Only broken by….the squeaks of dozens of prairie dogs, the first time I’d ever seen one.
A caldera is the bowl-like depression in the landscape after a volcanic eruption — in this case 1.25 millions years ago, 300 times larger than Mount St. Helens in 1980. Valles Caldera is one of the world’s best examples of an intact volcanic caldera.
Since then, of course, the land was inhabited by natives and later (after 1500) by Spanish settlers.
The site contains a few log cabins, from 1915 to 1963, but no one is allowed to stay in the park overnight although hiking and skiing in winter are allowed.
It’s a stunning place in its scale and also gave me my first sightings of wild iris and elk — we could only see a large herd of elk thanks to a telescope offered by the park rangers.
The caldera is about a 90 minute drive northwest of Santa Fe.
My old reporters’ notebook from the New York Daily News, whose logo is that of a classic old-time camera, the Speed Graphic
By Caitlin Kelly
It’s been a while since I came to live in a small suburban town on the eastern side of the Hudson River, with views of passing barges pushed and pulled by tiny, powerful tugboats. A place where red-tailed hawks glide above the tree-tops. Where one of the nation’s wealthiest families, the Rockefellers, live a 15-minute drive north of us — their helicopter always, annoyingly, thrumming too low overhead as they whisk someone south.
I love living here.
It satisfies all my desires: a beautiful landscape, access to great culture in Manhattan and at local venues like Caramoor and the art film house, Jacob Burns, economic and social diversity, (our town has million-dollar townhomes at the river’s edge, with social housing projects a few blocks inland.) I know the guys at the hardware store and the gourmet shop and the gym.
I’ve also, of course, through work and play, have gotten to know what we call The City, aka Manhattan and its four other boroughs. I know that Houston Street is pronounced How-ston and that Bleecker — perhaps confusingly — manages to run both north-south and east-west. I know where to find free street parking.
It did take me a long time, at least a decade, before I felt this was home. New York, as you can imagine of a city of eight million, many of them with multiple Ivy degrees and the most skilled and competitive in their fields and industries, can feel very intimidating.
It is also a place absolutely and rigidly stratified by wealth, social class and race, with its enormous and imposing private clubs, including the row of Ivy League-only clubs (Yale, Harvard, Princeton,. Cornell) that I’ve only visited thanks to events held there. If you head to the uppermost stretch of Park Avenue, the division between extraordinary wealth and deep poverty is, literally, across the street.
But, if you’re lucky and work your ass off, it can soften enough to become more welcoming.
Here are some images of my life here:
Broadway, baby! The dream of so many performers, and the provider of many well-paid union jobs backstage.
Love this restaurant, Via Carota, on Grove Street in the West Village of Manhattan.
It’s expensive, but very good food, with a spectacular and enormous (!) green salad. The West Village is by far my favorite neighborhood — shaded cobble-stoned streets lined with early 19th century brownstone houses and indie shops and tiny and perfect restaurants like Little Owl. It’s become impossibly expensive to live there, but lovely to visit.
This is our local reservoir. No idea what that building is!
This is an amazing place — built in 1857. Truly a time capsule, on the north shore of Long Island (which lies south of New York City)
Such beauty! I love going to the ballet at Lincoln Center (and opera at the Met.)
Every spring there’s Fleet Week, welcoming ships to New York’s harbor.
The New York Botanical Garden, in the Bronx. Such a treasure!
Despite horrific rents, some indie bookstores hang on in Manhattan.
I love auctions! I bought two prints at this one, a splurge. That’s my bidding paddle.
Nosebleed seats (highest row at back of the balcony) still affordable.
The view from our home of the new Tappan Zee bridge, spanning the Hudson
The Brooklyn Bridge
Grand Central Terminal — where thousands of commuters head in and out to the northern and western suburbs; those headed to Long Island use (hideous) Penn Station. GCT is amazing: lots of great shopping and restaurants and a food market. Commuting in from our town, now, has risen to $9.50 one-way in off-peak (non rush hour), making a day trip $19 just to enjoy the city — before a meal, drink, subway ride or activity.
