Sunday, March 24, 2013

In this week's JUXT showcase, "not quite twins"

I'm so honored to have one of my images featured in this week's "1000 Word showcase" by the team of mobile artists JUXT:

I took this just over a week ago, down at the Mission San Xavier (the same day I took the photos for the previous post.)..."Forced" to come up with a title when I submitted it to JUXT's Flickr group, I ended up with "not quite twins."  

Below is what I wrote for the showcase, including how I created the image:

A few days ago I was able to leave work earlier than usual–a clear and warm spring afternoon–so I decided to go down to the Mission San Xavier del Bac. I hadn’t been in a while, and It’s only a 15 minute drive from downtown Tucson; the combination of desert sky, Native American culture and 18th-century Spanish colonial architecture is endlessly photogenic. The Mission was originally founded in 1692, and the present structure dates from the 1780′s. The twin-towered facade is dominated by simple Moorish-influenced towers flanking an intricate Baroque entryway. The eastern tower was never completed–to my eye, it’s the asymmetry that makes the proportions more interesting. (The almost-symmetry of human faces is what often gives us visual personality, and it’s fascinating to find it in man-made structures.) The whitewashed towers with crisp shadows against the afternoon sky reminded me of some of Belgian painter Magritte’s famously surreal scenes–which made me want to experiment with isolating some of the Mission’s architectural details against the sky.

First I used Michael Baronovic’s (@MishoBaranovic) new Perspective Correct app to straighten the lines of the towers. Then I cropped the bottom, ‘ground’-half, off. Using PicFrame app, I ‘mirrored’ the remaining facade, eliminating the frame between the two sections of the vertical diptych, resulting in a seamless, symmetrical, floating-in-the-sky structure. For the rest, I used snapseed. I de-saturated the image, then used the grunge filter, choosing a texture that I find mimics parchment or handmade-paper. I like the juxtaposition of photographically realistic detail imposed on a background that evokes old surfaces used for illuminated manuscripts and East Asian scroll paintings. Finally, I warmed the temperature a bit to get a sepia tone, finishing with the center focus tool for a vignette effect.

(Last November was when I first started to play around with using cropped symmetry for a surreal effect. To see those first experiments, click here.)

Monday, March 18, 2013

"white dove of the desert"--the Mission San Xavier del Bac

A few afternoons ago, I was able to leave work a bit I took advantage of the warm spring day to explore a bit--I went down to the Mission San Xavier del Bac, one of the earliest European structures to be built in Arizona. 

Only a 15-minute drive down I-19 from downtown Tucson, the 18th-century mission is one of the best examples of Spanish colonial architecture in the U.S.--the "white dove" of neo-Baroque and Moorish influences is still a parish church of the Tohono O'odham people today, over three centuries after Padre Kino first ventured up into what the Spanish Empire labeled "PimerĂ­a Alta." 

Desert sky, Native American culture, Spanish architecture--this is definitely a nowhere-else-but-Tucson kind of place, and endlessly photogenic. So. A few iPhone shots...

Traditional saguaro rib-mesquite log-ocotillo branch ramadas line the plaza in front of the Mission, where local Tohono O'odham families often sell regional food and drink...

View from the side chapel
(the slight 'fish-eye' effect
obtained by using the built-in panorama
mode in the iPhone5)

And here's the door handle on the Mission's entrance:

While a rattlesnake is an environmentally appropriate motif for a desert building, I can't help but wonder how many visitors note the irony of having a serpent 'guarding the entrance' to a church? (re-read Genesis, anyone?)

Inside--definitely baroque:

Look carefully at the cloth covering the altar:

It's the 'trademark' motif of the Tohono O'odham--the man-in-the-maze:

And some more of the Baroque interior--note the Native American statue on the right:

This is Ketari Tekakwitha, a 17th-c. Algonquin woman who was canonized, last year, as the first Native American Saint in the Catholic church...

The rear entrance to the courtyard of the Mission...


