  I was energized about teeing off from this site of ancient history.  I was trying to keep my mind positive, visualizing my first drive going down the fairway, avoiding the gorse.  The first few holes were respectable, a bogey and a par.  Nothing shameful.  It felt dreamlike meandering the sacred hallowed ground passing through the seaside heather and gorse.  I was surprised to see townsfolk out strolling the links, some with their dogs, and it was perfectly normal for that use as well for golf.

On the third hole my nerves had begun to calm – and then I found myself deep down in a pothole bunker. The way forward was over a 12-to-15-foot wall.   Jimmy handed me the sand wedge and said, “Hit it backwards lad, and take your medicine, trying to go the other way lies madness.”  Jimmy began to have a feel for my game. His reading of the greens, course knowledge, and help with club selection began to build my confidence as we navigated our way through the front nine.  He rolled his cigarettes right out there in the wind, lit up, took a few puffs, and let the rolled cig dangle from his mouth as we walked.  I suddenly realized it is not just me out there alone, there is someone pulling for me and trying to help.

The round continued with more challenges out in the rough, more bogeys and pars, when suddenly a magical moment occurred.  I could feel the transformation into a true team effort come about.   It was not “you” should hit here, or “you” use this club, it was “we” will hit a 4 iron here, or “we” will not use the driver on this hole.

Our alliance was welded when a par 5 was reached in two shots.  I had hit a 3 wood as clean and square as never before in my life!.  Jimmy put the club back into the bag.  He slapped me on the back, and then began jogging uphill toward the green with the bag flopping on his shoulder.  He turned with a big twinkle in his blue eyes and yelled, “We’re puttin’ for an eagle!!!”

He was right. The ball was lying 2 on the top edge, but it was also about 50 feet away on the giant fast undulating St. Andrews green.  I gave the first putt a good rap and no eagle, leaving the ball 7 feet past. Second putt just missed, sliding by on the left 10 inches past the cup.  Third putt in for a par.  Jimmy took my putter as we walked off the green and said, “Good work, making a par on this hole is like a birdie on any other. Let’s move on, we’ve got plenty of golf ahead”.

As we came into the 18th our group had all become familiar with each other.  We had shared a great adventure together which I will never forget.  It was my good fortune to get to know Jimmy, who turned out to be a worthy coach.  I still remember him saying “Slow down lad, let the club head do the work, just enjoy making the swing, don’t worry so much about where it goes.  You traveled along way to be here, have fun.”

That morning before the round, I had pondered whether I should put a camera in my bag, knowing there might be no time for stopping and taking photos out on the course  I stuck the camera into the bag anyway.  I was happy to have it, as after the round I made this portrait of my favorite caddie of all time.

As we left the final green, I asked how long he had been a caddie. Over 20 years, he said, with some time spent on oil rigs in the North Sea.  We shook hands, I gave Jimmy his pay and with a big smile he looked me straight in the eyes and said, “Well done today.  Good to meet you.  When you come back don’t forget to ask for Jimmy.”  He began walking away, then stopped, turned, and hollered, “Remember to swing easy!” He then headed back toward the pub where he had been lounging as the day began.

Over the years I came to feel that meeting Jimmy was no coincidence, as many of his ideas and adages resembled the values conveyed in Golf in the Kingdom.  I began to stop worrying so much about the score, to enjoy hitting some good shots, sharing the camaraderie* of friends, and seeing the beauty of nature out on the course.

E. McD August 26th, 2022


Boots and Wurlitzer (Color)

Boots & Wurlitzer 1977 (Color)

“Boots & Wurlitzer” is one of my most published images and has been done only in its original black and white form since it’s inception. There is a complete back story on the black and white photo and it’s making on my website listed under the backstories.

Here is a bit of background on the color version. I never intended to print this image in color. My process back in the 1970’s was to sketch out ideas on a note pad that had come to mind. Not always but sometimes I would take a few shots on color slide film after the sketch as a trail study. This is what happened here with this color version. I used my Leica M4 with Agfachrome slide film. This slide had been tucked away for decades. I came across it this winter as I was going through older negatives along with some other slides. It was intriguing to me examining it in color. Especially the appearance on the old Agfa film. I laid the slide on the light table and made a few iPhone shots of it. I consulted with a gallery owner and a few collectors about their first impressions.

