Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Desperate Conditions

27 December 2oo8. At a remove, desperate conditions can be desperately beautiful. In this picture of Pikes Peak, dangerously high winds are ripping shingles of snow and ice off the ridges and sucking debris out of the canyons. These conditions are harsh indeed for any mountaineer caught in them.

But from a vacant lot in a windless residential neighborhood miles away, there is no harshness, no danger. There is only the distant beauty of light on atomized snow, of shadows, and of the golden glow of peaceful patches of stillness on the foreground ridge.

Who then has the true experience: The mountaineer struggling against forces that threaten to overpower him and rob him of his vital heat? Or the aesthete looking on from afar, adjusting the brightness, contrast, saturation and other things for which the mountain has no name and in which the threatened mountaineer has no interest.

A wise man once said that a human being is a star's way of knowing itself. But if the human being approaches too close, his wings prove wax and melt, like those of Icarus, and the star knows itself no more.

There is a part of me that wishes to be intimate with violent elements. I have approached these elements and pulled back from them in my past, wings warped and singed but not melted away.

In the end there will be no pulling back.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008


4 December 2008. Wind and snow pummel the little evergreen as it clings to its perch on the side of a sandstone cliff. The rock holds the tree in its cleft, gently, protectively, though with a restraint dictated by its rigidity. This is the rock's nature--to hold back, motionless, shaped slowly by wind and rain and time to a purpose it does not consider.

The tree will live a long life, but the rock will proceed at a pace that is glacial. The tree will come to an end long before the rock crumbles, but both will disappear in time, and appear again, elsewhere, in the twinkling of God's eye. We will, I think, be in both places, both times.

In the meantime, you and I look on, capture a moment like this, here and there, from time to time, and think much of ourselves. Foolish we are in a way that the tree and the rock are not. We struggle, while they obey. They do not strive uselessly. They do not rage against the darkness or press needlessly into the storm. They simply endure, according to their natures.

We do also, but with much opinion and manipulation, often lacking the dignity of a rock or a tree. Rocks and trees are not distracted by what we call a higher consciousness. We should consult them about our affliction. We might then learn something of our origin and our destination.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Old Tree

For years, I have hiked this trail (left) past this old scrub oak (right) on my way to my dogs' graves and beyond them, up a canyon, to a tiny catch basin where running water can be found in all seasons. This location is known to a few. It is probably best for it to remain so.

This tree is really a collection of scrub oaks growing so close together that they appear as one, and so I call it a tree. They don't mind. They must be good friends to have survived so long and grown so large together. This is another example of the familiar, the close by that can be overlooked.

It was quite cold, but I had my camera and the lighting was right, and the sky and the old tree standing patiently in the snow near the crest of a hill.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Ute Valley, Colorado

Ute Valley, 2 October 2008. I can be enthralled by the exotic, but I have an abiding affection for the familiar.

Familiar places, familiar sounds, familiar people--they whisper that I should soon be on my journey home. Knowing them so well--like the smell of cooking bacon--I can tell what has changed: the moved furniture, the broken wheel on a bike, the wearing off of paint, the lines that have formed in a face.

Today was a return to the familiar with my brother Greg, who had traveled a thousand miles to be here. I, on the other hand, live less than a mile from where these pictures were taken. My dogs and I know the place well, as do friends who live nearby. But they do not know this particular place, the place I saw on this particular morning with my particular brother at this particular time with my particular eyes.

This place, the one captured in these and other images, is already gone. It was mine for a brief time, marked by the repeating sound of a camera's shutter release. A piece of it disappeared with each press of my finger.

Perhaps this is what I love most about the still camera.

It stops time.

Friday, November 14, 2008

First Snow, Queen's Canyon

Wednesday, 22 October 2008. This was my second exploration of the morning. It began with seeking out images of the light touch of snow in Garden of the Gods. The first snow of indian summer fell on Colorado Springs last night. I set out early, alone, to see what might remain of this mantle of white.

As it had been in the Garden, mine were the only footprints in Queen's Canyon; I was the first human visitor over the fresh snow. It was cold, and I took careful steps in the many stream crossings that were required to reach the falls and beyond.

Autumn and winter were greeting one another. Leaves of the deciduous trees and shrubs had fallen into the stream. They were gathering together on the downstream side of pools.

About an hour into the canyon, a young man carrying a Bible caught up with me. We became companions. We discussed photography and his upcoming mission to Haiti as we threaded our way over rocks and stream and fallen trees. His name was Steve. I took one picture of him. He was pondering from a high perch above the falls. I hope he will be safe in Haiti; it is a dangerous place.

Small things stood out this morning, and they became my dominant subjects.

First Snow, Garden of the Gods

Wednesday, 22 October 2008. The first snow of indian summer fell on Colorado Springs today. I set out early, alone, to see what might remain of this mantle of white in the Garden of the Gods, before the morning sun warmed it off the rocks.

