Conference 2021 in the Rear-View Mirror

By Barb Laine

As RMOWP’s 47th conference drifts into the mists of memory, we’re thankful we were able to gather together and share experiences once again. Alamogordo gave us the opportunity to see some remnants of the old West at Oliver Lee Memorial State Park, photograph numerous petroglyphs at Three Rivers Petroglyph Site, and witness a double rainbow shortly before sunset at White Sands National Park.

Twenty-two RMOWPers and spouses gathered at the Holiday Inn Express for the opening reception on Sunday evening, where we joyously greeted old friends and welcomed new member Steve Cochrane and his wife Megan. During the presentation of all contest submissions, brilliantly prepared as usual by our contest chair and projectionist, Frank Zurey, storm clouds moved in dispensing huge claps of thunder and flashes of lightning as water poured from the sky.

RMOWP, Oliver Lee Memorial State Park, NM
RMOWPers gather at Oliver Lee Memorial State Park, Conference 2021. © Virginia Staat

Monday dawned bright and clear so we gathered at Alamogordo’s Alameda Park Zoo pavilion for our General Membership meeting (see page 6 for a summary of this and Sunday’s board meeting). Then David Staat moderated a very informative panel discussion about self-publishing (see his article on page 7). This was followed by a fun presentation by Virginia Staat that had us learning how to write in ways to paint a picture for our readers, draw them into the story we’re word-painting, and leave them wanting more. Like any good teacher, she gave us short writing assignments to illustrate her points, which some of us shared, and discussed whether we’d hit the mark. Very illuminating. 

During lunch, White Sands Chief of Interpretation Kelly Carroll stopped by and talked about national parks in general, White Sands in particular, and their recent discovery of human footprints in the park dating at least 23,000 years, proving that man walked across North America much earlier than previously thought. He also answered questions, and mentioned that he would be leading the sunset stroll the next night when we planned to be in the park.

Oliver Lee Memorial State Park, NM
Exploring the grounds and ruins of a movie set at Oliver Lee Memorial State Park. © David Staat

Maryann Gaug and Kenita Gibbins offered readings during the Anne Sullivan Writer’s Forum, after which we dispersed for individual explorations. Some stayed to photograph the zoo inmates, some drove to the petroglyphs, a few headed into the mountains and the lovely town of Cloudcroft, and others simply wandered off to wherever.

It was misty, rainy, and cool when we drove to Oliver Lee Memorial State Park Tuesday morning. But undeterred, we followed park volunteer Bill Hanna down the bumpy, winding gravel road to Lee’s rebuilt home where Bill described life in the late 1800s, and the roles the house has played in movies in more recent times. We wandered the grounds and home — with its memorabilia and accompanying signage — and Bill answered questions. 

The afternoon saw us caravanning to White Sands National Park, and it was a fine day for dune photos, with intermittent clouds scudding across the bright blue bowl of the sky. We gathered for an early BBQ supper before the 6pm sunset stroll, by which time the clouds had thickened and darkened, with rain in the distance providing a lovely rainbow. The sun, partly obscured by the storm clouds, dropped slowly behind the dunes. We hope to see some dramatic shots in next year’s contest.

sunset, White Sands National Park
Sunset at White Sands National Park. © Don Laine

We kicked off the final day with an entertaining group participation of sharing our best – and worst – moments behind the camera. Just about everyone had a story – or several – to tell, ranging from silly to embarrassing to grand and exciting. I’m sorry we didn’t record it!

After lunch Virginia presented her “Power of Place” workshop, describing the many ways to create “place” with words and/or images. She closed with “There is Power in Place. It defines who we are. It has its own character, history, and story. It provides for us passion. It can evoke our fears or contain them. And if we listen hard enough, the landscape speaks to us and tells us who it is.”

The afternoon rounded out with our usual fun auction, raising $417 for the organization. And following the banquet Frank once again cranked up the projector to give/show us the results of the contest (see page 3 for a list of the winners, and visit to view the winning images), with Maryann Gaug reading the judges comments. It was particularly exciting for new member Steve Cochrane when he won Best of Show Photography AND first place in Member’s Choice. Well done Steve!

Now we are looking forward to gathering in Golden, Colorado in 2022. People are working on it and as soon as we have any news we’ll get it to you.

In the meantime, have a happy and healthy holiday.