Celebrations of the winter solstice -- religious or secular -- take on an unique, southwestern flavor here in New Mexico.
Naturally, of course, there are houses and yards lit up and decorated with icons of the season.
The Albuquerque BioPark -- zoo and botanical gardens -- is filled with larger-than-life lighted shapes illustrating the flora and fauna of the southwest . . .
along with carolers and players . . .
Our village of Corrales has a Christmas parade featuring lighted fire engines . . .
tractors . . .
pick-ups . . .
and antique automobiles . . .
One of the most hauntingly beautiful displays is the annual, one-night-only festival of lights at the remains of an old (1610-20) Spanish mission church in the Jemez mountains, about 45 miles northwest of us.
And, finally, the universe itself provides beauty in the sky almost every day (and night):
Whatever you believe, and however you celebrate during this season, we wish you and your families joy and peace from our home in the Land of Enchantment!
Larger versions of these images -- and more -- are available at my photography website by clicking here.
On a visit back to Boston and Washington, DC, around Thanksgiving, I had the opportunity to photograph three very different venues, all of which posed interesting creative challenges. You can judge for yourself how successful I was by following the links below to the three respective galleries on my photography website.
Challenge #1: The Stata Center - MIT - Cambridge, MA
The Ray and Maria Stata Center on the MIT campus is a signature building designed by Frank Ghery. As do most Frank Ghery buildings, it challenges expectations about form and function.
Reviews were mixed when it was completed in 2004, and there were disputes about problems with the building (water leaks, ice dams, etc.), but there's no doubt it's visually an incredibly interesting place.
Because of its unique design, the building presents a different look even if you only move a few feet -- or just a few inches -- from your previous position, and its shapes and angles are intended to disorient you and challenge your expectations. It's the architectural equivalent of the chimera in Greek mythology.
So the challenge for me as a photographer was how to capture that changeability, disorientation, and that chimeric quality. Here are a couple of attempts.
You can see more of the Stata Center at my website gallery by clicking here.
Challenge #2: The Mall - Washington, DC
There are few places in America more iconic than the Mall in Washington, DC. From the Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial, and virtually every building and monument in between, you are presented with architectural and artistic statements about our national heritage and character.
As magnificent as these buildings and monuments always are, they are highly susceptible to being visual cliches, having been photographed a million times -- probably more -- by professionals, by locals, and by tourists from around the world.
So how to photograph them in a different way? How to see something different in these icons? I'm still not sure, but here are a couple of attempts.
You can see more perspectives of the Lincoln Memorial and the Vietnam Memorial at my website gallery by clicking here.
Challenge #3: The Air & Space Museum - Udvar-Hazy Center
The Smithsonian Institution's collection of historic aircraft was far greater than the Air & Space Museum on the Mall could hold, so they built an even larger museum in suburban Virginia near Dulles Airport.
The Udvar-Hazy Center, named for the man who gave $66 million toward its construction, opened in December, 2003, on the centennial anniversary of the Wright brothers' first powered flight.
The facility is essentially two giant hangars, ten stories high, covering the area of more than two and a half football fields. The hangars are filled chock-a-block with aircraft of all kinds, on the floor and hanging from the ceiling,
including the Space Shuttle "Discovery" . . .
the Enola Gay, the B-29 bomber that dropped the first atomic bomb on Japan . . .
the sleek SR-71 "Blackbird" (fastest jet in the world) . . .
and everything in between!
The challenge here was getting a good image of anything! The planes are cheek-by-jowl -- it's virtually impossible to get a clean shot of anything without parts of some other aircraft intruding -- and the available light is terrible, as you can see in the picture below.
It's like trying to shoot in two Texas Stadiums placed end-to-end, without the giant floodlights.
Fortunately, there are catwalks and balconies from which to shoot, and you can get fairly close to every object, but overall it's a lousy place for amateur photography.
So . . . a real challenge to my creativity as a photographer. See the results at my website gallery by clicking here.