Mine were the only footprints in the Garden. It was cold, mostly due to wind chill: My mittens came on immediately after each shoot, and I took careful steps over hard surfaces where beads of ice had formed overnight.

Autumn and winter were greeting one another. The snowfall had been light, and the leaves of the deciduous trees and shrubs were just passing through their peak of color. Indian summer was bowing out gracefully.

I have seen beautiful pictures of the Garden in winter, but I do not remember having seen pictures of so light a touch of snow as I saw and photographed this morning. There is no place on earth where I would rather have been. I hope my work conveys some of this joy to you.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Still-life Arrangements

My wife and I have long been a creative team. Teri is skilled in matte-cutting and custom mounting and framing of fine art photography. She is also a master stain-glass worker and an excellent oil painter, designer, and colorist. I am an oil painter, watercolorist, and fine art photographer.

In recent years, Teri and I found ourselves receiving a growing number of invitations to weddings and other celebrations where a gift was expected. We decided that selecting a typical piece of fine art was risky, since tastes differ widely. We scoured the gift shops. We considered simply using the registries. Nothing seemed right.

We wanted to give gifts that were uniquely personal, gifts that would be cherished for a lifetime. Teri conceived of the still-life arrangements to enable us to do this.

These arrangements of still-life images symbolizing a name or expression of commitment were a huge hit. We began receiving letters of heartfelt gratitude for gifts that would be cherished for generations.

Word spread. Friends and friends of friends began asking to buy these heirlooms to hang in their own homes or to give to others. We obliged, happily.

Now we have made these custom art pieces available to the public. We create the still-life images; combine them to form the symbolic statement; and then matte, mount, and frame them. We sign the matte before mounting it behind glass in a sealed frame. Finally, we package and ship to the buyer.

Because each symbolic statement is handmade in this way, orders usually must be received well in advance. Contact Chuck Sale Photography directly for information on prices, ordering, and delivery. See Contact Info.

Chuck Sale
Chuck Sale Photography
Colorado Springs, Colorado

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Other Lights

My brother, Greg Sale, often joins me in journeys to places where special rewards await the attentive photographer. He will be arriving in Colorado Springs next week, and we will search for fall color in the Colorado Rockies.

We have spent many happy days creating images in Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park near Moab, Utah. We kayaked together down the Colorado River in that vicinity last year. Greg's rented kayak nearly sank after taking on water so slowly through a hole in the stern that we did not notice until it was almost too late. We should have been paying more attention to our paddling and less to our photography.

I invite you to visit Greg Sale Photography. This delightful look into the blossom of a flower is Greg's.

Thursday, September 18, 2008


Many people influence the course of one's life. The people who have influenced mine cannot be named, not because I have forgotten them, but because they are numberless and in many cases entered and left before I could know a name.

Three people stand out in the niche where I developed as a graphic artist and, eventually, a photographer: They are Coni Grant, Charles Movalli, and Don Sahli. There were others, and I apologize for omitting their names here. These three, however, deserve special acknowledgement.

Coni Grant resides and maintains a studio in Alamosa, Colorado. Her paintings are delightful celebrations of color. I began my study with her. We still collaborate sometimes, she as a painter and I as a photographer--searching out places to paint and photograph in Colorado.

Charles Movalli is the second major influence. He taught tempo and spontaniety and joy in painting. He is famous for his wise counsel on art and life as well as for his fine paintings. My time as his student was brief, but the benefits from his teaching will last a lifetime.

Don Sahli lives and maintains a studio and school in Evergreen, Colorado. He took great pains to improve my skills as an oil painter, and he expanded my ability to see and interpret out of the ordinary. His fine work can be found in many prestigious art galleries.

People do not invent themselves. We are all collections of influences that we sculpt, hopefully, into something unique. I think it is important to acknowledge these influences as one might cite a source in a footnote. Until then the sculpting can be hesitant or distorted. Or it might not occur at all.

Chuck Sale
Chuck Sale Photography
Colorado Springs, Colorado

Monday, September 15, 2008


Colorado Springs, Colorado, where I live, offers many outdoor photography opportunities. Perhaps too many. Little thought or effort is required to find a beautiful setting to record, and the temptation is to shoot away, hoping for an artistic accident. Trouble is, everyone is shooting away at the same beautiful settings with the same hope. This glut of scenic beauty (and photographers recording it) presents a unique challenge to the Colorado landscape photographer: How does one create anything original in such an environment?

For example, not much original work is coming out of the Garden of the Gods. Particularly since the dawn of digital, the number of images produced in this Colorado Springs park must number in the millions. You cannot visit a drug store or supermarket or gift shop or any commercial establishment without being treated to a dozen pictures of the place--on postcards, greeting cards, mugs, you-name-it.

I do not lament this photographic commercialization of the park. In fact, the glut of park images presents a unique challenge to originality, one I welcome.

