Archive for the ‘architectual photography’ Category

We often visit Tucmacacori on warm spring days.IMG_1963 - Version 2

Last week when we visited the monument was quiet. No school groups or elder hostel outings were happening. The lovely woman who demonstrates tortilla making served with beans and salsa in a central courtyard wasn’t on hand. Too bad, I’d been looking forward to her hot sauce.

Still, this gave us a better opportunity to study the church itself. In the dark quiet of the sanctuary there is a sense of sacredness still and although ravaged by time, exposure to the elements (it lacked a roof for over 60 years) and bounty hunters, the church still shows some of its original glory. Faded walls and ceiling retain painted decorative motifs, especially in the sanctuary and around the altar beneath its domed apse. Originally founded by Jesuits in the 1690s, it was Franciscans who ultimately built this large church, completed in the 1820s, except for the bell tower whose dome was never finished. It became a part of the National Park System in 1916.IMG_4798 - Version 2

It’s fascinating to compare some of New Mexico’s mission churches with those here in Arizona. Franciscans founded New Mexico’s missions in the early 1600s. The Pueblo Revolt of 1680 finished off what was left at Salinas National Monument, while Pecos continued, at first thriving but then declining until its abandonment in 1838. These churches are built on a massive scale (especially Pecos) and show the standard pueblo-style architecture of adobes with unadorned brown stucco coverings, and buttresses to support the giant walls.

IMG_1966 - Version 2Nearby Arizona missions, in contrast, were, it appears, blinding white as San Xavier de Bac remains. The front of the Tumacacori church is said to have been painted in colorful red, yellow and black. The front columns appear to be Egyptian-inspired and, in fact, they were, influenced by the Moors who imported them when they arrived in Spain. Both were situated next to a then flowing river: the Santa Cruz.

And both these missions must have been in plain sight for miles, situated as they are in the Santa Cruz river valley. In contrast, New Mexico’s missions (especially at Salinas) seem to have been more hidden, perhaps in light of the marauding plains Indians just to their east.

Park brochures always invite the visitor to “imagine what it was like” when the missions were vibrant with life. Honestly, for me, it’s almost impossible. A life lived cramped in tiny rooms with no ventilation, being introduced (and pretty much forced to accept) alien religions from people who displayed little knowledge of the landscape, who brought guns and unknown diseases to tiny cities of people with too little food and no sanitation. With the luxury we live in, this is a scene just too difficult for me to place myself. I leave that to those with more imagination, or at least romantic visions.

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logoThe newest version of the Arlington Hotel and Spa was built in 1924. Its two towers and 560 rooms dominate Bathhouse Row in Hot Springs National Park. The Arlington has hosted everyone from Babe Ruth to Al Capone to Ronald Reagan. In the late 1980s it welcomed us and our dog Sparky.

When we arrived in Hot Springs (a town and a National Park) we asked the Park Ranger where to stay and he suggested the Arlington where he had stayed (with doggie) when he first came to work there.

In the Hall

In the Hall

At first it was hard to believe the Arlington would allow dogs. It’s a beautiful queen of the 30s era: wide hallways, stained glass, opulent bar and dining room. Sure the basic rooms are small; all hotels from that time were. Al Capone rented the entire fourth floor to house his entourage while visiting. And of course there are luxury suites if guests need more room. And it was easy to image that era’s luminaries dotting its lobby, as always, traveling with their dogs, from teacup terriers to Afghan hounds. Surrounded by the Arlington’s je ne sais quoi attitude, it began to make sense.

We hopped onto the elevator with other guests, one of whom made some disparaging remark about our “mutt.” Stan proceeded to lambast him throughout the ride up, beginning with “it had cost a pretty penny to import this Australian Station Terrier, one of only a handful in the US”. Sparks stood taller and taller as Stan continued on about pedigrees and royal lineages, rendering the insulter smaller and smaller with each passing floor. Sweet revenge continued when we shared the outdoor hot tub with the snob an hour later.

Most notable about the Arlington were the hallway fountains bubbling with hot mineral water to drink (Sparky felt rejuvenated herself after a bowlful) and the amazing bath/massage treatment I received. I even got into a steam box, fully expecting to see only Edward G. Robinson’s head, biting a cigar, in the closed box next to mine. We loved the Arlington, the whole crazy mood and pervasive sense of the past.

The Arlington

The Arlington

The next time we went to Hot Springs we checked in again only to have to check out when the Byzantine water delivery system broke down. With no plans to follow, plumbers spent days trying to find the source of the problem.

We were transferred to the Arlington’s sister, the Majestic up the street to the northwest. It was great but it just didn’t have the Arlington’s elan. I read that after being abandoned around 2005, the Majestic burned to the ground February 2014. What a loss.

