Bob Miller, Photographer of a Million Faces

Monsoon Madness by Bob Miller

Monsoon Madness by Bob Miller, the people’s choice winner in the Fall photo contest.

When Bob Miller started out as a portrait photographer in 1982, he decided to keep track of the number of people he photographed. By 2000, he had counted a million different faces. He hasn’t slowed down in the intervening 14 years, but he did stop counting. Today, he’s photographed everyone from Alice Cooper (for the cover of Avid Golfer Magazine) to corporate CEOs to models and graduating seniors. He also does a good amount of commercial photography for hotel and resort websites. This past year, he shot several different properties in Arizona for Orbitz. All of that allows him to do the scenic photography that won him the people’s choice award in the Fall Rio Nuevo photo contest.

Miller 2 Miller 1 Miller 4 Miller 9

Miller now lives in Tempe, but he’s spent time in places around the world – St. Thomas, Virgin Islands; Fresno; Boise; Southern California; Alaska – and photographed in all of them. His lifestyle has offered him opportunities for unique experiences. In Alaska, he worked for an Anchorage company that flew him to remote Inuit villages, from Ketchikan to Point Barrow, to photograph people who had never before had their pictures taken. He used a medium-format camera with hundred foot rolls of film, and would return with 600 to 700 hundred shots.

Miller 7One of his mentors told him that the person who installs your carpet doesn’t weave it himself, so in those days, Miller sent out his film for developing. Today, however, he does his own digital processing most of the time, especially for his scenic work. “It’s a nice creative process,” he says. “I can give it my own take and get closest to the emotional impact of what I felt when I was taking the picture.”

Miller spends plenty of time in the outdoors, and when he heads out for a shoot, he carries a backpack of Nikon gear that includes two camera bodies and four lenses, from a 10mm wide-angle to a 300mm. Some are fixed; some are zoom. He also includes spare batteries and memory cards, as well as cleaning supplies. He appreciates the lightness of a carbon fiber tripod, but admits that a leg stuck in a tight rocky place has a tendency to split and crack. Aluminum tripods are a little bit weightier, but will bend instead of break, making them the sturdier choice. He also uses polarizer filters and a gradient neutral density filter to even the lighting in the scenes he shoots.

Miller 5In addition to his scenic photography, Miller also enjoys travel and has visited Africa three times and spent a month in Northern India. This coming year he plans to document the Burning Man festival in Nevada. On his wish list is a trip to Cuba that he hopes to make “before McDonalds gets there.” He has a Cuban friend, an Orisha priest, who has offered to help him circumnavigate the island.

In addition to his commercial and fine art photography, Miller also moderates the Rocky Mountain forum on naturephotographers.net and offers personal instruction and workshops for fledgling photographers. He’s also done several presentations at the Scottsdale Public Library on the best places to see in Arizona in every season.Miller 6

Miller offers tips for photographers who want to improve the quality of their photos:

  • Take photos – lots. That will help you learn your camera so you can operate it with your eyes closed. Then when you’re out in the field, you won’t miss the perfect shot because you were fumbling around with Miller 3the settings on your equipment.
  • Start building your system by asking your close friends and family whether they use Nikon or Canon, and then offer to share. If you can test, trade, and share equipment, you’ll save money in the long run. Miller also advises buying used equipment whenever possible.
  • Finally, get out and see what’s around you. “Here in Arizona we have things that people fly in from all over the world to see, like the Grand Canyon,” he says. “Get out and see it. Once you get out there, you won’t have to force yourself to go ever again because you’ll be drawn to it.”

You can see more of Bob Miller’s work on his web site or follow him on Facebook.

Miller 8

 

 

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Best Wishes to Pat Reddemann on Her Retirement

Pat&Darcy

Pat Reddemann (left, with Darcy, right), a longtime team member at Treasure Chest Books/Rio Nuevo Publishers, is retiring. She will be missed in the office, but will be back for trade shows and summer selling in the nation’s best vacation spots! We wish her all the best in her travels and new adventures.

