Friday, June 22, 2018

Utah Photo Expedition - Day 1


This is the first of five posts about a 5-day photo expedition to central Utah that I took March 31 – April 4 with a photo buddy, Bruce Shah.  The primary objective was to explore the more remote areas of Capitol Reef National Park (to which I’ll devote posts 3 and 4), but getting there and back we visited and photographed a lot of other cool places.

Accordingly, here’s the plan for my next few posts in this blog:

Day 1 (this post):  Shiprock, Wilson Arch, Fisher Towers, Cisco (ghost town)

Day 2:  Goblin Valley, Factory Butte, en route to Capitol Reef NP

Day 3:  Capitol Reef NP– Cathedral Valley

Day 4:  Capitol Reef NP – Waterpocket Fold

Day 5:  Factory Butte, Natural Bridges National Monument

So here we go . . .

Day 1

We left Albuquerque in the dark morning of March 31 ultimately headed for our first overnight in Green River, UT, via Shiprock, NM; Cortez, CO; and Moab, UT.

Shiprock figures in many Navajo origin stories, and is considered a sacred place to the Navajo people.  Geologically, it's what remains of the throat of a volcano formed 27-30 million years ago whose overlying material eroded away over time, leaving the harder igneous rock in the shape it had when it was underground.

The formation stands nearly 1,600 feet above the surrounding plain, and has three wall-like sheets of igneous rock known as dikes radiating out from the main area.  Here’s a satellite view (north at the top):

Courtesy Google Maps

Here are two views of the north-south dike wall from ground level, looking north toward Shiprock:

From Shiprock we drove north through southwestern Colorado and then west into southeastern Utah.  South of Moab we stopped at Wilson Arch, named for two brothers who lived in the vicinity during the 1800s.

The arch spans 96 feet and its height is 46 feet.

From Moab we took the highway that follows the Colorado River north through Castle Valley to Fisher Towers, a series of sandstone towers that are being created (on a geological time scale) from the erosion of a mesa.

With some towers up to 1,000 feet tall, the Fisher Towers are a favorite place for rock climbers.  We did not see any climbers on this trip, but here's a photo from a visit two years ago:

After our stop at Fisher Towers, we continued north to the abandoned town of Cisco -- a scattering of collapsed buildings, burned out campers and trailers, and graffiti-tagged junk cars near Interstate 70.  

Cisco started in the 1880s as a water re-filling station for locomotives of the Denver and Rio Grande Western railroad.  It grew with the railroad and became a provisioning center for cattle ranchers and sheep herders, where livestock could be shipped to market.  Discovery of oil and gas in the area increased Cisco's population dramatically, but the town collapsed with decline of the steam engine and the construction of I-70, which bypassed the town.

There's not much left now, but it didn't appear to be completely deserted, either -- maybe a meth lab or a rendezvous for drug deals in there somewhere.

In any case, it was a depressing and challenging place to photograph.  I had to work to capture the feel of utter desolation, and to that end I think black-and-white is more effective.

If you would like to see these images in a larger format, please visit my photography website, Todos Juntos Photography, by clicking here.


Friday, June 15, 2018

Route 66 Relics

Route 66 was the historic "Mother Road" from Chicago to Los Angeles that millions of Americans took, whether they were "Okies" during the Depression in search of a better life on the west coast or families enjoying a carefree vacation in the years after World War II.

With the completion of the Interstate Highway system in the 1970s, Route 66 was almost completely bypassed and abandoned.  But some relics of the old highway . . . and the vehicles that traveled on it . . . remain to this day.

Over the past few months I have traveled with a couple of photo buddies to find and photograph some of the Route 66 relics west of Albuquerque.

A familiar sight along Route 66 between Shamrock, Texas, and Los Angeles were the Whiting Brothers service stations and motels.  Some signs and buildings are still around.

Not only were the motels and service stations abandoned; many cars and trucks were left behind as well.