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It’s fascinating the news you hear if you’ve been away for six months from your small town home.

Since returning I’ve approached friends and say “So what’s new?” Usually the initial response is something like “same old, same old.” But give people a moment and they remember all sorts of things: from the failed mayoral recall (and yes it did cost the City A Lot! of money we don’t have to spare) to the new bike shop, a new kayak to a new home. People got married; other people died. Oh and the renovated hardware store isn’t open yet; maybe for the 4th. The Friends of the Library won’t field an entry in this year’s 4th of July parade. But they’ve got a bunch of American flags to sell and wave at those who are. Sort of everything you’d expect in Port Orford.

For me, the most visually stunning change is to the facade of an old falling down building in our “downtown”, that’s condemned but no one seems able to figure out how to get it torn down. Through the grape vine I heard local Main Street folks decided to at least paint a giant mural on plywood tacked to the front of the building.

I was told the mural was loosely based on the “dazzle” or “razzle dazzle” patterns used on English and American ships in the two World Wars. As an alternative from standard “hiding” camouflage, this method was thought to disrupt visual range finders on enemy ships. It wasn’t ever proven to really work but the method created some pretty amazing looking ships like this:6a00d834543b6069e20133f555e069970b

Here’s an artist’s rendering of another pattern, this one in color.Dazzle_camo


Perhaps this is what inspired our new downtown mural. While it doesn’t hide the building, it certainly updates the facade. And it can break up passing drivers’ concentration pretty well too.


our new mural

our new mural

mural close-up

mural close-up


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Walking from the parking lot to the terminal, the usual roar of the jets captures the senses. But entering the modestly sized Tucson airport terminal building, the mood changes. The architecture—clean lines, iodized metal surfaces, cylindrical in theme and minimalist in appearance—announces an airport small enough to find one’s bearings, and appealing to the the harried air traveler on a hot desert day. The simplicity of locating check in, boarding gates, the whole sense of a reasonably human-scaled enterprise contrasts so nicely with those massive, impersonal and rather terrifying places like Phoenix Sky Harbor to say nothing of LAX or O’Hare.

We were there to send our daughter and baby grandson off to the challenges of LAX, sitting in a sort of waiting alcove near Southwest Airlines ticketing, while I strolled about and happened to look up. In fact I was the only one there who happened to look up, catching from the corner of my eye glimpses of what? Aladdin? Ali Baba? Scherazade? Wait—flying carpets? Yes, flying carpets, curling with the breezes, magically translucent colors of many colors, many shapes, going this way and that, up and down, across and back. Ah, is this airport art subliminally suggesting to my primal brain the freedom of magic carpet conveyance? If so, it worked. As I say, no one else there seemed to notice the floating world above, even when I was moving tables and chairs, kneeling and and pointing my camera ceiling-ward.

It’s possible I imagined it all. But no. No amount of photoshopping could create the scene. And I don’t use Photoshop anyhow.

I don’t know the name of the artist who created this public art, but I do know these translucent pieces of magic carpet art cast a spell. Maybe, just maybe, in a thousand and one desert nights anything can happen. SRE (all photos © S R Euston)IMG_2451 - Version 2


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The following selection of photographs has at least in the photographer’s mind a kind logic. Situated somewhere in the interstices between architectural, abstract and urban landscape photography, there pictures represent a kind of personal record of  everyday objects or structures  (most without artistic pretentions) whose geometry “says something”—arcs, angles, lines and circles all mixed together whose random juxtaposition creates everyday scenes that have an abstract intrinsic order, sometimes even subliminal overtones that hint at a sort of beauty in the mundane world of the mass produced built environment. SRE


(all photos copyright SR Euston)

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It is said rather obviously that the photographer works creatively with light.  After all, exposure meters measure light, film chemicals and pixels respond to light. The “quality of light” that attracted and still does attract so many fine photographers to the southwest, particularly those working in black and white, has created a sort of mystique around qualities of natural light scattered and reflected off of adobe, mesas, distant ranges, badlands, thunderheads.

Of course, it can equally be said that photography is as much about the absence of light. No shadows, no picture. Southwest landscape, for instance, is all about strong shadows, as well as the subtlest shadow gradations from faintest light to darkest dark. Hence, the yin and yang of expressive picture taking—sol e sombra, light and dark, the day and the intimations of night.

Shadows can be extraordinarily expressive, and sometimes become the real subject of the shot (for me, this is oftentimes). Shadows often convey a feeling of the hidden behind the obvious, of a question mark. This is the evasive, emotion-laden impact of shadows, so expressively demonstrated in some still and motion picture photography of the mid-twentieth century. Shadows can also emphasize bright, crisp architectural geometry, intricate organic traceries of nature, complex abstract design and a hundred other esthetic and emotional states and qualities.