There are some who meet this challenge head-on. Colorado Springs photographer Charlie Lehman is one. I invite you to visit his web site, Travels with Charlie, to see for yourself. Charlie has not abandoned Garden of the Gods. He has gone into it at special times and under special conditions to produce uniquely evocative images of the place. See his photographs of winter in the Garden of the Gods, for example. This image in particular stands out for its originality.

You can see my own efforts in the Garden by clicking here or on the image at the beginning of this article.

Greg Sale, my brother, has found opportunities for some stunning wildlife work in the San Gabriel Valley of Southern California, a place not known as a hotbed of wildlife photography. He recently opened his online studio, Greg Sale Photography. Take particular note of his avian photography. You see ordinary birds photographed a million times by (probably) as many people. But Greg has applied his extraordinary skill as an observer and photographer to make his bird images extraordinary. This bird photograph in particular stands out. Likewise, this photograph of very un-bird-like creatures.

New Zealand is one of the most beautiful places on earth. Go there when you can. Take beautiful pictures. But in the meantime, carefully explore your own back yard. You might find some delightful surprises there.

Chuck Sale
Chuck Sale Photography
Colorado Springs, Colorado

Tuesday, September 9, 2008


. Like all children, I was taught to substitute words for what they describe; images for what they depict; and numbers for what they quantify. It was impressed upon me that success, even survival, depended on my skill in making and interpreting these substitutions.

The camera seemed to perform all these substitutions with the click of a button. It does not really do this, but in my childhood understanding it seemed to, and in this seeming was born my fascination with photography.

My first camera was a simple black box. With it, I went about making photographic analogs of my mother and father, my friends, and out-of-focus bugs and ducks and dogs. That is how it began, without art or poetry.

Photography did not become my vocation. I went on to a career in law enforcement, and spent 30 years in the Los Angeles Police Department. Incidental to my duties as a police officer, I took occasional photographs of people and objects. For evidence. More substitution. No art, no poetry. Just the facts.

In 1975, I began mountaineering, and the camera seemed essential for capturing the beauty of high places. My tools were primitive by today's standards. My best work remained essentially accidental. But there was some art in it, a hint of poetry.

I later drifted into fine art, particularly watercolor and oil painting. And I learned to play the cello. Photography receded into the background as I practiced these more elemental forms of artistic expression.

The emergence of digital photography coincided with my development as a painter--
and with my mounting frustration over the relatively sedentary nature of work with brush, paint, canvas, and paper. Photography once more came into my artistic foreground.

My work in oil and watercolor turned out to be the best possible preparation for applying the digital tools that were becoming available to photographers. As I stepped away from the activity of painting, I sensed that the discipline of the brush had embedded something in me, something that caused me to see the camera in a new way. Fewer of my photographs were accidents. My photography was becoming intentional.

Particularly in the matter of composition, the camera had been too easy on me. It allowed me to get
something, some record of the beauty of a place, even when my composition and camera skills were weak. The painter's brush offers no such consolation. It gives the artist nothing at all, not even a coarse record, when its strict demands are not met.

John Stobart, a respected painter and teacher of fine art, admonishes his students that artistry lies
not in the hand, but in the eye. Without the "seeing" of the artist, the brush and the camera are worse than useless. I had to learn the rigorous simplicity of the brush to discover that the camera, despite its technological complexity, is no different. I was then no longer satisfied with photographic accidents, however beautiful they might be.

My wife and I form a creative team. Teri is skilled in mat-cutting and custom mounting and framing of fine art photography. She is also a master stain-glass worker and an excellent oil painter, designer, and colorist.

We are currently collaborating in the still-life arrangements described elsewhere in this blog. The project is her conception. We create still-life images; combine them to form a symbolic statement; and then mat, mount, and frame them. We sign the mat before mounting it behind glass in a sealed frame. Finally, we package and ship to the buyer. Contact Chuck Sale directly for information on prices, ordering, and delivery. See Contact Info.

Teri also does mounting and framing of the limited editions of my work, and consults with clients on custom mounting and framing issues.

. I began freelance writing during my 30-year career in the Los Angeles Police Department. Writing and editing skills opened doors to an uncommon diversity of special assignments, which were interspersed with work as a street cop, investigator, and field supervisor. These special assignments included hosting a weekly public-service program for KABC radio, speech writing for the chief of police, and writing or editing innumerable government publications.

I earned a bachelor’s degree in English from California State University at Los Angeles, and was a curriculum developer and instructor at the Los Angeles Police Academy, a teacher at Glendale College, a proofreader for the Los Angeles Times, and an editorial advisor to doctoral candidates at the California Institute of Technology and Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena.

Over the years, I authored, co-authored, or edited many books and articles, including, most recently, Catholic Roots, Mormon Harvest (Cedar Fort, 2009) and The Biblical Roots of Mormonism (to be released by Cedar Fort in June 2010). The Biblical Roots of Mormonism is available for pre-release discount ordering at

I am the father of five children and the grandfather of seven. My wife, Teri, and I make our home in Colorado Springs, Colorado.