I love the details of this building in the West Village
A tug and barge heading south on the East River
This is a place I know well; my husband worked there for 31 years as a photographer and photo editor. I also write for the paper freelance, so have been in there many times.
I always tell visitors to New York to get out of noisy, crowded, tourist-clogged midtown Manhattan as fast as possible and head to quieter neighborhoods like the East and West Village, Nolita and even parts of the Upper East Side, which is mostly residential but has some treasures like this lovely tearoom.
Get to a riverside park and enjoy the views and breezes. Savor a rooftop cocktail or a sunset bike ride.
I haven’t even mentioned Brooklyn (as I so rarely go there,) but it’s full of great shops and restaurants and views.
I sold my first images — three covers — to a Toronto magazine while still in high school and went on to sell my photos to Time, The New York Times, Washington Post and others.
I see beauty everywhere, all the time. I could spend all day photographing the world.
But I wonder how many people now — staring into their phones — even see the world around them. I shout “DON’T WALK INTO ME!” at anyone phone-staring while ambulating.
It’s disturbing how little we notice of the subtleties: the changing light season to season, how it gets low and yellow in fall; the specific bright green of spring vegetation, the minuscule worlds beneath our feet in any forest.
My daily joy is my Instagram feed, with spectacular images from around the world — Scotland, Finland, Italy, many by talented amateurs (check out Grant Kaspo’s stunning photos of Scottish mountains, in all seasons and hours) but also by legendary pro’s like fellow Canadian Gary Hershorn, who I met a long long time ago when we both worked in Toronto and now live within an hour’s drive of one another near New York City.
Recently asked by an awestruck Insta follower, “How do you do it?” Gary replied “You just have to look.”
These large laminated tags are usually press credentials that make clear who’s allowed into an event and allowed to get close to the action.
By Caitlin Kelly
For those of you who still care about the quality of journalism, a few insights from a career journalist who has been a reporter for three major daily papers and who freelances (i.e. sells individual stories I come up with) often for The New York Times.
Where do story ideas originate?
Some of the many ways:
— A press release from a company, individual or organization. It’s unlikely that only one release is the entire story, unless for the trade/industry press. Journalists, staff and freelance are pelted daily with hundreds of press releases from people who want us to write (favorably!) about them.
— A tipfrom someone inside an agency or organization who wants this information made (more) public and possibly deeply investigated for misdeeds or wrongdoings.
— A conversation with someone in an industry or field about interesting or new developments.
— A cultural trend we hear, see or notice out in the world on our own.
— An upcoming event, for which we write or produce a “curtain-raiser”, a story than runs in advance of the event.
— An anniversary of a major event, five, ten, 20 or more years later. What, if anything, has changed since then?
— We all really want a “scoop”— a powerful story no one else has
How do we know if it actually is a story?
–– Fact-check.We make calls, send emails and texts, check in with sources we know are smart and trustworthy to confirm or deny the basic facts of the story.
— Firsthand reporting. Always the ideal to have a reporter/photographer/video crew on-site.
— Talk to firsthand witnesses, but that’s also tricky because they may be lying. It’s happened, which is deeply embarrassing.
What happens next?
— Every reporter, in every medium, has a boss! That person (or people) have the final say as to whether this story will even ever appear or get the time and energy needed to report, research, revise and edit it that they think it deserves; five minutes on-air (a lot!) or 500 words in the paper or on-line or 5,000 words in a glossy magazine.
— The reporter/producer (teams, generally in broadcast) work together to decide how to proceed and in what depth and at what speed. Breaking news is insanely competitive so there’s a mad rush to get the story first or exclusively.
— If the story needs a lot of reporting and interviewing (documents, on-site reporting, speaking to sources) the reporter needs to decide who to speak to, when, why and in what order. If the story is controversial or potentially damaging, many people will refuse to discuss it, which means digging for more sources and/or persuading some to speak without using their names or affiliations to protect them.
— If the story is happening very far away from the newsroom, the decision will be made to send a staff correspondent (costly) or possibly use a local freelancer, called a stringer, exclusively or in addition to the staffer’s reporting.
