Last Dance at the Council Tree Powwow.

Photographs Jeremy Wade Shockley/SU DRUM

A storm on the horizon. Golden light filters into the arena.

Dancers prepare their regalia.

This was to be the final dance at the Council Tree Powwow. Held in Delta, Colorado the Council Tree Powwow takes place each fall in an arbor prepared for this event, not directly under but very near the ancient council tree itself; an esteemed cottonwood of Ute legend and historical significance.

The perfect evening gave way to darkening thunderheads and a torrential downpour. Lightening filled the sky as dancers and spectators alike fled the dance arena, seeking shelter and warmth.

As I drove home the following day; criss-crossing the Weminuche Wilderness, the highest peaks now blanketed by fresh snow, I felt a sadness in having witnessed the last of something so beautiful. In my heart I hoped that it would continue. A year rolls over, and autumn has now past us by. The arena lies empty.

Editorial coverage from the Southern Ute Drum newspaper.


Magic Hour, Working for the Newspaper, and Longterm Projects.

Photographs Jeremy Wade Shockley/SU DRUM

Chance favors the prepared mind. -Louis Pasteur

The perfect light rarely comes to me on assignment for the newspaper, simple fact is, around town events are not scheduled with the warm tones of sunset in mind. As a matter of fact, getting outside is half the battle, and a prayer for good window light when I am forced to shoot inside. All these factors present there own challenges, challenges that have pushed me as a photographer on deadline, sans assistant. Action happens fast, some events last less than a few minutes, and it often those shots that make the font page for no other reason than precedence.

What I have learned is invaluable, the opportunities to shoot outside in the golden hours of the day are often times a luxury of the freelance photographer, or dedicated artist. A long term project, or all day event will lend itself to those opportunities, weather permitting.

One such assignment came across my desk recently, an art gallery opening, on just such a beautiful summer afternoon that leaves you wanting more. Samba singers set up against a freshly painted fence, a belly dancer in full regalia, spins through the courtyard literally catching the last rays of light! Memorable landscapes, portraits and everyday scene from across the world often become timeless because of a quality of light that helps to define the moment.

The greatest lesson here is that as photographers, we must be able, willing and creative under any given circumstance, creating powerful images regardless. Understanding the value of the good light as an element working in our favor, but never a given.

Patience, preparation and perseverance are the ingredients to the images that astound, this often requires shooting well before and beyond the average sunrise, sunset!

Enjoy the images….Jeremy

Chimney Rock: Pueblo History Within the Southern Ute Landscape.

Photograph Jeremy Wade Shockley/SU DRUM

Chimney Rock: Pueblo History Within the Southern Ute Landscape
Text and Photographs: Jeremy Wade Shockley
Southern Ute Drum Vol.XLII No.17

Piercing the summer sky, two stone formations known as Chimney Rock and Companion Rock, define the ridge where Ancestral Puebloans built Kivas and erected ceremonial sites for religious and astronomical purposes. The rock formations have served as geographical markers for centuries, guiding the Spaniards north from Mexico, as well as the miners who later sought silver and gold in the region. Early bands of nomadic Utes also looked to the twin towers as landmarks, ancestors of the Southern Ute Indians, who’s land surrounds present day Chimney Rock.

The Chimney Rock Archaeological Area sits on 4,100 acres of San Juan National Forest land surrounded by the Southern Ute Reservation. The land was proclaimed National Forest Reserve by President Theodore Roosevelt at the turn of the century and designated an Archaeological Area and National Historic Site in 1970.

The Chimney Rock prehistoric structures were constructed roughly between AD 1000 and 1100, according to Elizabeth Ann Morris, Professor Emerita, Colorado State University. Morris also states that the inhabitants of the site were ancestors of one or more of the modern Puebloan tribes such as: Hopi, Zuni, Jemez, Acoma, Taos, Picuris, or another of the Rio Grande Pueblo Tribes.

An annual cultural gathering is held at the Chimney Rock site each summer, where tribes with ancestral roots to the Chimney Rock inhabitants return to dance in the traditional way. Kivas are opened up for these ceremonies and access given to dancers and singers participating in the cultural gathering. The gatherings are held each year and open to the public as well as other indigenous dancers who perform just out side of the restricted archaeological sites.

