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Friday, 08 May 2015 00:00

How Grand is Your Great House?

One year ago yesterday I found myself in Chaco Culture National Historical Park for the first time. I was excited to be there. I had read books, studied maps, consulted the sunrise/sunset tables for the area, and talked to everyone I knew who had been there and even to a couple of the interpretive rangers who work there. All the information was helpful in prompting me to arrive timely so that I could photograph sunrise near Fajada Butte and then get to Pueblo Bonito as quickly as possible after the sun arose. Pueblo Bonito is the grandest of the several "Great Houses" that dot Chaco Canyon. It was built and occupied between AD850-1150, and it was the center of the Chacoan Ancestral Puebloan world. As prepared as I thought I was to see it for the first time, I was completely blown away by the awesomeness of this magnificent structure. Seeing it once served only to make me want to see it again; and now having visited it, I will be even more prepared to seek out its photographic essences. For my first interaction with the grand house I used a focal length of 27mm to try to reveal some sense of the vast size and depth of the structure. An aperture of f/20 gave me depth-of-field; and a shutter speed of 1/15th second at ISO 100 gave me an overall slightly-lighter-than-medium exposure. I was careful to avoid creating a merger between the right edge of the frame and the base of the low foreground wall; and my focal length was chosen to avoid introducing too much sky in the image, but enough to show the low stratus clouds streaming over the north wall of the canyon.

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  • Comment Link Donald McGowan Friday, 15 May 2015 13:17 posted by Donald McGowan

    Hi Everyone. Thank you all for joining me for this conversation. Don, you have clearly discerned the presence of line, shape, and contrast at work in this Image, and I couldn't agree more. It is not a denial of the beauty of the elements themselves to consider them by their graphic names; so as much as I love Pueblo Bonito for what it is, I love it equally as a collection of lines, shapes, and forms.Being there in the early morning light is what allowed me to experience the wonderful warm tones and the contrast that came with them. An overcast day would have made this image a completely different one. Thanks for your kind words. Nancy T., in different but equally accurate terms you have echoed Don's description. And you've added in the complementarity of the blue and gold. I can also share with you the awe of thinking about the grandeur of this pueblo in its prime. I know it must have been spectacular! Nancy K., I can only hope that you will have the opportunity to return to this place with all of your gear, because there are more ways to express it artistically that I have yet imagined. Dorsey, my friend, I encourage you to visit Chaco early in your adventures through the Ancestral Puebloan cultures. I regret that it took me so long to come here. There has recently been a wealth of new research and a re-examination of old research regarding Chaco; and we are coming closer to a more complete understanding of this amazing group of people. I can point you in the direction of some of the materials I have found, whenever you want to take a look. Thanks, as always, for your thoughtful words and kind comments; and thanks, again, everyone for adding to my experience of this special place.

  • Comment Link Dorsey Davis Friday, 15 May 2015 11:44 posted by Dorsey Davis

    A change of pace from your recent images that showcases your excellent use of near/far compositions. Like some of the others, I am fascinated by what the lives of the inhabitants might have been like. How did they fashion such structures with nothing but stone age tools? Why did they leave? Where did they go? You have captured their architecture beautifully with opposing diagonal lines and different textures. The morning light is perfect for this scene. I have been able to visit only a few of the hundreds of such ruins in the southwest. Hopefully I will be able to visit more in the future and if so, this one will be on my list of must see locations.

  • Comment Link Nancy Kelly Sunday, 10 May 2015 11:23 posted by Nancy Kelly

    Chaco Canyon is such a beautiful place. I was not doing photography when I was there but would love to go again now with my camera. Thank you for sharing.

  • Comment Link Nancy Tripp Sunday, 10 May 2015 11:00 posted by Nancy Tripp

    WoW! If those walls could talk! Beautiful warm light and blue sky. I like the camera position that gives a starting point with the clump of grass in the foreground then the angle of the rocks in the foreground creating an invitation to visit the huge house. It must have been really grand in it's day. The background is dark so I look to the sky and it points me back to the house. I am enjoying the warm friendly tour. Thanks for sharing.

  • Comment Link Don Newsom Sunday, 10 May 2015 10:18 posted by Don Newsom

    Magnificent! I appreciate how you placed the house diagonally in the image, leading us from lower left to upper right, reinforced by those two tufts of scrub brush, giving us just a peek around the right end, and displaying both the sunlit and the shaded walls clearly.

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