— On truly major stories, there can be as many as a dozen reporters sending in various elements they have gathered and a writer in the newsroom (originally called rewrite) will craft it all together into one cohesive narrative, with credits for each contributor added at the bottom.
— For anyone who loves to insist it’s all “fake news”, I can assure you much of it is not. Every major news/publishing outlet has a lawyer either on staff or someone they turn to regularly to make sure the story is safe to publish.
— If the magazine or outlet has the staff and budget, and many do not, they hire and pay fact-checkers to do exactly what the name implies; check every fact to make sure it is accurate, after the reporter is finished.
— Graphics, design, podcast, video and photo editors decide the best ways to present visuals to accompany the story: a drawing? a graph? a map? a photo essay or slideshow gallery?
— For anything going into print, careful space measurements allow for design and page placement of all elements: copy, visuals and the all-essential advertisements that help pay for all of this! For digital, visuals count as well, plus SEO.
My best advice for consuming any form of media/reporting is to choose multiple sources, not only one set of political or national views. I read The New York Times and Financial Times (UK) daily, listen to NPR and occasionally the Washington Post and LosAngeles Times. I also see news from many other sources, like Canada’s CBC, through Twitter.
Is there something you’d like to better understand about journalism? Ask away!
As some of you know, the Pulitzer Prizes were announced earlier this week from Columbia University in New York, where they are judged in two separate rounds, by peers in each category.
Named for their benefactor, Joseph Pulitzer (pronounced Puh-lits-ser), an amazing man born to a wealthy family in Hungary, who made his way to St. Louis, Missouri — and by 25 was publisher of a newspaper there. His later life was one of physical misery (despite huge professional success), blind and with terrible hearing problems.
Starting in 1912, the Pulitzer Prize, awarded for excellence in journalism, books, theater and other categories, began to be awarded.
This year — for the first time — the judging process (the first round) was photographed for posterity by another Pulitzer winner, my husband, Jose R. Lopez. He won one, in 2002, for the team photo editing of pictures of 9/11 by The New York Times.
The reason this was possible was thanks to a professional friendship of many years between Jose and Dana Canedy, former Times-woman who now runs the Pulitzers. Jose proposed the idea and she, and the board, agreed.
I’m impossibly proud of Jose’s ambition and skill, at an age when most of our industry competitors are half our age.
It’s also a time when even the President of the U.S. routinely sneers at journalists and his red-hatted supporters attack us physically for daring to exist, making it essential we all remember why journalism matters and continue to celebrate the best of it.
The email arrived about two weeks before a major annual conference of news photographers. Someone had dropped out — would I come and speak?
I began my career in journalism as a photographer, selling images to Time, the Globe & Mail and others. I had three magazine covers while still in high school. But being asked to speak to others seeking wisdom and advice, while a terrific honor, is always scary. What if I had little or not enough?
So I did what I always do, I wrote out notes — never a formal speech — and started practicing and timing it to the minute. I had 75 minutes, and decided to fill 45 of it with my advice, and 30 minutes for questions. What if there weren’t any? What if no one came? I’m semi-known as a writer —- but not a known quantity in this world.
It was great to have Jose there (collecting an award and giving feedback on portfolios) to introduce me and smile from the back of the room.
Tables full of Canon and Sony and Nikon equipment for sale…
About 50 people attended my presentation — a wide range of ages, men and women at all levels of their craft — even some sitting on the floor. So that felt good.
We talked about how to pitch — the scary and inevitable process every creative person must face if they are to sell their work into a highly competitive marketplace. We talked about rejection. About how to find ideas.
Afterward, to my delighted surprise, a line of a dozen people waited patiently to say hello and ask more personal advice. One was a college student and one even a high school student — both young women.
It’s such a privilege and joy, certainly when I have no children, nephews or nieces, to feel my insights are valued and can help the next few generations.
I came away with fistfuls of business cards and, I hope, some new friendships. I was deeply moved by the talent I saw and met, like Moriah Ratner, a talented 23-year-old (!) who had already attracted major industry attention for her images. So inspiring! Of course, she’d already worked alongside one of our New York Times friends and colleagues.
The industry of journalism — whether words or photos — really is small, so creating and maintaining a good reputation from the start is essential.
