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Hispanic Market photographer mines the muted moments

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“Truchas Peak” by Robert Crespin.

“Truchas Peak” by Robert Crespin.

During the golden hour shortly after sunrise or before sunset, the sun paints the sky the warm red of magic.

Albuquerque’s Robert Crespin regularly mines that muted moment in his photographs of New Mexico landscapes.

Crespin is one of more than 134 artists who will gather along Santa Fe’s Lincoln Avenue next weekend for the 28th Annual Contemporary Hispanic Market. Visitors can choose from oil paintings, watercolor, mixed media, furniture and jewelry, as well as photography.

“Pathway to Heaven” is a photograph by Albuquerque artist Robert Crespin.

“Pathway to Heaven” is a photograph by Albuquerque artist Robert Crespin.

Crespin’s photographs range from an old church ruin near Raton to a snow-frosted Truchas Peak and a pair of nuzzling buffalo near Cimarron. He times his drives, hikes and walks in search the most expressive form of lighting.

“I’ve spent all night in some places just to capture that light,” he said.

Crespin learned the basics of photography in college, but honed his skills while working as an exhibit technician at the Bradbury Science Museum in Los Alamos. When he retired from Los Alamos National Laboratory in 2010, his wife gave him a camera.

“I didn’t really get into it until” then, he said. “My wife bought me a digital camera, which made it a lot easier.”

Crespin grew up watching his mother paint landscapes and flowers in the farming and ranching community of Clovis. He spent 35 years working in Los Alamos before retiring to Albuquerque.

“I’ve kind of been all over New Mexico and that’s what most of my photography reflects,” he said.

“El Cuervo” is one of his most haunting images. Shot at Coronado State Monument, it shows a bird perched atop an adobe building against a soot-stained sky.

“It was about two years ago when they were having the fires along the Arizona border,” he explained. “The air was full of smoke and with the sun pouring down on all that smoke, that’s how I got that coppery look.”

“Pathway to Heaven” shows the facade of a church ruin with an empty bell tower in a tangle of brush off Interstate 25 near Raton.

“That facade is the only thing standing of that church,” he said. “There were no signs in there. It was a cloudy day and it had snowed.”

He labeled a print of a black sky framing a sunlit windmill “Ominous.” A thunderstorm roiled around him as he shot the image near Santa Rosa. It was 7 p.m. on a spring evening ripe for tornado weather.

“The clouds just opened up and that windmill was dead center,” he said. “Minutes after that, I was hit with a thunderstorm.”

“El Cuervo” by Robert Crespin was shot at Coronado State Monument.

“El Cuervo” by Robert Crespin was shot at Coronado State Monument.

He climbed onto a Rio Grande sandbar to shoot “Up with the Cranes” beneath crimson clouds and the Sandia peaks. He shot the picture near Corrales at 5:30 a.m.

“The cranes roost on the sand bars,” he said. “They were flying into the trees to start eating. The river was blood red as that sun came up.”

Photographing landscapes suits what he describes as his shy personality.

“I feel embarrassed taking photographs of people,” he said. “I hate asking them for permission.”

Joining the Albuquerque Photographers’ Gallery is helping him overcome his reticence as he works with his fellow photographers and meets customers from across the globe. The gallery also sells work by prominent photographers such as Lee Marmon and the late Karl Koenig.

“I work with the best artists and we encourage each other,” he said. Sometimes the nine photographers go on group photo shoots, where he picks up technical tips and enjoys the camaraderie.

“They embraced me and welcomed me and made me feel at home,” he said.

Crespin juried into the Contemporary Hispanic Market four years ago. His work also can be seen in the annual New Mexico Arts & Crafts Fair and in October’s Rio Grande Arts & Crafts Show.

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