Totally unrelated to the Mission, the scene below,
but this striking street-art was on my way--
I've passed it so many times, but had never stopped to photograph it:
the Heart mural on the corner of Stone & Speedway:

(Bright colors and skulls--the pre-Hispanic and Hispanic influence of the Day of the Dead)

Monday, March 11, 2013

a weekend framed by books and a tortoise...and first wildflowers of the year

From an unusually chilly and overcast Saturday morning to a sunny Sunday evening in Saguaro National Park, lots of mobile photo fun this weekend in Tucson...

...beginning with the Tucson Festival of Books, one of the largest book festivals in the country:
 (note the snow coming down on the Santa Catalina Mountains)

...and ending with my first in-the-wild sighting of a desert tortoise:
 More about the tortoise later...

The Festival of Books--so much more than just books--more of a temporary tent-city (on the campus of the University of Arizona--hundreds of organizations and vendors spread out on The Mall) that distills the literary tastes and cultural possibilities of an entire region. Authors from all over the country, cooking demonstrations, national park docents, a food-court-restaurant-village, readings, signings, science-for-children, SW Native American arts...

 Some Tohono O'odham basketry--by artist Della Cruz...

...and Apache flute-playing, in one of the Western National Park tents:

And of course, books. Find your author.
(I got to meet an author I've admired for years: Chang-rae Lee, incidentally.)

And of course, what would a public event on a university campus be,
without some provocative (offensive?) 'free-speech:'


Sunday afternoon, I took my phone with me as I ran the loop-road in Saguaro National Park East.

Hard to believe the place was snow-covered just a couple of weeks ago, now that the first spring wildflowers are coming up--some fairy-duster among the prickly-pear above, and desert bladderpod (member of the mustard family) below:

The carpets of yellow bloom caught my eye and made me get off the trail...
...and that's when I stumbled upon this guy--my first in-the-wild-sighting of a desert tortoise:

Plenty of edible blooms for him...

And, of course, in the park--saguaros.  
Some of these specimens are two centuries old,
weighing many tons...
It takes decades for the first arm to sprout, and then...

 (playing around with black and white, 
warming up the white balance 'temperature,' 
and adding some texture)


Last week, in Sabino Canyon, was when I noted the first wildflowers of the season--a few Mexican gold poppies beginning to appear in the lower canyon...

...and cottonwoods leafing in along the creek--

 (more playing around with monochrome and texture...)
...and even a few ducks in this desert riparian oasis:

Sunday, March 3, 2013

A few hours in Palm Springs--mountaintop and Marilyn...

Last weekend found us in southern California for a quick trip...
...on the way back to Tucson, we decided to get off I-10 and spend a few hours in Palm Springs.

The giant windmills beneath San Gorgonio Mountain are surreal...

...then heading up into Chino Canyon... take the Swiss-built rotating aerial-tram up to the snowy and forested Mt. San Jacinto wilderness...

From the lodge at the top, a view over the Desert Cities over and across the San Andreas Fault to the low mountains of Joshua Tree National Park...

The contrast between the barren desert floor and the wintry evergreens at the stop is striking; the magic of elevation-and-climate in the desert...

Back down in Palm Springs--
downtown at the corner of Palm Canyon Drive and Tahquitz Canyon Way:
Twenty-six feet tall, seventeen tons of steel, aluminum and paint--"Forever Marilyn" by artist Seward Johnson, inspired by this famous photo from the film "The Seven Year Itch."

...and I couldn't resist this shot--the triangle of the toddler, reclining guy positioned just so, and the statue's (whimsical? voyeuristic?) backside: the toddler (whose face I've respectfully blurred) seemed to be staring at the guy lying on the lawn, accusing him: "really, dude? You're napping right there, staring at the statue? Kinda creepy..."

Incidentally, the new issue of The Atlantic has an insightful essay on Marilyn Monroe's celebrity-hood... 


...and back home in Tucson--
looking over Bear Canyon, on a trail run the other evening: 

After last week's snow--back up to 80-degrees now in Southern Arizona...