I met a Canadian from Montreal, Andrea Pritchard, who made a documentary about three of the industry’s female legends.
New York Times photographer Michelle Agins (left) and Lisa Krantz, a staff photographer for the San Antonio, (Texas) Express-News, describe their work and offer insights into how and why and when they shot some of these images. Both are 2019 winners of the Sprague Award, the highest award offered by the National Press Photographers Association. The image above is by Agins.
Like all conferences, some of the best conversations happened in the hallways and the bar and the bathroom as we dug deeper into why we were there and what we each grapple with — whether health issues or money or lack of support or sexism or where to find ideas. The medium matters less than how we can excel in it.
To get ready to do my talk (and I’ve done lots of them), I read this great new book by client/friend Viv Groskop, a UK-based stand-up comedian, author and executive coach. The book is Own The Room and it’s full of helpful, smart advice for women who can feel terrified of public speaking — even as it can hugely boost our careers.
It’s been a long time — 23 years — since the death of my dog Petra, a small black and white terrier mix I inherited from my mother as she went off to travel. I loved seeing the world through Petra’s eyes and wondered what it was like to experience it all from a height of a foot, not my five feet, five inches.
We take so for granted the way we see the world, that everyone else does, too, which of course they don’t. Read any news source today and our political divisions are obvious.
It’s one of the reasons I love to travel, whether a few hours upstate in New York or abroad. People think differently. People see, literally, differently.
One of my favorite assignments of 2017 was meeting a Quebec farmer who took me into one of his fields and explained the function (!) of cornsilk. I’ll never see corn the same way again.
On a current project for The New York Times, I visited a Brooklyn classroom and watched tween girls in hijab confidently wielding power tools. Not at all what I’d expected!
A joy of journalism, for decades, for me, is how often it pushes us into wholly unfamiliar situations — physically, emotionally, spiritually. If you want to work in journalism and can’t imagine a thousand other ways of being in this world — run. It’s not the job for you!
In my work, I’ve met Queen Elizabeth, convicted felons, FBI firearms trainers, crime victims, Billy Joel, a female Admiral. I’ve witnessed the aftermath of a horrific head-on car crash and reviewed ballet.
Using my cellphone camera is helping me see the world anew.
I love to sit at the bar and to eat alone there, two activities I know some women find intimidating and won’t do. This is from one of Manhattan’s best restaurants, Via Carota, and I loved the image in black and white better than in color. When you work in photography you stop seeing beauty per se and look for information — sometimes color is overwhelming and distracting.
As you look at the image, notice what you notice first and why: the drinks and their prices? The quality of the the light? I was most interested in the very rear, the people sitting at the table in bright sunlight. You can even see through the window across the street — to the hair salon where I get my hair done.
Jose and I had just been to the ballet and were leaving the Koch Theater when I noticed this pattern of beaded metal curtains with the lights of a building behind. I liked the juxtaposition.
This was interesting; just as I noticed it, so did Jose. It’s easy to ignore something as basic as the curtains because they’re often functional as well as decorative. I liked the warm tones here as well.
On our recent trip to Montreal, this amazing tiled serpent, coiled around a column, advertises a Mexican tourist agency. I just liked the color and detail without needing the entire image. Sometimes a fraction is much more compelling than the entirety.
Trying to capture the whole serpent would have been more difficult because of too much distracting stuff around it. I like how the shadow bisects the image, and had never seen tile of this shape before.
I love shopping to see what sort of environments a decent designer can create — these were two enormous pillows in Brown’s, a Montreal shoe store. Loved the color, texture and wit.
Chartreuese is one of my favorite colors, anywhere. That graphic black and white, and its scale, are fantastic. I found the pillows more interesting than the shoes!
Nothing special — the doors to the dining room of our Montreal hotel. But I love the texture and light and shadow.
There’s beauty everywhere. You just have to notice it.
I’ve walked past this red wooden bench in our town hundreds of times, and have sat on it it a few times. But I loved it with some snowflakes.
The weathered cracks make this more interesting to me.
Literally, out the bedroom window, looking straight down. This is one of my recent favorites.