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Christmas Tamales, a Southwest Tradition

Santa Cruz Tamales #10947EDBy Marilyn Noble

Making tamales at Christmas is a tradition in the borderlands, and every family passes down their favorite techniques from generation to generation. Many a spirited discussion ensues when families intermingle and debate the merits of their particular methods. In my house, my mother learned long ago from a group of women in the small New Mexico smelter town where they lived, and in the intervening years, she’s developed her own way of doing things. I’ve helped her for the past several years, but this year, she’s laid up with a bad shoulder. None of us can imagine a Christmas Eve without tamales, so she sat on the sidelines and coached while my sister and I took on the project.

We started with a trip to the nearest Food City, where they conveniently had most of the ingredients stacked in a huge display at the front of the store. We were able to find fresh masa from a local tortilleria packed in five-pound bags, and we used Morrell Snow Cap lard, which is typical along the border. If you want to use non-hydrogenated lard, ask at your local butcher shop to see if they render their own. You can also buy pork fat and render yourself, which is a separate project for another day.

The shredded and seasoned beef.

The shredded and seasoned beef.

Food City also had carne de res para tamales, which came boneless and looked like a trimmed brisket. You can use boneless chuck or any other inexpensive cut. Our tamales are always beef, but many cooks prefer pork shoulder or a combination. The meat should be prepared a day in advance so that it has time to properly meld with the red chile sauce. Refrigerate it overnight, and then gently warm it in the oven before you start assembling the tamales. Refrigerate the stock overnight too, and then add some of the solidified fat from the top to the masa for some extra flavor. Warm the stock before you add it to the masa.

The corn husks you buy in the store these days are cleaner and more uniform than they used to be, but you’ll still want to rinse them and remove any stray silk or bugs before you soak them. It makes the process go faster if you sort them before you soak. Use the larger, flatter ones first, and then you won’t have to do so much patching together when you assemble the tamales. If you have lots of small bits and pieces, reserve them to cover the pot for steaming. Soak the husks in a sink full of warm water for about a half hour while you’re making the masa.

Speaking of steaming, a tamale pot is the easiest way to do it, but you can also use a pasta pot with an insert or any deep pot and build a steamer rack in the bottom. The tamales will sit on the rack and the water level should be below it – you don’t want the bottoms of the tamales getting soggy.

To prepare the meat, place it in a large pot and cover it with water. Add plenty of salt and pepper, and gently braise it – don’t boil — for several hours. When it’s done, remove it from the stock to cool. Reserve the stock for making the masa. While the meat is cooling, make the chile sauce. You can use soaked red chiles, but we usually use Hatch chile powder. It’s fresh, easy, and the quickest part of the whole process. We usually do both of these the day before so we can get an early start on the tamale making the next day. Shred the meat, add most, but not all, of the chile sauce, cover and refrigerate.

Beating the lard until it's light and fluffy.

Beating the lard until it’s light and fluffy.

To make a large quantity of tamales (which makes the most sense, since it’s a labor intensive process), you’ll need a very large, sturdy mixing bowl and a heavy duty mixer. First you have to cream the lard and salt together with the mixer until it’s light and fluffy. At this point you can also add some of the solidified fat from the stock and beat it in. Underbeating the lard will make the tamales dense, and you want them to be light and airy.

Mixing the masa by hand.

Mixing the masa by hand.

 

 

 

Once you have the lard beaten, it’s time to put away the mixer and turn to your hands. This is an arduous process, and it takes a good while to get the masa mixed enough, but it’s worth the work and effort. Start by crumbling the masa into the lard, and then mix with your hands until it’s all combined and no lumps remain. Add the reserved red sauce and mix some more, then add the warm stock. Mix until it resembles a very thick pancake batter. Taste and add more salt, if needed, and then drop a small ball of the masa into a glass of cold water. If it floats, the masa is ready. If not, go back to mixing for another few minutes and then try again.

Assembling the tamales.

Assembling the tamales.

When the masa is ready, the meat is warmed, and the cornhusks are clean and soaked, it’s time to start assembling. Put the cornhusks in a large colander with the narrow ends up so that they drain well (you don’t want them wet). Everyone has a special technique, and with practice you’ll find one that works for you. I like to lay the cornhusk flat on my left hand with the tapered end toward my body. I then spread a portion of masa across the top 2/3 of the corn husk, all the way to the right edge and with a little space on the left edge. I put a portion of the meat down the center of the masa, add a couple of olive slices (some people like to add raisins), then fold the right edge over so the meat is completely covered by masa, and then fold over the left edge. Finally, I fold the bottom of the corn husk up.

