Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Covid Respite

One of my favorite photography locations is located in the badlands of northwest New Mexico.  It was named "the Black Place" by Georgia O'Keeffe, who visited it many times and painted a number of pictures based on the colors and shapes of the landscape she saw there.

I, too, have visited the Black Place many times -- though probably not as many as O'Keeffe -- and enjoy photographing it in different light and different seasons.

(You can see my earlier posts about the Black Place by clicking here, herehere, or here.)

After three months of Covid self-quarantining, my photo buddy Alan and I decided we could safely get out of town for some photography, so we headed for the Black Place . . . in separate vehicles.

Our goal was a "blue hour" and "golden hour" sunrise shoot at a location Alan remembered from an earlier visit.  Because it was late May, the sun was rising around 6:00am, so we had to leave early.  Figuring driving time and time to hike in and set up, we had to leave about 3:15am to be there in time.

We made it in time to get a nice "blue hour" image before sunrise:

(The stars, which you can see if you look closely, are Saturn and Jupiter.)

And then the sun began to light up the feature:

Nearby were a few other photo-worthy items -- not awesome, but interesting.  In particular, two large rocks made of shale:

Shale consists of many tiny layers of mud compacted over a period of millions of years in flood plains and lagoons where the water is relatively still.  The layers are usually very thin and fragile and they break off into large and small flakes when exposed to erosion.  

The ability or tendency of rock to split along flat planes is called "fissility."  You can see the layers here:

Seventy-five to 100 million years ago, the badlands of NW New Mexico were on the western edge of a great inland sea, where sediments settled and compacted over time.  As a result, now the whole area of the Black Place is strewn with shale flakes, large (lower right quadrant in the photo below) . . .

. . . and small:

By the way, the blue-gray crumbly stuff you see surrounding the shale flakes is a different kind of shale called Mancos shale.  It is essentially dried mud, but with a different of mix of minerals and particulate fineness.

Here you can see mostly Mancos shale with a few large and small pieces of regular shale.

A few other interesting formations caught my eye:  rocks elevated slightly above the surrounding ground.

Someday they may become full-grown hoodoos!

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


Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Il Postino - Opera Southwest

As many of you know, I volunteer as the staff photographer for Opera Southwest, Albuquerque's opera company, photographing singers for publicity uses and photographing dress rehearsals.

Last February, Opera Southwest presented Il Postino, an opera by Mexican composer Daniel Catán.  The opera was based on the novel Ardiente Paciencia by Antonio Skármeta that was made into a film by Michael Radford in 1994.

The Opera Southwest production featured Raul Melo as Pablo Neruda and Cammy Cook as Matilde Neruda.  Both singers had leads in the OSW production of Pagliacci in 2017.  

Alex Richardson sang the role of the postman, Mario Ruoppolo, and Cecilia Violetta Lopez sang the role of Beatrice Russo, his inamorata.  

Richardson previously appeared in OSW's productions of Amleto and Tosca.

The plot revolves around the relationship between the postman, Mario, and the poet, Neruda, who has taken up residence on a small Italian island in exile from Chile because of his political views.  Mario, dissatisfied with his life as a fisherman (like his father), gets hired to hand deliver fan mail to Neruda by bicycle.  

Mario falls in love with Beatrice, who works in her aunt's village cafe.  

Mario rushes to tell Neruda that he is in love . . .

To win her, Mario enlists Neruda's help with poetry.  

It works.  Beatrice, too, is smitten . . .

                                                                         They marry.

Eventually, when Neruda is no longer considered an enemy of the state, he and Matilde leave the island and return to Chile.  

Mario, without his postal customer, loses his job and goes to work in the cafe.  

But he has been inspired by Neruda's poetry and politics.

Mario writes to Neruda, and receives a reply . . .

but it is only a letter from Neruda's secretary asking him to ship Neruda's old belongings to Chile.

Dismayed, Mario rides to the empty villa . . .

and finds an old phonograph and a tape recorder that Neruda used.

Listening to the recordings, Mario is inspired to travel around the island recording all the beautiful sounds of his world . . .

. . . including the heartbeat of his unborn child that Beatrice is carrying.

The story moves ahead five years, when Neruda and his wife return to visit the island.  

They encounter Beatrice and her son at the village cafe . . .

where she gives a heart-wrenching account of how Mario was killed at a political rally where he had been invited to recite a poem.

Beatrice shares with Neruda a recording by Mario, who thanks Neruda for bringing poetry into his life.  

The opera ends with Mario's farewell, "Querido Don Pablo."

The scene fades to black and the curtain falls as Mario rides into eternity.

 - / - / - / - / - / -

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


Thursday, June 4, 2020

January Journey, Part 3 - San Xavier del Bac

                                                                      He looks around, around
                                                              He sees angels in the architecture
                                                                          Spinning in infinity
                                                              He says "Amen!" and "Hallelujah!"

                                                                                       -- Paul Simon, You Can Call Me Al

About 10 miles south of downtown Tucson, there's an amazing structure called "The White Dove of the Desert":  the mission church -- cathedral, really -- of San Xavier del Bac, built while George Washington was president of the fledgling United States.  

Bruce and I took a break from photographing Saguaro cactus to visit the church (still in use) and photograph its Spanish Baroque interior, as well as a few exteriors.

I visited and photographed the church four years ago.  You can read about the church's history and construction, and see my earlier images, by clicking here.

The sheer size of the church and the interior architecture are impressive.


And you can't help but look up!

But the most stunning aspect is the Baroque riot of religious iconography throughout the sanctuary:  angels, cherubs, saints, priests, and others depicted in fresco, bas relief, and statues.

This is the main altar and its centerpiece:

There are cherubs everywhere!

Then statues of saints and priests.  This one from the main altar is St. Francis Xavier:

This is one of many depictions of Christ:

Others, not identified by me:

And not all are men . . .

This eye-catching statue is the Virgin of the Assumption . . .

Interesting to me were the many faces -- usually frescoes -- surrounding the statues.  For example, take a closer look behind the Virgin of the Assumption:

And there are more, hiding almost everywhere around bas relief curtains and the edges of frescoes:

Most joyful to me, however, were the peasant girl "angels in the architecture" painted on the ceilings and walls:

If you are interested in all the iconography -- identifying the saints, etc. -- there is a book published by the University of Arizona Press entitled Mission San Xavier del Bac: A Guide to Its Iconography.  It isn't cheap ($75), but you can see a few pages of its diagrams for free by clicking here

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