The Life in My Years

An anthology of life

Anne Chandler leads this week’s Lens Artists Challenge and she asks the burning question, “What’s your photographic groove?” (Please visit Anne’s website, Slow Shutter Speed, for her take and those of others).

Grooves? I’ve had more grooves than a 33 RPM album.

I’ve done macro, landscape, reflections, sports, oceans and other assorted bodies of water grooves. There’ve been clouds, bugs, railroads, old barns, broken down cars and brand new skyscrapers.

And now?

Well, now I’m grooving on monochrome, incorporating some of the old passions and adding others, most notably cemeteries – or more accurately, graveyards. For an explanation of the difference between a cemetery and a graveyard, go back two months to one of my previous posts.

I rarely shoot in black and white, preferring instead to shoot in color and then edit into monochrome. A color image can always be converted to black and white but the converse is not possible. As Emeril once said, “You can always add, you can’t take away.” Remember that the next time you have a jar of cayenne pepper in your hand.

Why black and white?

Because it lends itself to some of the moods I’m drawn to; the old, the forgotten, the decrepit, the desolate and the dreary. Yeah, I’m the life of the party. Old Edgar Allen Poe has nothing on me.

Some of the images in this post have appeared in previous posts.

A road trip through the American Southwest can deliver you to places lonely and forsaken.

Below: Part of what’s left of the old mining town of Goffs, California in the Mojave Desert.

Goffs, California

Below: In Grants, New Mexico there’s no service at Charlie’s Radiator Service.

Can color properly convey the devastation wrought by a wildfire? Below: During the last leg of a 2021 road trip, we came upon the bleak remains of a forest in Northern California.

I love road trips and the main ingredient for a road trip is, well, a road – at least one. While a road passing beneath a canopy of autumn blazed trees begs for color, black and white serves a good road well, and a bad road even better.

Below: A road rolls past Iowa cornfields.

Below: A well worn Iowa farm road.

Below: A country road outside of Jackson, in California’s Gold Country.

Who doesn’t love black and white portraits?
If you want to soften the features you can make the skin look baby smooth.
Old guys like me? Accentuate the crags, age lines and beard stubble. They always add character (well, almost always).
Black and white portraits are distraction free. They’re clearer and cleaner.

Below: A street musician on Market Street in San Francisco. When we made eye contact and I pointed to my camera, he nodded to me as if to say, “No problem.” I smoothed out his features but only just a little (And he was pretty darn talented).

Below: Taken at Portsmouth Square in San Francisco. No smoothing of the features here.

Below: At his first birthday party, my grandson Zackary had a meltdown during the Happy Birthday Song. The final tear.

Below: The piercing eyes of a Mudi dog


They fascinate me. They tell stories of lives lived and lost. Graveyards are living (and deceased) history. The stories that they tell are of tragedy, lives well lived and lives cut all too short. My goal is to put together a photo book of graveyards.

Below: The tombs of Lafayette Cemetery in New Orleans.

Below: Photos of Silver Terrace Cemetery in Virginia City, Nevada. Virginia City is an old silver mining town. Walking through Silver Terrace and its rolling flinty hills, pocked with scrub brush, is like stepping back into the rugged 19th century.

Below: Gnarled trees are a required fixture at Silver Terrace.

The town of Virginia City is in the background.

Below: The sad history of child mortality.

Below: Who was it who was “Loved in life. Lamented in death?”

Below: Perhaps my favorite photo of Silver Terrace is of a wild mustang grazing near an old gravestone. If this doesn’t speak of Americana and the Old West, well…

30 thoughts on “Lens-Artists #211: My Photographic Groove

  1. Anne Sandler says:

    Amazing black and whites images Paul. I can see it’s your groove. I especially like your portraits. I’m also a big fan of black and white and shoot in color, converting it when I process. Regarding cemeteries, if you’re ever in Sacramento, visit the Sacramento Historical City Cemetery. It’s well kept and full of history. Take care and thanks for joining in!

