Horizons

Horizons

The choice of placement of the horizon line in a photograph certainly affects what the image conveys to the viewer. Last fall I took a photography class in which one of the assignments was to take 5 photographs which were the same in all respects except for moving the horizon line. I took multiple series for this assignment, but finally decided on one from the West Side Open Space, taken last November. All were shot at f8, 1/125 sec, 24 mm, ISO 100, on a full frame camera. I also used a circular polarizing filter.

Of the five, this image was my favorite:

horizon lines
Horizon Lines – West Side Open Space, November 2012

Although that particular one was my favorite just as a choice out of the five, which one would be “better” would depend entirely upon the uses to which the image was to be put, as well as individual taste. Further, this series of images was taken for a specific assignment. Had I been photographing for myself, I would have chosen a time closer to sunset when the light was on the trees and mountains in the distance.

The results of changing the horizon line can be seen in this very brief video containing the five images.

The assignment was certainly effective at showing how much difference in appearance a simple shift in horizons can make in an image.

Signs of Spring

Signs of Spring

signs of spring
Signs of Spring – Grape Hyacinths and Snow

Yesterday Albuquerque received some very welcome precipitation in the form of snow. The area is in the midst of a very severe drought, and people are already worrying about the fire season ahead. Even people who ordinarily do not like snow were happy to see any form of precipitation yesterday.

By the end of February, however, almost everyone is ready to see the end of short, cold days. We are looking forward to spring. We delight in any sign that spring is just around the corner.

Yesterday I found these little grape hyacinths, among the first bulbs to bloom in the spring at my house, pushing up through the snow. The juxtaposition of the two was wonderful: the snow for the moisture we need so badly, and the signs of spring, the little grape hyacinths pushing their way through the snow.

Just one sign of spring that I found so welcome yesterday. . .

A Beautiful Sunrise

A beautiful sunrise from February 20, 2013.

Susan Brandt Graham
A Beautiful Sunrise

Albuquerque, and the Desert Southwest, are known for beautiful light and amazing sunrises and sunsets.

This image is from the morning of February 20. In the afternoon, the wind really picked up and clouds rolled in. That night, and in to the following day, we had snow. Although it was not a large amount of snow, we were grateful for it. The Desert Southwest is in the grip of a severe drought, and any precipitation is welcome.

Colorful and beautiful sunrises and sunsets are quite common here, but they are short-lived. This particular sunrise was extremely short-lived. The dark cloud you see on the right in this image moved in quite rapidly, and the reds and oranges in the sky disappeared as quickly as they arrived.

But, no matter how short, a beautiful sunrise is always welcome.

Photography Masters Cup Nominations

I would like to thank the jury of the 6th Annual Photography Masters Cup for recognizing two of my images from the Adobe Project.

Photography Masters Cup
Photography Masters Cup Nominee 2013

“Abstract #10” and “Casita #1” were each nominated in their respective categories in this year’s competition. “Abstract #10 – Journey” was nominated in the category Abstracts, while “Casita #1” was nominated in the category Americana.

“Abstract #10 – Journey” is an image made from what had been siding on a mobile home attached to an abandoned adobe.

photography masters cup abstract nominee
Siding from mobile home attached to an old adobe, after both had been demolished, August 2012

This image shows the adobe and mobile home on August 13, 2012. The demolition took place on August 15 and 16, 2012. It may appear that the abstract comes from the old VW, but it does not. The VW is still intact. The abstract is from the siding of the mobile home.

Abandoned on the Bosque #2
Abandoned on the Bosque #2. In the background is a large adobe with attached mobile home. That adobe, as well as a smaller one, were scheduled for demolition in 36 hours.

