Friday, February 22, 2013

"Walking Around the Teacup" at San Jose Cemetery

There's a phrase I've heard among photographers :  "walking around the teacup."  It means shooting something from every possible angle -- high, low, front, back, close-up, far away -- to find that certain shot that captures the essence of the thing/person/scene.

Last week, on a photo expedition with no particular destination, I had the opportunity to "walk around the teacup" when my photography buddy, Barry Schwartz, and I stumbled upon San Jose Cemetery.

It's located on the south side of Albuquerque, surrounded by junk yards, warehouses, auto body shops, cell phone towers, power lines, and I-25.

In stark contrast to the lush, well-tended landscapes of Boston's Forest Hills Cemetery (which I photographed a lot back in the day) . . .

. . . San Jose Cemetery is about 5 acres of mostly sand and loose rock; there's little vegetation other than insidious sandburs and a few clumps of prickly pear cactus.

Among coffin-shaped mounds of rocks and low, cracked concrete borders of family plots, grave markers are few and faded.

Around the perimeter, bones, feet, and feathers of dead chickens emerge from the sand. 

Not a pretty picture.

But in the spirit of "walking around the teacup," Barry and I spent about an hour trying to find that perfect shot.

The most prominent feature of the cemetery is a small, probably man-made hill in the center of the space with four crosses and the words "San Jose Cemetery" spelled out in rocks painted white and arranged.  It's about 15 feet high and maybe 30 or 40 feet long.

Obviously, it's the teacup here.  So I worked it every way I could think of, not always successfully.

Eventually I got some interesting stuff.  Maybe not the perfect shots, but I like them:


And here's how I got that last shot (above) -- that's me over there on the left, in case you can't tell.  Sometimes you just have to lay out for the shot:

Photo by Barry Schwartz

A few days later, I went back to the cemetery by myself at sunset, and walked around the teacup again in different light.

I even took some night shots, strangely lit by the argon streetlights along the Interstate:

Here's my favorite.  I was flat on my back to take this one:

If you'd like to see these and other San Jose Cemetery photos in larger size, go to my Todos Juntos Photography website by clicking here.



  1. Very cool Lance! I love that "spooky" looking shot in black and white with the crosses and the sun mixed in, and your shots at sunset when you returned are also awesome! Those are the kind of wow shots I want to learn to "see" and capture. Angelique (one of your students)

  2. Amazing pictures. Love the sunset pictures. Look forward to learning from you.
    Frank (one of your students)