    1. Paul says:

      Hello Anne, Thank you for hosting and choosing the great topic.
      Isn’t it amazing how you can look at a color image and think “meh,” and then on a whim convert it to black and white and suddenly it shows promise? Almost all of my Silver Terrace shots were taken midday which is a pretty horrible time to take pictures. They mostly look flat in color but they come alive (or dead, I guess), in black and white.
      And yes, the Sac. Historical Cemetery is on my list. Maybe when the weather cools off a bit.
      Thank you again

  2. Jane Fritz says:

    OMG!!! ❤️

    1. Paul says:

      Thank you Jane.

  3. These are very awesome photos, Paul! Hard to pick favorites, but I really loved the road photos!

    1. Paul says:

      Hello Lisa,
      I’m glad that you enjoyed them. Thank you for visiting and commenting.


  4. mistermuse says:

    Love these types of photos in black and white. They wouldn’t be nearly as stark in color.

    1. Paul says:

      Unless it’s a sunset or autumn colors that bet for color I’m finding myself moving more and more towards black and white.
      Thank you for visiting and for commenting.

      1. mistermuse says:

        LIKE (the “Like’ at the end of your reply won’t ‘take’ for me).

  5. I like the monochromes here, especially the portraits. You’re right the B&W portraits come out cleaner and stronger, usually.

    1. Paul says:

      Thank you for visiting and commenting with your kind words.
      Much appreciated.

  6. Dawn says:

    Beautiful photos! I love how turning the photos into black-and-whites adds depth and mystery. Great way to make some of the scenes like the tombstones look even older. I’m not a fan of cornfields in general (tornadoes eek) but I love your photos and the roads leading out into the distance.

    1. Paul says:

      Hello Dawn, Thank you for visiting and commenting.
      After over 15,000 miles of road tripping last spring and fall I have more road photos than I know what to do with. I’m glad you enjoyed them.

  7. johnlmalone says:

    love the photographs; glad I visited 🙂

    1. Paul says:

      Hello John,
      I’m happy that you visited too. Thank you for the kind words.

  8. alison41 says:

    really enjoyed your B&W pix. thanks for sharing.

    1. Paul says:

      Thank you for visiting and commenting with your kind words.

  9. Toonsarah says:

    I’m a big fan of your black and white images, especially the road trip / ghost town ones and your characterful portraits!

    1. Paul says:

      Hello Sarah, Thank you for reading and commenting. I’m enjoying doing the portraits. Getting permission has not been as dicey as I’d thought. Street musicians are fair game in my opinion (I usually tip them anyway).

      1. Toonsarah says:

        Yes, tipping is a small price to pay for a good photo opp and it’s a win-win for you and them 🙂

  10. nesfelicio says:

    These are all great images. Really shows how monochrome can speak directly to the viewer.

    1. Paul says:

      Thank you for visiting and commenting. Yes, the more that I work with monochrome, the more of a feel for it I get and the more appreciation that I have.


  11. Those are wonderful images Paul!

    1. Paul says:

      Thank you Peter. Much appreciated. Thanks for visiting and commenting.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Great great GREAT monochromes. You are a master.

    1. Paul says:

      Thank you so much for reading and for the kind words.

  13. Anonymous says:

    You are good at everything in photography, Paul. B&W is no exception. I enjoyed very much the graveyards (love walking in graveyards too) and your old America ones…and the portraits are great. As you point out – who doesn’t love monochrome portraits? Thank you for participating!

    1. Paul says:

      Thank you so much. I appreciate the kind words.

  14. eden baylee says:

    Hi Paul,

    I’ve said this to you before, I’m sure … great eye. Some of these I’ve seen, but you’ve curated a great collection here. I recall being struck by your pics of the charred remains of trees. It’s still one of my favourites of yours. That second shot after the fires — the starkness and devastation, the once majestic trees reduced to sticks.
    Also, the Iowa cornfields – excellent shot of the hills and I’ll bet this is spectacular in colour too.


    1. Paul says:

      Thank you Eden.
      The tree shots are among my favorites. When we came upon those charred hills I just had to stop. I wish they’d been lush, boring forests thought.
      Thank you

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