“Casita #1” shows what had been the living room of an old adobe. At one time, this had been a charming structure. However, it did not have a proper foundation and its walls were being threatened by a large cottonwood tree. Demolition was the only real option for the owners.

photography masters cup americana nominee adobe casita
Living room of the casita

There are many images and many stories still to be told from the Adobe Project. This is the first announcement of results from a competition in which some of these images have been entered. I was very gratified to see these two images nominated by the jury of the Photography Masters Cup, and I thank them for their recognition.

Congratulations to all the categories of winners in the 6th Annual Photography Masters Cup Awards. I was very happy to find myself in the company of such marvelous photographers as Mel Brackstone,nominated in Fine Art Nude, Ben Goosens, nominated in Fine Art, and Peter Kemp, also nominated in Fine Art. Very special congratulations go to my dear friend, Patrizia Burra, for her Honorable Mention in Children of the World, and multiple Nominations in multiple categories.

Thanks to the 6th Annual Photography Masters Cup and this year’s jurors for their recognition of these images from the Adobe Project.

“Abstract #10 – Journey” is available for purchase here.

“Casita #1” is available for purchase here.

“Mudding” an Old Adobe House

Mudding an Adobe House

As I have said many times before, preservation of true adobe structures requires regular and time consuming maintenance, something for which many owners of adobes have neither the time nor money. I have also talked elsewhere about the community effort that goes into maintaining the Old San Ysidro Church in Corrales, New Mexico.

Corrales, New Mexico is geographically contiguous with Albuquerque, but it is its own Village with its own unique history, governance, and pride. Main Street, Corrales, is lined with adobes – businesses and homes – in various states of repair. It is charming, and the Village intends to keep it that way.

In 2012, the Corrales Historical Society and Corrales Main Street, with the hard work of volunteers, teamed up to “mud” or replaster with adobe the old Martinez House, which sits right on Main Street in Corrales. This house is not made of adobe bricks, but rather of terrones, which are essentially squares of sod. It is closely related to adobe. The traditional mud plastering is the same. The Martinez House Project is described in detail by Mary Davis in Corrales Historical Society Newsletter.

This is the north wall, and you can see the state of the adobe. For those of you not familiar with the use of color in New Mexico, blue is frequently used in the wood and other trim of adobe structures.

adobe house

This is the east wall of the Martinez House, and you can see that it sits right on the street. It has already had one coat of mud plaster applied, and Daniel Esparza is smoothing it and adding a little more plaster.

Martinez House
Daniel Esparza “Mudding” the east wall of the Martinez House

Before any “mudding” could begin, a formula for how much of what kind of earth and straw would be right had to be determined. Then, the ingredients had to be prepared and mixed.

Continue reading ““Mudding” an Old Adobe House”

“Oh, No! Is She Starting a ‘Save the Adobe Casita’ Campaign?”

“Save the Adobe Casita.”

I had known for some time that friends were planning to demolish two old adobes on their land. The process had actually been delayed for a couple of years by intervening life events that required attention first. Over the years I had taken some photos of the smaller adobe casita, but never one that I thought captured the essence of New Mexico adobes. At the beginning of summer of 2012, after some high winds had ripped parts of roofs off, creating a definite liability, friends Tim and Laurie made definite plans for the demolition of the old adobes on their land.

In June of 2012 I finally managed to make an image of the smaller adobe casita that captured what I wanted to show. The day lilies that had been lovingly planted were blooming, the wonderful light of sunset was falling on the adobe, and the beautiful old cottonwood that was both providing a foundation for the casita and at the same time threatening its walls was clearly seen. I posted this image on Facebook.

Adobe Casita
Adobe Casita

The image started a discussion that, on the one hand made me happy because people saw the charm of the adobe casita, and on the other hand made friends Tim and Laurie wonder if I were trying to “save the casita.” I began to worry I might lose a friendship over that one photo! 🙁 Images have power that sometimes we do not realize!

Not to worry, however. Tim and Laurie allowed me to spend a week in August 2012 photographing before, during, and after the demolition.