Of course, muddy or totally black shadows can ruin a picture. That is, in emphasizing shadows and given expressive intent, exposure is the great leveler. And if my experience is at all common, always will be the great challenge!

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Come to the Book Festival!

Come to the Book Festival!

Last weekend, Tucson hosted its Fifth Annual Festival of Books. Part book celebration/extravaganza, part carnival (think kettle corn, life-sized chess games, a huge inflatable Ronald McDonald), in just a few years the two day festival, whose primary sponsors are the University of Arizona and Tucson’s Arizona Daily Star, has become the fourth largest in the nation, behind, in order, Miami, DC’s Library of Congress, and the LA Times. Over 400 authors across every genre (from blockbuster acclaimed to emerging) and 300 exhibitors provided two days of non-stop action—workshops, panels, readings and signings—to an estimated crowd of over 120,000 happy readers and writers of all ages. The complimentary Science City (“Get a Read on Science”) also offered tours, exhibits and open houses across the campus. All supported by an 1800 strong army of volunteers.

From the previous Sunday’s Star, we poured over the 50+ page free festival booklet and still managed to miss a bunch. (Nancy Turner author of one of my favorites, These Is My Words, please come back next year!) But in retrospect, no booklet, no matter how detailed, could have prepared me, the first time visitor. The festival’s too big and complex (and just plain fun) to comprehend without experiencing it. It’s a tribute to the festival planners that with so many moving parts it all seemed to work so smoothly.

There's Fun!

There’s Fun!

There's Food

There’s Food!

Saturday was overcast and chilly. We were greeted at the entrance by an enormous line snaking out of at the first booth. “Bet it’s a Jodi Picoult signing.” Yup. We wandered for blocks down the U of A mall which looked like a huge Bedouin encampment of peaked white exhibitor tents. We saw book publishers, author signing tents, used book stalls, e publishers, non-profit associations. In academic buildings, authors talked and led workshops. We tried to see Timothy Egan and Douglas Brinkley discuss Teddy Roosevelt but the 300+ seat auditorium had filled over 100 people ahead of us in line. Somewhere among the throngs, Ted Danson had spoken to an SRO crowd. Mystery, romance, screenplay, sci-fi, YA, children’s—the sheer volume of possibilities was overwhelming.



And More Tents

And More Tents!

Better prepared on Sunday, we arrived early enough to wander through some of the more interesting booths and soak up the perfect spring desert weather. I jumped online 45 minutes early to hear Luis Alberto Urrea, my latest favorite author. Thank heavens I got in. (More on his talk in the next blog.). Late afternoon as we were leaving, just like when we arrived on Saturday, a huge line was gathering at author signing booth #1. Who was it this time? Larry McMurtry.

A Beautiful Encampment

A Beautiful Encampment

A totally free event to participants (the event coordinators even manage to find free parking all around the campus) its first four years’ proceeds, over $700,000, have been donated to support local literacy programs.

For more info and to get ready for 2014 visit www.tucsonfestivalofbooks.org. See you there!

It's the Tucson Festival of Books

It’s the Tucson Festival of Books
© SR Euston

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It’s about a four hour drive from our place on the southern Oregon coast to Eureka, California, where our daughter, son-in-law and three grandchildren (Boys 14, 11 and 8) live with a dog, a cat, five chickens and a duck, all on a kind of urban farm. We are spending Thanksgiving in Eureka this year, a “To Grandmother’s house we go” in reverse. As we leave on Wednesday, the weather in Oregon has just opened up after a storm. By the time we reach our daughter’s place in Eureka the skies have cleared. This holiday weekend has materialized the kind of weather residents of the wet and green northwest coast  take solace in.  Afternoons in the 60s, the evenings a bit chilly but the air full of remembrances of harbor and sea and winds and douglas fir and redwood forest. This wonderful weather imparts a holidayish patina, a warm autumnal mood  as we sit down to fresh turkey, fresh cranberries from our own Curry County,  and about ninety accoutrements of a good Thanksgiving feast.


This slide show is a sort of travel log of this Thanksgiving weekend,  beginning with shots of the rugged Curry County coast, then down Highway 101, the Redwood Highway, to Eureka. It includes a few family pictures, but features lots of photos of a picture packed place called the “North Jetty”.


