Sunday, June 26, 2016

Bear Canyon Arroyo Dam/Spillway

Arroyos are natural channels for water that occasionally fill and flow after significant rainfall, but otherwise remain empty.  Arroyos are common in New Mexico, and in an urban area such as Albuquerque, where roads, houses, and businesses have been built, management of arroyo floodwaters is crucial to preserving property and structures.

One of Albuquerque's major arroyos is Bear Canyon Arroyo, which originates in the foothills of the Sandia Mountains east of Albuquerque and runs through the northeast part of the city.  To prevent significant flooding along the arroyo, a catch basin and dam have been built right next to a major street.  

Image courtesy of Google Earth

The dam is probably 100 yards across and 30 feet high, and the spillway (the downstream side of the dam) has an array of massive concrete blocks designed to disperse the flow of any water that might overflow the dam.  Here's what the spillway side of the dam looks like from street level:

Fans of Breaking Bad may remember this location from Season 5, Episode 11, where Jesse Pinkman waits to be picked up to leave Albuquerque:

Notwithstanding their utilitarian purpose and their service as a location for Breaking Bad, the spillway and its tombstone-like monoliths make for a visually interesting setting, ripe with photographic possibilities.

Last Thursday evening I happened to be in the neighborhood of the dam around sunset, and I had brought my camera in case the light and/or clouds were interesting.  I wasn't disappointed.

The spillway side of the dam faces west.  The sunset itself was pretty good . . .

 . . . but the best part was the pink-gold reflected light it was throwing onto the spillway monoliths and the clouds in the eastern sky above:

And, as luck (or the Universe) would have it, for photographic interest there was a woman at the top row of monoliths watching the sunset:

So she and the monoliths and the sky became my focus as the sunlight faded:

Fifteen minutes after I started shooting, the light was gone:

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




Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Lewis Auto Museum

Now that I've lived out here for four years (!), I've learned that images of old rusted-out cars and trucks are must-have elements of the photographic vocabulary of New Mexico.  And they're not too hard to find if you look:

Lake Valley, NM

Cuba, NM

San Fidel, NM

But the "mother lode" for old cars and trucks is the Lewis Antique Auto & Toy Museum located about 30 miles east of Albuquerque in Moriarty, New Mexico.  I made my second visit to this shrine about a month ago, with a group of other photographers from our Camera Club.

The building is filled with a jumble of restored antique autos and old toys, and, dimly lit, it's not photography-friendly.  But around back are acres of cars, trucks, buses, trailers, all rusting away in the brilliant New Mexico sun . . .

Some of the vehicles appear to be in relatively good shape . . .

 . . . while others are clearly not:

The vehicles are packed cheek-by-jowl, so it's practically impossible to photograph a single car in its entirety.

The physical arrangement of the cars forces a different photographic strategy:  shooting portions of vehicles . . .

or shooting details:

And this is where it gets very interesting visually.  The closer you get, the more beautiful these objects become.  Here's an example.

 Here's another example:

Eventually, it all becomes abstract, and a different world opens up:

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


Monday, June 13, 2016

More Beautiful Stormy Weather

On June 5, only four days after the storm clouds featured in my previous post, the weather gods brought another spectacular display of clouds and light.

The previous storm consisted primarily of nimbostratus clouds that traveled horizontally: "where the wind comes right before the rain."  This one, however, built vertically and moved very little horizontally.  Moisture from the highly vegetated east side of the Sandia Mountains was heated by the sun; it evaporated, then rose and condensed into towering cumulonimbus clouds.

This cumulonimbus cloud formation was well along by the time I happened to look out our east-facing window about 30 minutes before sunset:

7:52pm MDT

To understand the size of this cloud, look at the mountain beneath it.  The base of the mountain is at about 6,000 feet above sea level, while the top of the mountain is 10,600 feet.  So the top of this cloud formation rose probably 2.5 to 3 miles above the top of the mountain, and was probably 5 miles in diameter/width.

As the sun began to set, the normally white clouds began to acquire some color, and sheets of rain began to form at the bottom of the cloud:


Illustrating the enormous amount of energy at work within, the cloud resembled an atomic bomb cloud:



The streaky, curtain-like formation at the bottom of the cloud is falling rain that evaporates before it reaches the ground.  It's called virga, and is very common in rain clouds out here in the dry Southwest.  (If you are interested in a more technical explanation, click here.)

This virga, however, made for some dramatic images:



Higher up within the cloud, you could see the effects of the upward and downward motion of air.  This closer view looked to me like  images of the surface of the sun:


Meanwhile, off to the north, a separate cloud formation was looming, creating some weird light and colors of its own:




Sunset occurred at 8:18pm, so the lower levels of the storm cloud began to turn gray, while the upper levels kept their color until the shadow of the earth climbed upward:




The virga continued to create beautiful streaks . . .



Finally, the upper level of the storm cloud began to lose its color as the sunlight faded:



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