From wild life to wildlife

The Pagosa Artisan’s Co-op is proud to have Dan Caldemeyer, wildlife and nature photographer as one of its members.

Dan has photographed a large variety of things, from weddings, aerial photography and rock bands to the landscapes and critters of Colorado New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Wyoming and Montana. Dan also goes to Alaska to photograph bald eagles and he spent three weeks in East Africa (Tanzania and Kenya) in 2007.

“Photography has been a passion of mine ever since I bought my first camera,” said Dan, “a Pentax K1000 with a 50mm f1.4 lens. I believe that passion is essential when you are in the field of artistic creativity. The beauty of nature is the reason I got into photography.

“Photographing a rock band changed my life. I have always loved music, especially rock, soul, RandB and Jazz. After shooting a John Mellencamp” Concert, I was showing some 8x10 photos of the concert to some friends, and one of them said ‘look, there’s Mike Wancheck the lead guitarist.’ He said he knew Mike and he put me in touch with him. Mike’s dad, in turn, set up a meeting between me and Mike.

“Mike was an unusually nice and polite guy in an age when rock stars were known for their arrogance. I showed him some of my other concert photos and he said, ‘Look there’s Pattie.’ I had photographed a Pat Benitar concert, and Mike said that he and John Mellencamp had written her first two million sellers. ‘Hit Me With Your Best Shot’ was one, and I forget the other one. Mike took the photos back to John and said that their merchandising agency would contact me if John wanted to use them. I waited six months and was giving up hope, when one day they called. John had chosen two of my photos for his World Tour Poster. It was to be sold worldwide for three years, 1984, 1985 and 1986, with my name on every poster. I was paid a flat rate of five hundred dollars because I wanted my name on the poster. If I left my name off the poster they would have paid me five cents royalties for each poster sold. Let’s see — a three-year world tour at between 20,000 to 100,000 attendance per concert and around five to ten percent of those people bought posters. You do the math, but I don’t even want to know how much money that would have been.

“A few of the other rock stars that I photographed were The Rolling Stones, Prince, Kiss, Rod Stewart, The Who, Diana Ross, ZZ Top and many more. After the JMC tour poster, an agent in New York (Star File Photo) called me and signed me to sell my photos. Later they bought the rights of two Prince photos that were sold to U.S. News. It’s a big high when things like that happen to you.

“You could say that I have morphed from shooting wild life to shooting wildlife and nature. At my age, sixty-two, I much prefer the latter. My wife and I spent three weeks in East Africa in 2007. I will never forget it. It was truly amazing. I would love to go back.

“I travel to Alaska to photograph bald eagles and soon hope to go there to photograph the brown (Grizzly) bears.

“My photograph ‘Reflections of Painters Pond’ at Yellowstone National Park was recently chosen for the prestigious Rio Grande Fine Arts Fair in March, to be on their billboards for advertising. ‘Shadows of the Early Morning Mist,’ also at Yellowstone, took first place in the professional photography division in New Mexico.

“It has been said that good photographers spend half of their lives waiting for the right light. I have spent hours, even days, waiting for the right light. Perfect light usually occurs in early morning or late after noon with low billowy clouds, and if it has just stopped raining or snowing, that is a bonus.

“The term ‘patience is a virtue’ is an understatement when it comes to photography. The difference between a good photo and a great photo is light, angle, knowledge and patience. No matter how good the subject is, if the light isn’t right, that photo will be just another mediocre photo. Only the exceptional and exciting photos sell. You have to be patient, and willing to wait days for the light to change, or hike into the back country to get that special photo. People have no idea how much my travel expenses are just to get that one photo.

“My plan for the future is that we sell our home and buy a motor home. I have wanted to see this country and Canada up close and personal for several years, doing art shows and taking photos and recording the beauty of this wonderful country along the way.”

Life in the Artist’s Lane: The spirit of truth.