A steaming pot of tamales.

A steaming pot of tamales.

When you’re making lots, place the filled tamales on a large flat tray until you have enough to fill the pot, then add water to the bottom so that it’s barely touching the rack. Stand the tamales up in the pot, and pack them tight enough to stand up, but not too tight, or the ones in the middle won’t cook enough. Cover the top of the tamales with a layer of soaked corn husks, put the top on the pot, and heat over high heat until the water is boiling. Turn the heat down so that it steams but doesn’t boil away, and let cook for 45 minutes.

The tamales in the foreground have been steamed, and those in the back are ready to go into the pot.

The tamales in the foreground have been steamed, and those in the back are ready to go into the pot.

When the tamales are finished steaming, gently remove them from the pot and lay them on a tray to cool. The masa will continue to set up. At this point they can be eaten (and the cooks certainly deserve a couple right out of the pot) or frozen in zippered plastic bags. Repeat the process with all of the remaining tamales. We used two steamer pots so that we could speed up the process.

In addition to the beef tamales, we also made a large batch of green chile and cheese. We followed the same process, but we didn’t add any red sauce to the masa. Instead of meat, we placed a layer of chopped green chile down the center of the masa, along with a layer of shredded cheese.

Ready for Christmas Eve.

Ready for Christmas Eve.

We spent about seven hours making twenty-four dozen tamales. They don’t look quite as pretty as our mom’s, but they taste good and received her seal of approval. We had a fun day working together in the kitchen, which is the most important part of these shared traditions, and on Christmas Eve, a steaming platter of tamales, made with love and care, will again grace our dinner table.

 

Christmas Tamales

Makes about 15 dozen

You can cut this recipe in half if you don’t want to make so many.

8 pounds boneless chuck or pork shoulder, or a combination

3 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon pepper

4 cups red chile sauce (recipe follows)

3 bags corn husks

15 pounds masa

4 pounds lard

3 tablespoons salt

8-10 cups meat stock

Black or green olives, sliced (optional)

In a large pot, cover the meat with water, add salt and pepper, and braise for about 3 hours. Reserve stock and allow meat to cool. While the meat is cooling, make the chile sauce. Once the meat has cooled enough to handle, shred it and add 3 cups of the chile sauce, reserving 1 cup for the masa. Can be done up to two days in advance.

Clean and soak the corn husks in tepid water for about 15-30 minutes until soft and pliable.

If the meat has been in the refrigerator, warm it in a low oven, remove the fat from the top of the stock, and warm the stock on the stovetop.

While the husks are soaking, make the masa. With a heavy mixer, cream the lard and salt together until very fluffy. It should look like whipped cream. Crumble the masa into the lard, and using your hands, mix well. The masa and lard should be fully incorporated. Add the reserved 1 cup of red sauce and combine, then add about 8 cups of stock. Mix well. The dough should resemble a thick, soft batter. Add more stock if needed. Adjust the salt to taste. Drop a small ball into a glass of cold water. If it floats, then the masa is done. If not, keep mixing with your hands for another few minutes and then try again.

Drain the corn husks and set up an assembly line.

Place a corn husk on the palm of your hand with the tapered end facing you. Using a large spoon, spread several tablespoons of masa across the husk from side to side and about two-thirds of the way down. Place a helping of meat down the center of the masa, and add olives if desired. Fold the sides over, making sure the masa covers the meat. Finally, fold up the bottom and place on a tray.

When you have about three dozen assembled, place them standing upright in a tamale or steamer pot with water in the bottom. Cover the top of the tamales with damp corn husks, and then cover and place over high heat until the water begins to boil. Turn the heat to low and steam for 45 minutes while you continue to assemble more tamales.

Once the tamales have steamed, gently remove from the pot and lay on a large tray to cool. The masa will set up as they cool. At this point, the tamales may be served or frozen.

To serve, open the husk and scrape out the tamal and any extra masa. Garnish with chili sauce, olives, cheese, onions, lettuce, or whatever you desire. To heat frozen tamales, place in a steamer pot with a small amount of water and steam for about 30 minutes or until heated through.

