Details From Arcosanti, Paolo Solari’s Timeless Vision of a human environment

A Vision of a Human Environment

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Paolo Soleri passed away five years ago, April 9, 2013 at the age of 93.  I was fortunate to attend a University of Arizona lecture by Dr. Soleri in the 1970’s. He was at the height of his accomplishments that afternoon and for an hour we vicariously shared his vision and philosophy.  What most impressed me was Dr. Soleri’s openness and humanity.  Solari’s vision was of an architecture of a dense occupation of humanity that has a minimal environmental impact, Arcology was the term he coined for this idea.  I remembered that hour and Arcosanti, his desert village north of Phoenix since then.

Thirty years later my personal project of reconnecting to the University of Arizona brought me for the first time to Arcosanti. In that time, Dr. Soleri’s trained thousands of students and his desert village grew slowly. Arcosanti is now a vision that achieved a center while events which seemed to pass it by, actually are stones with the strength of Dr. Solari’s ideas and humanity.

Here is a sampling of architectural details from Arcosanti, a place that is real enough and quite charming.  To find the site, head north on US Route 17 in Phoenix, travel about 67 miles to Cordes Lakes and take Arcosanti Road to the site.

 

Pam Checking Her Equipment prior to our visit the summer of 2008.

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Entrance and a Tower of the Crafts III building

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Ceramics Apse Sand Cast Panels I

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Ceramics Apse Sand Cast Panels II

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Ceramics Apse Sand Cast Panels III

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Bell and Panel from the Colly Soleri Amphitheater

Bell Casting was and continues to be a major source of income.

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View from the East Housing complex to the East Across Arcosanti

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View to the South with Cypress Trees from a Portal of the Crafts III Building

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Wilderness Textures

Abstract Beauty of the Superstition Wilderness of Arizona

These abstracts are some of my photographic output from four days and nights spent alone in the remote eastern Superstition Wilderness.  For the first three days I met not a soul, all these images were captured on a single afternoon spent in the canyon below Reavis Falls, a jumble of landslides, flood debris and boulders.  There is no trail.  The few people who enter the canyon must negotiate around boulders, crossing Reavis Creek many times.

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My backpack kit included a full sized Manfrotto studio tripod with hydrostatic ball head.  The benefits more than outweighed the effort (I was a lot younger in 2008) when the Canon EF 100mm (macro) lens is mounted on a  Kodak dSLR body, allowing me to take crisp shots.  The tripod legs can be adjusted to precise positions for stability.

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I can feel the bright afternoon desert spring sunshine in this photos.  It was after the spring floods, the flow of Reavis Creek and ample still but slow.  Gathering in pools over the rough stones of the creek bed, the water absolutely clear.

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I held the shot over many minutes, capturing ever changing diffraction patterns.

We see in all these photos, not a homogenous blend of stones from a shared geology.  Reavis Creek washes over diverse geologies: volcanic, ancient igneous extrusions, sedimentary and metamorphic are jumbled together.

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This is a series of photographs of smooth, white igneous boulders with shadows of  still leafless sycamore and cottonwood trees.

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Graceful shadows

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Strong, demonstrative shadows.

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A leaning cairn, not a trail marker….

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A 15 foot high jumble of stones piled at the bottom of Reavis Falls, carried over by the floods.

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A metamorphic conglomerate stone….

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Another metamorphic conglomerate.

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Here’s another of my Arizona wilderness adventures, “Racing the Sun.”

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Abstracts: graceful shadows

Shadow and Rock

Two Nature Abstracts, macros of Reavis Creek below the falls

The light of a early spring desert afternoon on a broad rock shelves along the creek.

I spent a day hiking in, two days hiking out and a day of canyoneering to the foot of Reavis Falls. The featured (i.e. “header”) photograph is a view of the inner canyon, the raw material for these abstracts.