This feels mysterious to me. When do we ever look down into or onto a tree?
Look at something you find ugly — why?
Look at something you’ve seen 1,000 times before and notice something new.
Listen to a podcast or radio show or TV show you’ve never heard.
Read an author or genre you’d normally avoid.
Has something ever radically changed your point of view?
The thing most of us crave, (certainly living in the U.S. where falling into or staying in poverty is terrifying), is financial security. No one wants to not be able to make rent, buy groceries, buy a bus pass or gas the car, clothe their kids or pay off those miserable student loans.
So many of us will lunge toward the first job that offers us a steady income because….steady income.
It’s the fortunate few who have the time, energy and fiscal freedom to slow down and decide to focus on what they really hope to creatively accomplish. When you work for others, you de facto work to their needs, budget and deadline.
People have told me I’m an artist…I think I’m more of a tailor. You want your trousers hemmed two inches (intellectually speaking)? I can do that. You want a navy gabardine suit size 42R? No problem. I know how to work quickly and efficiently and give people what they ask me for.
I’m no Phoebe Philo nor the late Karl Lagerfeld nor my favorite fashion designer, Belgian Dries van Noten. Occasionally, yes, I come up with a wholly creative idea and am able to sell it.
Jose recently had an idea that will literally make history. I am so proud of him! We can’t share what it is for a few months, but he realized that a specific annual event of great cultural importance had (?!) never before been documented visually. He knew its administrator and pitched the idea to her and he suggested a budget for it and she said yes.
He spent 31 years as a photographer and photo editor at The New York Times, a place of prestige and power, and it gave him a source of challenge, steady income with a union-protected job and a pension. All good.
Very little creative freedom.
Those outside journalism may fantasize about its creativity but the wage slaves within it know better; too often the thinking is stale and the formulation of coverage cliche. Those who keep coming up with new and interesting and untried ideas — as Jose did many times — can be ignored, dismissed and just give up.
When he took the buyout they offered in 2015, I was scared. How would a guy with a desk for 31 years thrive as a full-time freelancer?
He has, because his creativity is finally being rewarded, both financially and professionally.
At an age when some people have retired and hung it up, he’s tootling along, impressing the hell out of new clients and, best of all, seeing the fruits of his labors.
This time, it’s The Pool, a popular and terrific five-year-old UK website aimed at women, now “in administration” (i.e. bankrupt) and screwing lots of furious freelancers out of the payment we earned and are owed and rely on.
You don’t think to check the records at Companies House in case an outwardly successful, much-loved, well-read website is in fact £760,000 in debt, has an outstanding personal loan of £40,000, borrowed £250,000 against the company’s assets and lost £1.8 million in the previous financial year. As a freelancer, you can’t possibly be aware of office politics, or worrying signs such as the fact that the entire board bar one resigned in August 2018. None of the staff tell you. Why would they? Maybe they don’t know.
Besides, they need your copy. They keep commissioning you, right through the Christmas period and into early January, only stopping — or so it seems — once they are outed first on Facebook and then on Twitter by a mounting number of freelancers who haven’t been paid.
I’m out about $300 — a hit we can afford to take (reluctantly!) because we have savings and a fairly low overhead. But many others relied on The Pool for our due payments — to pay for rent, food and other necessities.
Creditors don’t care why we’re suddenly and unexpectedly short.
They just expect to be paid on time.
I learned young to be wary of others’ glossy appearance or promises of payment.
I’ve been selling my photos and writing as a freelancer since I was 19, when, one summer, I sold my photos on the street in Toronto. I was so flattered when a smooth, well-dressed, charming woman ordered a large color print of my work — and sent me a rubber check. She assumed I was ill-equipped to fight back.
I sent her a lawyer’s letter and got paid in full, quickly.
I see too many people now desperate for emotional or professional validation — “I’m a writer! I got published!” — when some of those commissioning this material are shysters or going broke and no one tells us this — until, suddenly, we’re all screwed.
As soon as I started to fear (and hear rumors of this disaster at The Pool) I might not get paid, I Googled the company and found everything I needed to know; senior editors quitting months ago en masse, financial chaos, huge debts.