My first thoughts were that they would find it of historical interest. It was at their urging to see it printed that I took on the task. The slide had to be scanned and then the file put into the flow of the digital darkroom. The old film scanner needed updating and had not been fired up in years. In the back of my mind, I wondered if it would even be worth all the effort, and would I be successful?

It took a lot of time, but I found the result most interesting. Very distinct from the black white with a much different feel. As I looked and worked on it my thoughts were that it is a little jewel. Unlike the big black and white but coming from the same family.

The printing proved to be superb, and it has been kept small to maintain its precious charm.

E. McD July 11, 2022


Grown Together

It is not winds of fate
Nor planted seeds
From which our love has grown.
And as years have passed
Trust has wrapped
To cradle bark or bone.
Twisting as two trees,
For fear of falling blown.
Though others might have been,
We are as two trees grown together,
True love’s best end.

– Benjamin Woolley

My travels had taken me to Buenos Aires. Each night we visited a different tango dancing venue, and I would bring my camera. Although I had known of tango and even had a few lessons back home, this was a way of life and a culture that I had no idea existed. What I witnessed was filled with passion, elegance, and a true art form that flows between the two dancers. The expressions on their faces were filled with deep mood, emotion, and affection for one another. They seemed to be playing out all the joy and suffering of life right on the dance floor.

As a young man in the 1970’s I made several summer trips to Yosemite National Park to study photography. It was there on my forest hikes that I noticed trees that were growing side by side and over time had become intertwined with their trunks fusing and unifying them into one tree.

Decades after those summers in Yosemite I went back for a stay in the valley. A drive up to Sentinel Dome to see the famous Jeffrey Pine was on the agenda. To my shock Jeffery Pine had become a bleached skeleton, looking like a broken, fragmented scaffold. In its prime it was a marvel of a tree that had developed into its magnificent form right out of the solid granite rock. It was always intriguing for me to see a massive tree growing out of granite, imagining the will and might of a tiny seed to sprout in those conditions. Walking down and around the sight one could see others who had also met the same fate as Jeffrey Pine. I came upon these two lifeless trees that had grown together. There was a kind sad but steadfast beauty in their sight, so I stopped and made a portrait of them. They had become a frozen monument to their past still standing in the place they grew up together and died together.

Working in my studio and pondering that portrait made on Sentinel Dome, there came to mind those merged trees having human faces embracing cheek to cheek. I remembered one of the Buenos Aires tango photos. It was of a mature couple who moved with grace, style, and in perfect form. Every step was spontaneous and flowing with synchronicity, their faces perfectly molded. No doubt they had perfected their routine over many years. Just as the embracing trees had shared roots, water and soil over the span of their life, these dancers had merged the many facets of their lives evolving together and becoming one. So, it is that couple from Buenos Aires whose profiles are placed into this lifeless shrine of two trees joined on top of Sentinel Dome.

E. McD – July 18th, 2022


Mural of the Weeping Martyr

“The martyrs shook the powers of darkness with the irresistible power of weakness.”

– John Milton

She weeps for the injustices of the world. She cries for all mankind. Her apparition is appearing in the sacred tradition of miracles known to her native land. Her tears run a steady stream day and night falling in to the flowing acequia of the desert dust carrying the stillness of the past with the pain of now.

Living here in New Mexico there are many murals painted on the ancient adobes. They are of saints, martyrs, religious, historical and contemporary figures. These murals can be powerful imagery arousing one’s emotions.

“Have I not seen secret malignance strike down the helpless under the cover of hypocritical might? Have I not heard the silenced voice of justice weeping in solitude at might’s defiant outrages?”

– Tagore

As I made this image the horrifying war in Ukraine was heavy upon my being and my heart has ached to watch the madness of unleashed evil in our world. Each day brings more dreadful news of man’s inhumanity toward his fellow brothers and sisters and with this comes the reminder of the fragileness of life and the gift of freedom.

Looking back through the thousands of years of history, darkness has always been there taking the lives of great prophets, thinkers, seers, visionaries and the innocents of all ages. The Weeping Martyr sheds her tears for all the suffering in this world.

