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PHOTOGRAPHER MEL STONE

A Tale of Two Trees

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This is a story about two photogenic giants that inspired my photographic journey. And both were situated to show off one of Las Cruces' best features, the Organ Mountains.

This is about two tall, dead trees.

One tree seemed to exist in obscurity, but it and I had a long relationship. I first photographed this tree (I dubbed it "Organ Sentinel") in January 2010 while I was in Las Cruces looking for property to open an art gallery.

The tree is located in a field on the east edge of Mesilla behind what was then the Preston Contemporary Art Center.

After I moved to Las Cruces in April 2010, when conditions looked favorable (fairly clear in the west and a few nice clouds hovering around the Organs), I would head over to visit my friend.

The image I call “Organ Sunset” was made in late July of 2010.

After that, I didn't visit the tree very much. I did go back in November 2015. Of course, a few twigs and branches had disappeared. When I showed up, there was another photographer on site.

When the sun went down, he left. I stayed. The sky and mountains turned purple and produced the shot I call "Dusky."

On a Friday in the spring of 2020, before COVID, I decided to pay my old friend a visit.

It was gone!

I posted the sad news on Facebook and got a few responses. The next day, a Saturday, at the Farmers and Crafts Market of Las Cruces (yes, I do have a gallery but also sell at the market), I told my sad tale to a customer.

"Well, never mind," she said. "There's another dead tree waiting for you out on Fairacres Road." If Organ Sentinel, the tree on the east edge of Mesilla, lived in obscurity, this old, dead tree located on a busy road on the west edge of Las Cruces was famous – I just had never heard of it.

Finally, in July I found my new tree and made the shot titled “Fairacres Tree B&W” – not the best conditions (I like to photograph early in the day or around sunset), but I captured an image of a new tree.

After Daylight Saving Time ended, I was more likely to visit my new friend under better conditions. On Nov. 2, 2020, I was photographing the Fairacres tree with fairly decent light. Then, I left. But not too far down the road I saw the sky starting to turn purple. A quick U-turn and I was back in position to capture “Fairacres Tree Purple.”

In all, I visited the Fairacres tree nine times. Several times, I saw people just pull off the road for a quick cellphone shot of this old, dead cottonwood. Another couple stopped to tell how much they loved this thing and showed me a photo they had taken.

On Nov. 27, 2020, once more I headed out to the Fairacres tree and captured Fairacres Panorama.

On Saturday, Dec. 5, 2020, Facebook exploded when someone posted a photo of the Fairacres tree lying on its side (“Fairacres Last”) – it had been cut down.

That Sunday, I drove out to verify that the deed had been done. Hundreds of posts have hit Facebook; here's a sample: “Loved that old snag… I even made it my wall picture.” “So much character in that tree, sad to see it go.” “That was my favorite tree in the whole Las Cruces.” “So sad.” “It had spirit.” “Loved going down the road just to see that old tree.” “Oh no! Glad I got some snaps.”

My sentiments exactly – the end of a decade and two great trees.