The Humboldt South and North jetties, massive linear rock filled projections into the ocean,  protect vessels entering Humboldt Bay from notoriously dangerous Pacific storms. But more to the point for our son-in-law Tim, the North Jetty is a favorite surfing destination, and rolling long period waves are out the afternoon of our visit, as were wet-suited surfers out for a sporting chance at some pretty decent waves, peaking at 15′ or more. Tim has brought us here to find what we will.


The North Jetty is an a photographic puzzle.  Several other photographers were out, kneeling, craning necks, searching for a certain angle. But many who were carrying cameras seemed uninspired. For me, it  was my first real opportunity to shoot large waves from a side angle, as opposed from straight on from shore, opening up possibilities especially for B/W, emphasizing  the sinuous, emergent power of the long period swells. But equally interesting is the jetty itself. To exploit this subject, one must like geometry.

Contrasted with the oceanic rolls and swells and wave crashes, the jetty is one solid piece of Corps of Engineers construction, including seemingly randomly placed hulking concrete structures looking a bit like giant jacks—like the kind kids once and maybe still do play with. The camera sees shapes and forms and lines and mass in all this. And that is just the beginning, because all this solidity frames a churning kinetic sea.

On our return trip, we stopped in Arcata, and while Ann and Dawn shopped, I came across a couple of urban shots that ratcheted down the drama of waves into in a quiet mood of a dwindling late November day.   SR Euston  All Photos Copyrighted

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Green Valley is a loose confederation of home owners’ associations, each with its own complex set of rules and regs. There is no overt government, no elected town fathers and/or mothers, no police (we do have a volunteer sheriff’s auxiliary). Frankly it’s mysterious to us newcomers how it all works but an army of volunteers seems to hold everything together. Most everybody appears pleased although it’s pretty easy to hear mutterings about “power-going-to-their-heads” of members of various homeowners association boards. It is ever thus, from Sunday School leaders to the Halls of Congress. We’ve vowed to steer clear.

But there are some really great things about the various sub-divisions which make up “downtown” Green Valley, our new neighborhood. There’s an intricate series of walking trails, which follow arroyos and power lines and alleys, “off-road” avenues for early morning hikers, dog walkers and bikers, out to beat the brutal heat which is bound to come by late morning.

Lucky for us we live at the very edge of our development and all we have to do is cross the street and walk up the power line about a block before we’re offered the choice of heading north along one arroyo or continuing west along another. The north arroyo is cool and shady.

The west, while wider, sunnier and more cactus-lined, is also the home of a unique trailside sculpture show—the Rock Art Walkway designed by local artist Steve Brown. A few blocks long, a series of vignettes each tells a tiny story. There are cliff dwellings, pictographs, airplanes and a Santa. There are gatherings of Native Americans, and a creche-like scene. Broken tile swirls in pinwheel designs. Crystalline stones drift into prickly pear.

But the most impressive is the Stonehenge replica. Even though the height of these sarcens is more like six inches (not quite the 13 foot tall sandstone monoliths of England’s Salisbury Plain), it does exude a fairly impressive aura as the sun casts its early morning shadows.

The original Stonehenge is thought by some to be a ritual portal to the beyond for the dead (nearby are burial mounds called barrows). It is also a neolithic solstice marker—aligned both to summer’s sunrise and winter’s sunset.

Brown’s aligned his Stonehenge to true north. So, next Wednesday we’ll get to see if our local henge is a solstice marker too.

Here are some photos of the Spirit Totem Trail.

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The structure, the form is the thing. The genius of the arch? I’m still in awe how engineering of the soaring arcs, meeting at the keystone, holds up the mass of Roman aqueducts, Gothic cathedrals, or even more humbly, rough hewn, adobe brick Spanish mission porticos. Even more remarkable, this elemental architectural and engineering form, going back to Roman times and before, has a symmetry of restful gracefulness, yet in cases—like in bridges—also power and boldness.

The architectural arch has been copied and recopied, oftentimes as a decoration, aka fake. It flourished especially in the California mission style of the first half the last century, only to remerge in subdivision McMansions, east and west, in an odd pastiche of styles. But if one is not a purist, even modern decorative arches I think can present  photographic possibilities of formal power.

Below are photo interpretations of mostly developer-designed modern mission style architectural arches from southern Arizona, some used for structural support, some as mere decoration. Also included are two bridges of very different design from coastal Oregon, and arch forms from historic, much photographed Mission San Xavier de Bac, south of Tucson, and crumbling arch ruins from Tumacacori Mission near Nogales. Here is authentic architecture straight from the Spanish-Mexican period.

I though about, but buried immediately, the idea of including a shot of the golden arches at the nearest McDonalds.The sacred and the profane so to speak. It could have been open to a lot of pseudo-philosophical interpretations, maybe even landing in a museum exhibit.  SRE

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