The little adobe casita was charming, even partway through demolition. This image shows the view from the front door, looking out on the brown-eyed Susans that were blooming in August, along with some of the door detail, and the adobe construction itself.

adobe casita
Partially demolished adobe casita

But, as charming as I found some things about the little casita, even I knew it either had to come down, or a lot of money spent to restore it.

These images inside the casita were taken 36 hours before the beginning of demolition:

Continue reading ““Oh, No! Is She Starting a ‘Save the Adobe Casita’ Campaign?””

Old Adobe – Kuaua Pueblo

Old adobe – Kuaua Pueblo at Coronado State Monument, just a little north of Albuquerque and just a little west of I-25, is an example of old adobe construction. Built around AD 1300, Coronado encountered this pueblo when he entered the Southwest in AD 1540 searching for the famed Seven Cities of Gold (he was looking for the wrong thing 🙂 )

Coronado State Monument
Coronado State Monument

The major pueblos are often thought of as the Western Pueblos (Hopi, Zuni, Acoma) and the Rio Grande Pueblos, and then further characterized by language groups. In New Mexico, there are living Pueblos along the Rio Grande from Isleta to Taos, and archaeological sites are numerous in the same – and probably somewhat larger – area. It makes sense that people would locate along this major Southwestern waterway. The puebloan peoples were agricultural, and a river location is great for a lot of reasons.

Visitors today can see spectacular views of the river, as well as the Sandia Mountains looking toward the southeast, from Kuaua. This image was taken in the morning, and the mountains are essentially shading themselves. At sunset, the mountains are a totally different color. Often I cannot help remembering one of my old professors, Clara Lee Tanner, who would speak of the “blues, purples, and reds of the mountains and skies of the intermontane valleys of the Desert Southwest” (that was long before those colors had any political significance).

adobe pueblo site
Pueblo location along the Rio Grande River

Kuaua Pueblo was abandoned sometime in the 16th Century (relations and interactions between the pueblos and Spaniards are for discussion in another time and place). It fell into disrepair, and slowly returned to the earth, as adobe will do when not constantly maintained.

weathering adobe
Weathering adobe, returning to the earth

Continue reading “Old Adobe – Kuaua Pueblo”

The Adobe Project

The Adobe Project documents the gradual disappearance of adobe dwellings in New Mexico, as this building material for homes, typical of the area for centuries, loses its relevance in the 21st Century. I have taken well over 1200 photographs since June of 2012, and I am continuing to photograph buildings and remains of buildings made of this material.

adobe
Old adobe casita, June 2012

Adobe, made of earth and organic material such as straw, and then formed into bricks which are sun dried, is found worldwide and has been a typical construction material in the Southwest United States, including New Mexico, for centuries. Some of the well known landmarks in New Mexico include Coronado State Monument; the Palace of the Governors, the oldest continuously occupied public building in the United States; and many of the historic churches, such as the Old San Ysidro Church in Corrales. The structures recognized as historically important are being maintained through governmental support or by a community effort, such as the annual “mudding day” at some of the historic churches.

Adobe has been a “dirt cheap” construction material for homes as well as for public structures, and these dwellings have given New Mexico communities much of their character. But it is a high maintenance construction material. Because the bricks are sun dried and not fired, they are unstable, shrinking and swelling with changing water content. Adobe requires constant and time consuming maintenance and repair, if it is not to wash and/or blow away.
Regular maintenance was not a problem when daily activities of life were close to home; it was simply a part of life. With urbanization and the growth of jobs away from the home, maintenance becomes a chore for which there may be little time, energy, or money. Without constant and regular care, the adobe dwelling deteriorates, and is eventually abandoned.

Abandoned adobe dwellings dot the landscape. Either by natural forces or demolition, the dwellings are disappearing. Because builders are now using materials that simulate the old adobe, the casual observer may not be aware that the true adobe dwellings are disappearing. This project documents some of these dwellings before they disappear completely.
Continue reading “The Adobe Project”