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Afterglow, Saguaro National Park

The Flag Forms

Here is a postscript for my retrospective diary of the day I created my print “Ocotillo Sunset.” You can visit “Ocotillo Sunset” in my Online Gallery by clicking on any photograph .

In near total darkness, the last sunlight only enough for the far western sky, these are the last shots of this series.

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Afterglow I

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Afterglow II

The final result of the day’s work, “Ocotillo Sunset.”

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Ocotillo Sunset — flag on ocotillo cane poles

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Ocotillo Sunset from Saguaro National Park, a diary Part 7

The Flag Forms

The final posting of my retrospective diary of the day I created my print “Octillo Sunset.” You can see a large version of “Ocotillo Sunset” by clicking on any of my blog photographs.

The Flag in Formation and Realization

Then, for reasons I can only speculate about, a spectacular shape came together in the clouds. In the following photograph I have yet to recognize, to see, this cloud sculpture. Do you see part of “Ocotillo Sunset” coming into shape? As far as I remember, at the time I had only a dim realization of what was forming in my view finder and in front of me.

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The Flag Forms

Then, I changed camera orientation and shifted the view a few degrees to the left and there it was: a coherent shape of something. Here it is in full, untethered.

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Unanchored, a Flag or Ship

The final result of the day’s work, “Ocotillo Sunset.”

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Ocotillo Sunset — flag on ocotillo cane poles

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Ocotillo Sunset from Saguaro National Park, a diary Part 6

Shooting As The World Turns

This is a retrospective diary of the day I created my print “Ocotillo Sunset.” You can see a large version of “Ocotillo Sunset” by clicking on any of my blog photographs.

Shooting as the World Turns

In Part 5, we enter the final phase of this day’s work with darkening of the land while in the sky sunlight reflects off high clouds. The length of this moment when twilight is over, just before night falls, varies with latitude and time of year. Near the poles (high latitude) this light can last for days while here, at about 32 degrees north, it is less than 15 minutes. As I wrote in Part 4, after this light, the desert is absolutely dark. This is why I chose to set up by the roadside.

In the following two photographs I experimented with camera placement and foreground elements. Starting in Part 4 I became aware of Ocotillo branches, using them for the effect of reaching for and, here, anchoring the clouds.

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Saguaro Sunset II

Lead Around by an Ocotillo

These earth-bound Ocotillo branches lead me to the darkened earth. How much to include in the shot? I searched for a balance between the vastness and complete blackness and needed a point of interest. Time was running out.

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Saguaro Sunset III

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Ocotillo Sunset from Saguaro National Park, a diary Part 5

High Altitude Clouds

This is a retrospective diary of the day I created my print “Ocotillo Sunset.”  Here is the link for Part 4.

Here’s the first blog in this series.

Choices of the Evening

The next few blogs are a set of photographs from the developing sunset of that November evening. Once set up, my practice is to stay in place until there is nothing left of capture; all the while evaluating the results and adapting the camera settings, framing and lenses to the environment.

Happening in the Twilight

By this point, twilight is over and only the sky is lit. According to file metadata posted at capture, thirteen minutes passed from the following photograph till the last. I mounted my camera on a simple tripod, purchased from a mall chain store, with the standard controls. I prefer to specify ISO and set it at 160 (the lowest value) throughout. The sky was calm and, with the tripod, I used the aperture setting with higher values. This was f13 / 1/60.

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The clouds are forming up.  I need some foreground.  Vastness on vastness is a bit much. Those are the Tucson Mountains in the distance. If you look closely, on the right the Tucson Mountains dip down, revealing Kitt Peak, at least 60 miles distant. It is the defined peak on the left of that range. In early morning light, the Mayall 4 meter telescope building gleams white on that point.

The sun illuminates different levels of clouds as the earth turns toward night. These are altostratus cloud types, at 6,500 to 20,000 feet, formed by strong winds.

The elements of my print “Ocotillo Sunset” are coming together.  Do you recognize them from this image of my print?

FF6H3057_OctilloSunset_Copyright4Site

Click this link for Part 6