Red Chile Sauce

1/3 cup oil

1/4 cup flour

1 cup chile powder, hot, mild, or a combination, depending on your taste

4 cups water

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon pepper

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon garlic salt

In a large skillet heat the oil and sprinkle in the flour, stirring constantly until the flour is lightly browned. Stir in the chile powder and cook for one more minute, stirring constantly. Add the water, salt, pepper, cumin, and garlic salt. Cook another few minutes until the sauce has thickened.

This sauce is versatile and can be used for enchiladas, smothering burritos, or making other Southwestern specialties in addition to tamales. It freezes well.

Point Reyes headshotMarilyn Noble is the author of four cookbooks, including Southwest Comfort Food, Slow and Savory and is Rio Nuevo’s cookbook and blog editor. She grew up on the border and splits her time between her current home in Colorado and her native Arizona.

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Versatile Tomatillo Salsa

By Carolyn Niethammer

When I was interviewing chefs for my book The New Southwest Cookbook back in 2005, tomatillos were the vegetable du jour — every chef had them on the menu, usually “blackened” or roasted to heighten the flavor.  I gained new respect for how versatile they are.

I planted six tomatillo plants in August and hoped for a plentiful harvest; I even dreamed about making enough green salsa to can or freeze. Alas, my homegrown tomatillos were so tiny they weren’t worth the trouble and I ended up buying tomatillos grown by a farmer who had a better technique.

My homegrown tomatillos with a commercial one.

My homegrown tomatillos with a commercial one.

In Mexico the tomatillo is called tomate verde, which means “green tomato.” However, tomatillos are not just small, underripe tomatoes, but a distinct vegetable in their own right. Tomatillos are the size of an apricot and covered with a papery husk. They are meatier and less juicy inside than a tomato. Tomatillos are an essential part of Mexican cuisine and have been since the Aztecs domesticated them. Most tomatillos are harvested slightly underripe when then have a tart, slightly lemony flavor that adds zip to salsas.  As they fully ripen they turn more golden and become sweeter.

Tomatillos are the main ingredient in the classic salsa verde, which includes tomatillos, sliced green onions, green chiles of some variety, garlic, and cilantro. Salsa verde can be served raw or very lightly cooked. Of course, you can always put your own spin on salsa verde by using the herbs you have fresh in your garden.

To prepare tomatillos, remove the husk and rinse off the sticky substance on the skin. Rub them with a little oil and then put them under the broiler until they are soft and just slightly brown.

Roasted tomatillos

Roasted tomatillos

I love the flavor of poblano chiles in anything, so I roasted a couple of those while the tomatillos were cooling. When their skins were charred on all sides, I put them in a paper bag to sweat for about 10 minutes (OK, 5 minutes, I was impatient). This makes them easy to peel. Also take off the stem and the seeds.

Roasted poblanos

Roasted poblanos

Next it is time to get creative. Put your tomatillos, skin and all into the blender with some sliced green onions, some peeled garlic cloves, and the peeled chiles. If you want a little more heat, add a half or whole jalapeno, chopped. (And of course you remember to use gloves while chopping the jalapeno and don’t touch your eyes.) Add some chopped cilantro. I had some lovely fresh basil, so I added that as well. Blend well until you have a nice smooth consistency. The chef at Medizona, a top Scottsdale restaurant, added a little apple juice to mellow out the tartness.

Blend the ingredients.

Blend the ingredients.

So now you have this wonderful salsa. How to use it? Try it on tacos or tostadas (photo top of post) or as a sauce for chicken, pork chops, or even shrimp.

Tomatillo salsa on broiled chicken.

Salsa verde on broiled chicken.

Charboiled Tomatillo Sauce from Medizona

Feel free to vary the amounts in this recipe. As they say, “for reference only.”

1/4 pound tomatillos

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 poblano chiles

1/2 jalapeno (optional)

3 green onions, sliced

1/2 cup chopped cilantro leaves

5 cloves garlic, peeled

1/4 cup apple juice

Salt and pepper to taste.

Remove husks from tomatillos, wash, and rub with oil. Put under boiler until soft and slightly browned. Let cool.