Here there is a strong connection with the peoples and architecture of Chaco Canyon, a major trade center, located over the border and ninety-five miles to the southwest in what is now the State of New Mexico. Chaco is thought to have been a site designed as an astrological center, perhaps for observing the sun’s patterns and for recording, understanding, and interpreting the growing seasons and calendar cycles. It is also thought that perhaps Chimney Rock served a similar purpose in regards to the moon and its rising patterns. During what is known as the Major Lunar Standstill, the full moon can be seen by the naked eye, rising directly between the two pinnacles of stone that define Chimney Rock.

Photograph Jeremy Wade Shockley/SU DRUM

The natural rock formations can easily be seen from modern day reservation lands, as one is fishing at lake Capote to the East, or travelling past on Highway 160. The twin towers stand above the horizon line, a geographic marker throughout history, now a monument to the past. There is no doubt that the early Ute bands that frequented this region would have used the spires as a landmark.

Other involvements between the early Utes and the Chimney Rock site, or its ancient people, remain a mystery. “My understanding is that the arrival of the Utes in this region occurred almost 200 to 400 years after the Ancestral Puebloans left,” said Les Linton, a longstanding staff member at the archaeological site. Morris agrees, early in the 1100’s the Ancestral Puebloans moved away from Chimney Rock Cuesta and the immediate surrounding valleys.

As geographical fate would have it, this historic site now borders the sovereign nation of the Southern Ute Indian Tribe. It is clear that the land on which we live has seen great cultural and geographical shifts throughout the ages. We may never completely understand the complex history of this landscape or those who lived on it before us, but we can appreciate the significance of the site and the role it has played in shaping this region.

Photograph Jeremy Wade Shockley/SU DRUM

The Historic Fire Lookout, which sits at 7, 600 feet, is set for removal by the end of this season, in hopes of returning the site to its original state.

Native American Journalism Association: 2010 Media Awards

On the nature of awards…certainly a subject of value as we progress through a world of photography and journalism. As a freelance photographer I didn’t seek out too many awards for myself, inevitably I was focusing of generating content and moving forward.

A certain benefit of being affiliated with any publication, newspaper or magazine, is that the prospect of winning awards of very real. Entry fees are less daunting, the process is built into the day to day curriculum at the office, and most importantly you are putting your self out there as a team.

Everyone in the office puts their best work forward, and with the consensus of fellow staffers, prints are shipped along with the relevant editorial pieces. Then the wait, but with that comes introspection and an awareness that every time you go out in the field to craft a feature story for publication, that the very work you are about to create could be a contender for the next round of editorial critic!

With two feature stories and a half dozen images submitted to this years NAJA awards, I was pleased to have garnered a few of the accolades on behalf of the Southern Ute Indian Tribe.

Best Photo Categories

Best Feature Photo: 3rd Place

Jeremy Wade Shockley, Photographer/Reporter, The Southern Ute Drum, “Bear Dance”

Best Photo Categories

Best News Photo: 3rd Place

Jeremy Wade Shockley, Photographer/Reporter, The Southern Ute Drum, “Bennett Thompson”

Associate Categories

News Story (Print): 2nd Place

Jeremy Wade Shockley, Photographer, The Southern Ute Drum, “Solix: Fueling a Better World”

Cultural Rendezvous in Cascade Canyon.

Photographs Jeremy Wade Shockley/SU DRUM

The above images are selected from Southern Ute Drum coverage of the Second Annual Heritage Train, now available to view online. Leading off the front page, this story captures both the majesty of the natural environment and the historical railcars, while also bringing the reader in closer for an intimate look at the cultural side of this unique and beautiful event through words and imagery.

View full article and photographs as published HERE.

Cheers, Jeremy

Shooting on the Sidelines.

Photograph Jeremy Wade Shockley/SU DRUM

Many of my favorite photographs are often shot on the fringe of an event, often showing the reader the story in a different light. Rodeos, Powwows, political rallies, and sporting events. These are events that are often covered from the standpoint of what they are, taken and interpreted very literally.

Events almost always have a second life right on the fringe, and that is where I often find the most interesting photographs and subjects to really tell the story through images as it has perhaps not so often been told. This image of a small dog guarding a van outside the Powwow arena is the perfect example of another way to photograph an annual Powwow celebration.

The full photo essay and annual Southern Ute Bear Dance events are posted online in this weeks Southern Ute Drum Newspaper.

Enjoy the images….Jeremy

The Gathering Of Nations.

Photographs Jeremy Wade Shockley/SU DRUM

Southern Ute Drum coverage from last weeks Gathering of Nations Powwow, held under open skies in Albuquerque New Mexico and hailed as America’s Largest Powwow….visit the DRUM online to read the full essay.

Photograph Jeremy Wade Shockley/SU DRUM