Are you disturbed, or are you a disturbance? When I asked my sweet Al what he thought I was and what my art was doing, he did not hesitate to say, “You are a disturbance. You throw tacks in people’s beds.”

“Does that mean I cause people to lose sleep?” I laughingly whirled a retort. Humor always softens the blow and it’s a good way to dodge bullets. “I can’t help myself; I’m an artist and I have to paint and write as I know truth today!” Truth will cause a disturbance because it demands an answer. If we ignore it, it disturbs us. If we agree with it, then we might have to change. And change usually causes a disturbance. “Falsehood is easy, truth so difficult,” says George Eliot.

So what is truth? I know that truth is an absolute and I know if truth is stretched, it becomes error. But if truth stretches us, then it is good to lose sleep. Art is a truth-revealing tool. This last weekend I attended three plays by three different playwrights. They were all different, delightful, had teeth and were somewhat controversial. I wondered why they picked controversial subjects, but I believe each script asked us to look at truth from a different view point than where we normally sit. Art has that wonderful component of making us look at ourselves, stretching our thinking and asking, “What do I believe and what is truth for me?” Congratulations to the Square Top Repertory Theatre for doing a great job in bringing a new element to Pagosa.

I used to say art was non-threatening; it always sounded good and I liked saying it, but I have changed my mind. When art evokes a reaction and we have to question our own beliefs, then it is threatening and disturbing and demands from us more truth seeking.

Hemingway says, “Truth has a certain ring.” We must paint, perform and write in the truth we know or we will be clanging cymbals, just making more noise. Art is not just documenting information so others know how much we know, but communicating what we believe. A potter friend from Arizona said to me once, “Art must communicate, or it is not art.” Art is saying, look at me from a broader perspective. “We now know that Art is not the truth... but rather a way of approaching the truth.” — Pablo Picasso.

It was my week for enjoying the art of Pagosa. I also visited the SHY RABBIT’s exhibit and it became another stretching tool. I noticed the artist had taken the subjects’ heads outside of the picture. At one time I would have said very dogmatically,’“That’s wrong.” But today, I asked from the piece of art, “What is the artist saying? Why is the head out of proportion to the body? ” The artist has a reason and is taking us to another place, where he lives. Not necessarily where I live, but where he lives. This art exhibit has rhythm, mystery and is delightfully intriguing. It demands that one’s mind stay open and enjoy a new way of seeing. The art we have in our own community is amazing; whether the performing, literary or fine arts, we are blessed.

I remember a story years ago about Salvador Dali, a surrealistic painter. A viewer stood before one of his paintings in a gallery which was to be sold for thousands, took a knife slashed the canvas into shreds. The gallery owner was horrified because of its worth and in fear told Dali the situation. Not knowing how Dali would take it she was surprised at his response, “The painting did was it was supposed to do. It evoked a reaction.”

As disturbed and weird as Salvador Dali was, he knew the secret of art and he caused a disturbance in the art world. He knew that art was more than painting a painting and informing the world that it was painted, but that it communicated a spirit from him, the artist about how he saw things and how he must paint it.

I must add also that art can also be entertaining; it makes us laugh, feel good and asks nothing of us but to enjoy it. We do not need to ask questions or analyze it, but simply sit back and receive the joy from it. This is also communicating.

The Final Brushstroke: Don’t slash, just read me!

Comments from Readers: Let us hear from you. Send your comments to bettyslade@centurytel.net.

Quote for the Week:

“Lord, grant that I may always desire more than I can accomplish.” Michelangelo.


Photo courtesy Betty Slade
The Message Trees is a new series of oil paintings by Betty Slade. She has captured the essence of the aspens in her trademark style: strong colors, loose strokes and every brush stroke counting. Slade has caught a glimpse of the thoughts and hearts of those who traveled by, carving their messages on the tree trunks and she has documented them in oil paints on canvas. She hopes to voice the lives of those who traveled that way and cared to leave their history on the Message Trees. The paintings are on display at the Pagosa Artisans’ Co-op, 150 Pagosa St.