No one selling their skills to strangers — basically what we do when we work without a steady, secure salary and benefits –– can afford to be wilfully ignorant about the ethics and financial health of their clients. It’s why finding and using reliable networks of writing peers is crucial — intel!
Everyone who wants to freelance needs savings!
In other recent freelance writing news…
— Was excited to write about a cool new Montreal company last year — it, too, just went bankrupt. I successfully re-pitched as “What happened to this great idea that sucked up $17 million in investments?”
— Was coaching a young writer for about six weeks but that work (and income) abruptly ended when the student ran out of money.
— Picked up a new anchor client (i.e. steady income!), and now scrambling to meet weekly deadlines for them.
— Made the error of politely disagreeing on Twitter with a highly opinionated science writer who went batshit on me until I blocked her. Later, privately, a writer who knows her (and her shitty temper) reached out to comfort me. Both were strangers.
— Interviewed a fellow journalist/author via Skype about his new book, gobsmacked by the opulence of the room he was sitting in. Was this a luxury hotel? Was that his living room? Good Lord, what am I doing so wrong?!
— Last fall I’d hoped to pitch a great little story perfect for The New York Times’ Metropolitan section, one of the few sections left there I haven’t written, for but my radiation treatment/exhaustion scotched that. I finally traveled to Brooklyn to interview middle school students for it, with Jose as my chauffeur. It’s so comforting to have him help me!
— Finally emailed an editor with whom I feared we’d had a rough ending last fall. He wrote back immediately to say, No, not at all. Whew!
— Have a new book idea. Will have to see if it’s even worth writing a proposal.
— Sent an unsold book idea to a colleague and now await news if her agent is willing to read it or even rep it.
It all started with an email from Wendi Murdoch. She claimed that she had found us through a personal recommendation from a senior editor at Conde Naste Traveler. We had just finished talking with Conde Nast Traveler about doing some Instagram featured work on both my (https://www.instagram.com/humminglion/) and Zory’s (https://www.instagram.com/zorymory/) accounts, so the timing made sense. Flattered, I kept reading her pitch about needing some up and coming photographers to help capture the essence of China for an upcoming exhibit centered around the Beijing Winter Olympics in 2022.
I had a rough idea of who Wendi Murdoch was: a Chinese American art philanthropist and shrewd businesswoman who made waves with an expensive divorce from media tycoon Rupert Murdoch.
The photographer flew from San Francisco to Jakarta — of course on her own dime and time — and ended up losing $7,500.
How can anyone be so stupid? So gullible?
Hah! Read a new book, Duped, by veteran journalist Abby Ellin about the liar she almost married. Ellin is nobody’s fool, but was also — and who hasn’t felt this way? — lonely and ready for romance with a handsome and accomplished man who wanted to marry her.
Her gut told her some of his stories felt really unlikely, but (and I know this feeling too, as a fellow career journalist), some stories are both unlikely and true. And no one really wants to keep cross-examining a man who professes love to you.
In 1998, I answered a personal ad in a local weekly newspaper from a man who said he was a lawyer. His “housekeeper” was on the phone with me, as was his (real) mother, Alma.
I dated him for four months before (thank God) randomly meeting a former NYPD detective-turned-private-eye who discovered within a day what a bad guy he really was. It was a terrifying experience as this guy stole my mail, used my credit card, forged my signature in front of me…and became so frightening I slept for a week at a friend’s house.
Best of all?
The cops wouldn’t take my case and the district attorney literally laughed it off as “no harm done.”
How do these creeps operate so effectively?
–– Use some elements of checkable truth that victims will recognize and find comfortingly familiar
— Flatter victims by admiring something about them
— Learn their specific weaknesses and fears and exploit those
— Count on victims getting blamed for their stupidity and being too embarrassed to alert police and push for arrest and conviction
— Make sure much of it is deniable as a “he said/she said”
— Manipulate their emotions by confusingly flipping from loving and attentive behavior to aggressive and threatening, throwing victims into mystified anxiety and fear
— Threaten victims with retaliation
— Count on victim’s discomfort with appearing cynical and untrusting, even when red flags are flapping!