Tuesday, July 30, 2013

When It Rains . . .

Last Friday evening a huge storm blew through the Rio Grande valley of central New Mexico.  It brought much-needed rain -- and not-needed high wind and hail -- to our drought-stricken area.

In some parts of Albuquerque there were many uprooted trees and downed power lines; in our neighborhood (having few trees), just a lot of water erosion, some of which was significant.  (Though not anything like what western North Carolina got about the same time.)

These irrigation pipes are supposed to be buried.

But in the aftermath, the flowing water also left beautiful patterns.  Here are some examples:


Some are even more interesting in black-and-white:

But all are, in their own way, beautiful . . . 

You can see these images (and more) in a larger size at my photography website, Todos Juntos Photography, by clicking here.


Thursday, July 25, 2013

A Tale of Two Images

                                      The important thing is not the camera but the eye.  

                                                             -- Alfred Eisenstaedt

A couple of days ago, I sought reactions and feedback about two images from people who are on the mailing list for this blog.  The images (above) were of a grave site in the San Jose Cemetery in Albuquerque, one of my favorite nearby photography locations.

I had visited the cemetery a few days earlier -- along with about 10 other photographers on an organized field trip -- and came home with 185 images.  But this particular scene was especially interesting to me; indeed, during the shoot I kept coming back to it as the cloudy sky and the evening light changed -- and took 25 shots from different angles, exposures, flash, no flash, etc.  (Readers of this blog will remember this is called "walking around the teacup."  See blog post of February 22 in the blog archive listed to the right of this column.)

From those 25 images, I winnowed them down to two that I really liked.  But by that time I had lost most of my perspective, and couldn't decide which one I liked better.  So I asked the people who follow this blog, and I got a great response:  48 out of 87 possible respondents (55%) - a fabulous response rate for anyone in the survey business.

Not surprisingly, there were many advocates for each image, and they cited various things in support of their choice or against the other option.  Some analyzed the images from a metaphorical or symbolic perspective.  Others looked at them more technically.  Many just went with their gut.

For example . . . the flag.

Some observed that the flag in Version #1 is more "present" or visible.  Others thought that it was "droopy" in Version #1 but "optimistic" or "affirmative" in Version #2.  (There was a pretty stiff breeze going, so in fact I had no control over the position of the flag; it was totally luck of the shutter click.)

Similarly, the cross in the background on the left was seen to be more distinctive and visible in Version #1 than in Version #2:

Another interesting observation is that Version #2 is a more traditional "head-on" view.  The headstone and the picket fence (in the background on the right) are vertical with respect to the frame of the image, while the crosses and other things are tilted.


In Version #1, the only thing close to true vertical is the central cross.  Everything else is off-vertical because the image was made from a slightly lower and closer perspective.

Some people preferred Version #1 for this reason; others preferred the verticals of Version #2.

(And, yes, as usual, I was lying on the ground to get these images!)

But the biggest point of difference (and contention) between the two images was the sky.  And interestingly, the same feature that appealed to some was disliked by others -- namely, the great contrast between the white and the dark clouds in Version #2:

Many disliked this element because they believed it distracted from the main point of focus -- the headstone and cross.  (Indeed, many professional photographers would agree:  light spots in photographs attract the eye.)

On the other hand, some really liked the contrast.  To one it looked more "spiritual," and to others it enhanced the ominous look of the dark clouds or the difference between light and dark, life and death.  Another observed that it gave the image a full range of tones from bright white to dark black -- a virtue in black-and-white images.

(By the way . . . where was that big white cloud in Version #1?  Answer:  Hidden behind the headstone by moving the camera lower and closer.)

And the Winner Is . . .

Having said all that, there was a clear preference among those who responded:  Version #1.  As of this date/time, the tally is 31 to 17.

My thanks to all who offered preferences and reasons.  It has been a fun and fascinating exercise to see how differently we all "see."

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Mariachi Spectacular 2013

Every year in July Albuquerque hosts the Mariachi Spectacular -- a gathering of high school, college, and professional mariachi groups from Mexico and the southwestern United States.

Housed at the University of New Mexico, the groups share three intensive days of workshops, master classes, and performances, including a competition at Albuquerque's Civic Center Plaza.

The music is wonderful, but from a photographer's point of view the more interesting elements are visual.

Elaborately decorated outfits . . .


And equally elaborate and beautiful hair ribbons . . .

Instruments . . .


And sombreros . . . lots and lots of sombreros!

But perhaps the most enjoyable of all are the faces of the performers as they hang out . . .

 . . . practice . . .

. . . and prepare for their turn on the stage . . .

Standing tall and proud . . .

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


Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Cadillac Ranch

                                                  You're my last love, baby, you're my last chance,
                                                  Don't let 'em take me to the Cadillac Ranch.

                                                                                -- Bruce Springsteen

Just west of Amarillo, Texas, is a strange vision:  a line of ten ancient Cadillacs (models from 1949 to 1963) planted nose-first in a field.  

Known as "Cadillac Ranch," this public art installation was created in 1974 by Chip Lord, Hudson Marquez, and Doug Michels, who were part of an art group known as Ant Farm.  You can read more about them and their work (including Cadillac Ranch) by clicking here.

Though located on private land, the installation is accessible on foot from a frontage road off I-40 through an unpretentious, unlocked gate.

From the very early days of the installation, spray-painting the cars with graffiti became a popular practice, and now practically everyone joins in . . .


As a result, the cars are colorfully decorated . . .

with sentiments that change from minute to minute, ranging from standard "we were here" markings . . .

to seasonal greetings . . .

to more enigmatic musings . . .

The other result, however, is that the field is littered with spray-paint cans and colored lids scattered like confetti:

And, of course, everyone wants to have their picture taken with the cars . . .

If you'd like to see these images (and more) in a larger format, you can go to my photography website, Todos Juntos Photography, by clicking here.