E.McD April 25th, 2022


Boots & Wurlitzer, 1977

Boots & Wurlitzer 1977

It was the summer of 1977 and we had moved from Albuquerque into our Santa Fe home – Susan, our 3-year-old daughter Melissa, and myself. Also along with us came our two dogs and one cat. We all settled into to our new lives here in the high desert. My studio and darkroom were set up and life was a marvelous dream living in the beauty of the landscape amongst fellow artists and friends. It was a time that was full of day-to-day adventures along with trying new and different things.

I was experimenting with photographic techniques and studying those I thought of as masters of the medium. I acquired Edward Weston’s daybooks and read it cover to cover. It was intriguing to me that he discussed diet and its affects on his mind and work. Susan had started us on a regimen of vitamins and health foods that I found did make a big difference in my physical and mental vitality. Almost daily Dr. Hook was on the car radio singing about getting his picture on the cover of Rolling Stone Magazine. It was a catchy tune that subliminally rested deep in my psyche from hearing it over and over.

The thought came of someday I might make a photograph for the cover of Rolling Stone. Still being a young man who liked to accumulate and drag objects, things, and all kinds of stuff home, it was a 1946 Wurlitzer jukebox that was acquired. Susan was most always fine with my random additions, but this one she approved of right away. It was a beauty and in mint condition, plus it actually worked! We found a special spot in our tiny living room and there it stood with its glowing bubble lights, shinny chrome frame, varnished wood, and cloth-covered speaker. Dr. Hook’s song kept playing on the radio and one day the image came into mind right after Susan had purchased some beautiful cowgirl boots. She was sitting on our fabulous Italian chair placed next to the Wurlitzer. With my small Leica I took some Kodachrome shots that became my early proofs. In my mind came the affirmation that this really would be a great cover for Rolling Stone. Next was to attempt a black and white with my Deardorf view camera. On the floor with a tiny tripod the set up was prepared, the model with boots on sitting in the chair, and the Wurlitzer was all lit up. The afternoon light that came steaming in across the floor was perfect!

I remember standing over the darkroom sink and seeing the film after it was first developed. An exhilarating feeling flowed in my veins. It was so wonderful to see that we can use our minds to see something and then make it happen. I had been juice fasting for about 3 days prior to making this photo. Mind, body, vision, and perception were very sharp. The realization came that this must have been what Weston was writing about. Diet does have an effect upon our work. And lets not forget Dr. Hook’s song playing over and over in my head. Why juice fasting? It was Susan’s idea as she had been reading about the benefits; she was and still is my health guru today.

The image became a hit. It did make different covers and went around the world in the form of thousands of posters; fine art prints went into museum acquisitions, and on to collector’s walls, but never on the cover of Rolling Stone. Perhaps I should have sent them one. Funny thing, I still hear from people who have been on recent trips and they tell me they see the old posters not only in towns and cities here in America but in the strangest of exotic and far off places.


Ranchos de Taos Church

The day was ending as I slowly drove home to Santa Fe. The stormy sky had brought a deluge intermingled with frozen rain and hail. A break in the downpour came as I was passing the village of Ranchos de Taos, New Mexico.

In the plaza there sits the San Francisco de Asis Mission Church which dates back to 1772. This church is one of the most painted, drawn, and photographed buildings in New Mexico. It is an elegant structure in both form and shape, crafted from the earth it sits on. Over the decades, I have probably passed by the Ranchos Church several hundred times. On some occasions I have stopped to admire and walk around, and at times have attempted to take photos. It is always worth the view as I pass by.

On this late afternoon as I turned into the plaza, the light became delicate and even, the sky above glowed softly with spirit, and the soil was rich in color from the rain revealing the soul force of the earth. At this moment it was my good fortune to have the plaza all to myself with not a single soul or creature around. It was time to make another attempt to capture the magic and splendor of this special place. The rain had slowed to a drizzle. With camera in hand I got out of my car. About 8 exposures into the process the thunder began to rumble, and the rains came. Returning to the car, I dried off my camera and myself, and sat in silence watching the light show in the sky above the church and listening to the rain. It was a sublime moment. Sitting there I began to contemplate the age and the antiquity of this spot. I remembered something my friend Rodolfo had once told me as we walked through the city of Rome. He explained how ancient civilizations are stacked up one upon another in his age-old city. It was all dust on top of dust. Contemporary buildings built on foundations of vanished structures from thousands of years ago. I began to wonder what was under the Ranchos Church and the history of this site. What cultures were here going back through time?