A favorite Route 66 relic for photographers is the Rio Puerco bridge about 15 miles west of Albuquerque.

The bridge is a classic example of a "Parker Through Truss" bridge; if you're interested, click here for more technical information about this type of bridge.

The Rio Puerco bridge was built in 1933 and was decommissioned in 1999 (hmm . . . in service for 66 years).  It's 250 feet long and its beams and girders make for visually interesting perspectives.

And here's how I got the shot above (courtesy of my photo buddy Barry Schwartz):

I have photographed the bridge many times, but recently managed to arrive at sunset for some "golden hour" light and beautiful clouds:

If you would like to see these images in a larger format, please visit my photography website, Todos Juntos Photography, by clicking here.


Saturday, June 2, 2018

To Times in Hope

                                                                              Time doth transfix the flourish set on youth
                                                                              And delves the parallels in beauty's brow,
                                                                              Feeds on the rarities of nature's truth,
                                                                              And nothing stands but for his scythe to mow.
                                                                                   And yet to times in hope my verse shall stand,
                                                                                   Praising thy worth, despite his cruel hand.

                                                                                                                -- Shakespeare, Sonnet 60

As a bulwark against the inevitability of material decay and forgotten life stories, cemeteries are filled with tokens of memory and symbols of belief in eternal life.

I am intrigued by these tokens and symbols -- whether they be in lush, well-tended urban cemeteries like Forest Hills in Boston where I used to live, or in small rural cemeteries of New Mexico where I now live -- and I photograph them as a kind of meditation on mortality and eternity.

Whatever your belief in the afterlife and in the value of symbols, for your own contemplation here are images from two of those New Mexico cemeteries I visited a few months ago.

The first was the Pinos Wells Cemetery, located on the vast llano of central New Mexico.  It's a cemetery for those who live on ranches, far from any town, village, or church.

The other cemetery was located behind a small Roman Catholic church near the Rio Grande south of Bosque, NM.  At first glance, it was as unprepossessing as the Pinos Wells Cemetery . . .

 . . . but among the simple crosses were a few more elaborate memorials:

If you would like see these and other images from the two cemeteries in a larger format, please visit my photography website, Todos Juntos Photography, by clicking here.


Monday, May 14, 2018

The Many Faces of Norma

                                                          Casta Diva, che inargenti                 Chaste goddess, who doth bathe in silver light
                                                          Queste sacre antiche piante,             These ancient, hallowed trees,
                                                          Al noi volgi il bel sembiante,             Turn thy fair face upon us,
                                                          Senza nube e senza vel !                   Unveiled and unclouded !

                                                                                                  -- Norma, Act I, Scene 1

For the past four years, it has been my privilege to photograph dress rehearsals for Opera Southwest productions.  This spring OSW presented Bellini's 1831 bel canto opera, Norma, featuring soprano Lindsay Ohse in the title role.

Norma has been called "the Everest of opera," principally because it stretches the singer to the limits of her vocal abilities.  To read (and hear) more about these challenges, click here for an article from the New York Times last September, on the occasion of the Metropolitan Opera's recent production of Norma.

In addition to the vocal challenges, Norma is, as the Times article notes, "an even greater challenge for a singer as actress."  In the opera Norma is simultaneously the high priestess of a Druid cult oppressed by the Romans in medieval France; 

daughter of the Druid chieftan; 

the jilted secret lover of the Roman proconsul, 

by whom she is the mother of two children . . . 

whom at one point she seriously considers murdering in their sleep;

and confidant of the Druid acolyte who has unwittingly fallen in love with Norma's lover.  

(Hey, it's opera . . . things are complicated!)

In the course of the opera, the singer must play all these roles, and must convey in her acting (as well as in her singing) the attendant emotions.

Here Lindsay Ohse shines.  Let me show you some of her many faces of Norma.

Brava, Lindsay!

If you would like to see images from the entire performance of Norma, please visit my photography website, Todos Juntos Photography, by clicking here.