Broil or grill poblano chiles until all sides are charred. Sweat in paper bag until skins remove easily. Peel and seed.

Combine all ingredients in a blender and whirl until smooth.  If using on hot food, heat in a saucepan before serving.

And just for fun, here’s a garnish tip I learned from Chef Janos Wilder. Carefully loosen the husk from tomatillos, peel them back and you have a lovely flower. They are a great addition to a cheese plate or relish tray for a party.

tomatillo flowers

Carolyn Niethammer writes about Southwest cuisine and edible wild plants of the Southwest. She is happiest when working in her flower or vegetable gardens, out on the desert gathering wild foods, or devising new recipes for the plants she has gathered. Her five cookbooks range from a look at the way Native Americans cooked wild plants to a collection of recipes devised by the Southwest’s top restaurant and resort chefs for incorporating the area’s iconic ingredients in delicious dishes. This post originally appeared on Savor the Southwest.

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Books for Everyone on Your List

Books make wonderful gifts for everyone on your list. Here are a few suggestions to get you started. We encourage you to visit your local bookseller, especially on Small Business Saturday (Nov 29), or e-mail info@treasurechestbooks.com to find these and many more.

For the little one

hairy christmas

A Very Hairy Christmas, by Susan Lowell with illustrations by Jim Harris

For the art lover

sw art

Southwest Art Defined, by Margaret Moore Booker

For the foodie

essential sw

The Essential Southwest Cookbook, Rio Nuevo Publishers

For the hiker

 

Boots-Burgers-amazon

Boots and Burgers: An Arizona Handbook for Hungry Hikers, by Roger Naylor

For the history buff

Ghost Riders New-cover copy

Ghost Riders in the Sky: The Life of Stan Jones, The Singing Ranger, by Michael K. Ward

For the gardener

hot garden

The Hot Garden: Landscape Design for the Desert Southwest, by Scott Calhoun

 

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Friday Photo 11/21

beaver creek tom white

Fall colors at Beaver Creek near Sedona, Arizona. Photo by Tom White.

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Barbecued Southwestern Turkey

SW comfortLooking for a new twist on the traditional Thanksgiving turkey? If you’re lucky enough to live in a warm climate, a barbecued turkey is a delicious change from the traditional method. If you have to do this in the oven, it works just as well. It just doesn’t have the smoky taste. From Southwest Comfort Food, by Marilyn Noble.

Barbecued Southwestern Turkey

Serves 6

1 fresh turkey, 12–14 pounds
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 tablespoons red chile powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 orange, cut into eighths, peel on
1 apple, cored and sliced
1 onion, quartered
2 cups fresh orange juice
1 cup white wine

Remove the turkey from the refrigerator and allow to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. Heat the grill to low (about 300 degrees F) and push the coals to one side. Prepare a drip pan. If using a gas grill, follow the manufacturer’s directions for indirect heat grilling.

Remove the giblets from the turkey and discard, or save for making gravy. Rinse the bird and pat it dry. Work the softened butter underneath the turkey skin. Make a rub by mixing the chile powder, cumin, garlic, pepper, and salt in a small bowl. Sprinkle over the entire turkey. Place the orange, apple, and onion pieces in the body cavity. Sprinkle with salt, tuck the wing ends under, and secure the legs.

Place the turkey on the grill over the drip pan and cover the grill. Baste periodically with a mixture of the orange juice and white wine, and roast until an instant-read thermometer reads 170 degrees F, approximately 3–4 hours. Remove from the grill and allow to stand for about 30 minutes before carving.

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What We Are Reading: November

Here is what our staff is reading this month. We hope you’re reading something great too!

Working StiffWorking Stiff: Two Years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner, by Judy Melinek, M.D. and T. J. Mitchell
review by Marilyn Noble

Dr. Judy Melinek is a forensic pathologist who shares her experiences as a young doctor during a two-year training program in the office of the New York Medical Examiner. This ain’t no clean and easy episode of Law and
Order. She details the most interesting cases she handled during her time there, and she spares no detail when it comes to the mechanics of an autopsy; what happens to the human body during a plane crash, fire, overdose, or fall from a building; or the emotional toll determining the
cause of death can take on the professionals involved in the case. Melinek
began her training a few weeks before 9/11 and talks about the traumatic
task of identifying human remains from the carnage. This book isn’t an
overly-sensationalized memoir of her time in a big-city M.E. department, but
it’s frank and honest and definitely not for the squeamish. T. J. Mitchell is
her husband, and the glimpse into their life with their baby daughter in New
York provides some relief from the grimness of her professional stories.