Back in the studio as I began to work, I pondered Rodolfo’s words and the perspective they brought to the experience of that stormy afternoon. I saw the space that filled the landscape flowing into the canopy of a dream like sky, and then beyond into the universe, and eternity. The design that is integrated into the soil of the church foreground is Anasazi, photographed from a water jar that dates back about one thousand years. I began to picture cultures, peoples, and time marching on, transforming what was once one thing into something now very different. And all of it merging, combining, vibrating into the present moment, and taking form with majestic beauty as the Ranchos de Taos Church.


Smoke Spirit Dancer

Smoke Spirit Dancer “And while I stood there, I saw more than I can tell, and I understood more than I saw; for I was seeing in a sacred manner the shapes of things in the spirit, and the shape of all shapes as they must live together like one being.” Black Elk My family first came to New Mexico in the first half of the 1950’s. I was about 6 years old. It was a dusty and very foreign place to a kid from Florida. I still have lots of memories of those days.

When I was in my 20’s and living in Albuquerque my mom gave me a gift. She had found an Apache spirit bag in one of the last authentic trading posts of Old Town Albuquerque. She said the shopkeeper insisted that it never be opened. He said that the pouch had been imbued with magical charms and herbs by a medicine man to bring protection and healing spirit to its possessor. While holding the bag the objects inside could be felt and I would try to imagine what my fingers were feeling.

There was definitely a sense of energy. It has a necklace of fine red coral heishi stands that are attached to the soft beige leather beaded pouch which has leather fringe and dangling shells. Now decades later it has never been opened to this day. On a wintry morning this year a piece of burning incense had been placed into the bottom of one of my pueblo pots. The spirit bag was lying near the pot. I began watching the daylight piercing though the smoke rising and twirling skyward.

The vapor took the shape of a mystical dancer, almost ghost like. I started thinking about the spirit bag and the legend relayed from the shopkeeper. I wanted to know more about the pouch and was inspired to research Spirit bags. While in that process I came across some Native American quotes which led to the one above by Black Elk.

His words resonated with me. No doubt the world of spirit and the unseen forces were a constant factor in his life. Black Elk was what was known by his Oglala Lakota Sioux people as a wičh ša wakȟ ŋ, a medicine holy man. Most likely it was someone like Black Elk who assembled the spirit pouch my mom had given me. The thought of seeing the unseen inspired the making of “Smoke Spirit Dancer” For several days I waited with my camera set up as the morning light would pass through the rising smoke.

After days of trying, I became partial to one image that was captured. The spiraling plume had taken a form that seemed to be a dancer. The vision in my mind now needed a night sky and a sliver moon. The quest for those began and finally all were gathered and assembled over the months ahead. So here is Smoke Spirit Dancer, an homage to the great unseen mystery and dance of life we are all in


STARGAZER

Stargazer

In the Navajo culture a “Stargazer” is considered to be one of the Chosen Ones, a Holy Man, Healer, Mystic, one who would look into the sky and see beyond this world…The Valley: The breath taking view with it’s vastness unfolding into the cosmic sky is held in my vision and felt in my heart.

In complete humbleness this person stands before Great Nature’s display of Silence, Peace, and Calm. Forever the Earth is spinning, the Sun rising and setting, day to night, night to day. A dance of Creation before me as the stars swirl, the moon and comets all at play in the endless sky. The Light is bathing upon the majestic monuments in the valley.

At this moment the Transcendentalists come to mind. Nature being the teacher and healer for us all. When one stands alone before such awesome beauty it is impossible not to feel the connection with all of life. The Cuff Links: The day before coming into Monument Valley we stopped at a desolate trading post.

There they were in the case. A pair of cuff links, here in the middle of Navajo land. With further inspection the scene was that of the deep dark night sky, shooting stars, planets, all dazzling on the face of these small masterpieces of the silversmith’s elegant work.

I asked the native shopkeeper if there was a name for this style of inlay? “ Stargazer” she replied as her eyes met mine. . About to pull away, the car was abruptly put back into park. Cuff links? Would they ever be worn? Do I have a shirt for cuff links? Had to have another look. Now they sit in my felt lined box with other trinkets collected on this life’s journey.

These led me to my night in the valley looking up at the eternal scene. Inspired by the beauty of the Master jewelry maker, recognizing the lesson learned, and having a great feeling of appreciation for this precious moment. E. McD December, 2017


Just My Imagination Running Away with Me!

