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Through the lens

“Winter Silence” by Carl Maier.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Shadows, light and shape advance when color is absent.

Pared to their essence and strategically lit, those shapes can veer into abstraction, intimations of mystery and magic.

“The Shades of Gray” photographic exhibition will showcase that contrast beginning on Sunday, Dec. 8, in the Fine Arts Gallery at EXPO New Mexico. This year’s crop consists of 400 images from 156 photographers. Their subjects range from still lifes to landscapes.

Las Cruces photographer Carl Maier took his first photography class in high school. He has carried a camera ever since.

“I’ve been a photographer all my life and it’s still my passion,” he said.

"Snowy Crossing" by Todd Hakala

“Snowy Crossing” by Todd Hakala

The photographer’s image of a trio of shells reveals the deep ridges and scallops sculpting their surface against a pitch-black reflection. The Doña Ana Photo Club named it photo of the year.

“It was shot in my studio with two lights and a macro lens,” Maier said. He boosted the contrast slightly through Photoshop software and erased the dust settled atop the piece of black plastic that doubles as a mirror.

“If those three shells were just sitting on a table, you wouldn’t think twice about them,” he added.

Maier’s image of “White Sands” leans even more into abstraction with its highly textured surface moving from wind-combed sand to rocky layers. The image took first place in the International Eye of the Camera Show in El Paso.

When composing his frames, Maier looks to his gut.

"Symmetry" by Carl Maier.

“Symmetry” by Carl Maier.

“Mother Nature says this is the shot,” he said. “Do it or forget it. Lighting is a very fleeting thing.”

His image of two horses on a snowy hillside came from the time he operated a studio in central Wisconsin in mid-January.

"Ah Shi Sle Pah Erosion" by Jane Selverstone.

“Ah Shi Sle Pah Erosion” by Jane Selverstone.

“It was about two miles south of where I lived out in a field,” he said. “All of a sudden, these two horses appeared on a hill.”

Maier spent 30 years as an Air Force photographer before teaching photography for 10 years. He moved from Denver to Las Cruces three years ago to escape the snow.

“All I can say is when I lift that camera to my eye, my whole world changes,” he said. “It’s something I can’t imagine living without.”

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