If you want to know what really goes on in an M.E.’s office, or if you’re
intrigued by stories of life and death and how they play out, or want to
understand how a forensic pathologist can actually solve mysteries (or not),
you’ll find this a fascinating read. On the other hand, if you’re bothered
by blood, gore, or the subject of death, you might want to skip it.

Call Me ZeldaCall Me Zelda, by Erika Robuck
review by Jim Turner

As a writer, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby is my favorite novel. But as a budding historian in grade school, I devoured those orange-backed “Childhood of Famous Americans” biographies. So, when I stumbled on Erika Robuck’s Call Me Zelda (about Fitzgerald’s wife) on a sunny shelf in Bart’s Books in Ojai, California, I had to buy it.

Speaking of Bart’s, where else can you find such a great selection in an open-air bookstore? The shelves are in a large enclosed patio, miraculously protected from the weather. Nothing beats browsing for books in a real bookstore, especially one with terrific ambiance. I had never heard of this author, nor did I know that I was looking for a novel based on meticulously researched details of Zelda Fitzgerald’s life. The title just popped out at me while I was perusing.

Robuck created Bart's Booksa fictional psychiatric nurse as the narrator, and weaves her story of lost loved ones, Zelda’s friendship, and even her search for Zelda’s lost diaries, into the plot. The book even features a bibliography of non-fiction works and book group discussion questions at the end. I like Robuck’s lyrical style. Before purchasing, I like to skim books to see if the text flows, if there are vivid descriptions, and whether there’s creative dialogue. Zelda met those criteria. I found myself setting aside chunks of time to read uninterrupted and become transported into the era and story line.

Finally, here’s what Maryanne O’Hara, author of Cascade, said about Call Me Zelda:

“A Jamesian sense of the uncanny haunts Erika Robuck’s poignant, compassionate portrait of Zelda Fitzgerald’s desperate dance with mental illness . . . mesmerizing, page-turning, and provides us with a fresh, very human look at two literary icons.”

Shadow RisingThe Wheel of Time series, by Robert Jordan
review by Caroline Cook

I enjoy fantasy, but don’t know too much about what’s good in the genre or where to start. I heard about The Wheel of Time series from a friend, and decided to check it out. Shortly after starting the first book, The Eye of the World, I was hooked. Now I’m in the middle of book four, The Shadow Rising. If you enjoy Tolkien and George R. R. Martin, you will like Jordan’s work as well. The Wheel of Time is strongly reminiscent of The Lord of the Rings, but it has its own distinct style, characters, and mythology. Jordan writes beautifully and vividly. There are gray areas between good and evil that give the characters depth and interest. Strong and powerful women fill the pages, which is nice to see in an epic fantasy story.

The fourteenth and final volume in the series was published in 2013. Robert Jordan passed away in 2007 while working on the twelfth volume, but left extensive notes, so author Brandon Sanderson was able to complete the series. I look forward to continuing on in the series, and hope that the rest of the volumes are as good as the first four.

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Roger Naylor on Arizona Horizon

Roger Naylor with bootsRoger Naylor talks about his new book Boots and Burgers on Arizona Horizon.

 

 

 

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Congratulations to the winners!

Our contest entries this time around ranged from the sublime to the creepy, and our editorial board and readers have spoken. Our grand prize winner is Saija Lehtonen for her El Dorado tail fin photo from week 3. The photo earning the most likes from our Facebook friends was Bob Miller’s Monsoon Madness from week 1. Congratulations to both of you! You’ll be receiving a collection of Rio Nuevo books as well as a profile on the Rio Nuevo blog.

We have more fun contests coming in the future, so follow our page and encourage your friends to do so, too.

1959 Cadillac El Dorado tail fin by Saija Lehtonen

1959 Cadillac El Dorado tail fin by Saija Lehtonen

Monsoon Madness by Bob Miller

Monsoon Madness by Bob Miller

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