There comes a time that things just happen with little or no explanation. In all my years of taking photographs ideas just arise, sometimes they are crudely sketched out on paper, or they can remain as a constant background image that slowly develops in my mind.

They can become an exciting and emotional high. With the merging of Photoshop into my work the development of the notion that anything is possible (which I truly believe applies to everything we do, not just photography) can become a path to using imagination in an expanded way.

Images can be gathered and collected from all over, sometimes years apart. They can become pieces of a puzzle that have not yet taken shape or been assembled. As I worked on this image, what was so vivid in thought and form just could not be put into plain words. I would look at my computer screen, ponder, ask myself why and what is this and what should I name it? Then one evening while cooking dinner a song by the Temptations was playing in the background on the radio.

The song was Just My Imagination (Running Away with Me). I thought, WOW that is what is happening with me and this photo composite. So, thank you Temptations! I am borrowing your title. This composite is made of 3 images. The first is an old Victorian house on Hall Street in St. Joseph, Missouri. The second a shot of Christian Dior mannequins with different dress patterns on display at the Denver Art Museum.

Finally, the third is a set of curtains taken at the historic Callahan house in Colorado from outside the window while standing in the garden one evening.


Fleetwood, New Mexico - 1976

Fleetwood, New Mexico 1976

It was a beautiful early New Mexico morning in July 1976. I was living in Albuquerque and had become a bit more confident as a photographer from attending consecutive years of summer workshops in Yosemite with Ansel Adams.

I now had my own darkroom and had been supplied with the developing formulas from the workshops but was still deep into learning the art of photography. I set out at the crack of dawn to capture the image that had been pre-visualized and sketched out on my little pad. The camera of choice was my Hasselblad with a 50mm lens and in the car was my sturdy tripod, which I had ordered to be exactly as the one Ansel had last summer. My Dad once told me: “If you want to do something well then pick out a person with great talent and try to learn all they know and how they do it”. This was one of the best pieces of advice he ever gave me. I was behind the wheel of Leo Bartolucci’s incredible 1960 Fleetwood Cadillac hardtop coupe.

Leo was an older neighbor and a wonderful character. One day I saw him come home in the shiniest metallic lavender and most fabulous machine my eyes had ever seen. Jaw dropping! As he drove by he stopped and rolled down the window, looked at me with a big grin and said, “My wife is going to kill me when she sees this, but I couldn’t help it, I am a sick man”! Leo lived, and Mrs. Bartolucci, being a sweetheart, was happy for him.

One day while Leo was in his garage giving his “Jewel” a beauty treatment I told him how much I would love to photograph his treasure. He looked up and said, “Anytime, just come over and pick up the keys, take her for a spin”.

Oh boy, this was going to happen! Thank you, Leo!

I had picked up Her Majesty the night before. Now 5:30 a.m., Susan had my thermos ready and filled with coffee, gave me a kiss goodbye, sent me out the door, and into the cool morning I roared off in Leo’s masterpiece. This work of art had big horsepower under its long nose with a gleaming chrome grille bumper leading the way and in the rear those sleek aerodynamic fins following. The vision of my sketch was in my mind but now panic set in about where is the spot?

I headed in the direction of desolate Placitas, wound down graveled roads that just took off into the wide-open landscape. Sandia, a mountain with many moods stood in the distance. This was an angle I had never viewed Sandia from before. Suddenly, the road came to an abrupt end. I stepped out and walked around the Fleetwood, which had begun to look more like a space ship in the desert than an alluring auto from Detroit. Better give it a try. If I fail at least I tried. Setting up and looking into the viewfinder all was ready, and then feathery clouds came floating into the scene. They had not been in my sketch. As years went by it became a constant that in the moment something always greater than my original idea would present itself in the making of an image. Fleetwood, New Mexico was the first of many of these kinds of experiences to come in to my life as a photographer.

At home I cleaned and polished Leo’s lavender gem before returning it back into his care. Now, 42 years later, this recollection is a beautiful memory for which I am deeply grateful. The tribute and celebration of this moment came when The Center for Creative Photography took “Fleetwood, New Mexico” 1976 into their permanent collection. The Center, located in Tucson, Arizona is where Ansel Adams entrusted the life long treasury of his works.